If you’ve ever heard us teach, you know that Steve and I think asking questions is one of the most important skills we can utilize. Whether it’s in our marriages, our parenting, or with friends and co-workers, asking good questions can diffuse defensiveness and side-step problems before they become major issues.
However, there are some questions that we just shouldn’t ask!
Let me explain… The other night I was talking with my son’s running coach. In his freshman and sophomore years of running, Taylor (Tate) suffered from multiple injuries, culminating in a broken tibia that kept him in a cast for six months.OUCH!
As he began his junior year, every race ended with him disappointed in his results. He just couldn’t seem to get back into the swing of things. His times were off, his stride was sloppy, and his mental attitude just wasn’t what it used to be.
Until one evening…
One night after practice, Tate came home and told me that he thought his coach had just called him a “mental wimp.” He laughed about it, but that one conversation with his coach totally turned things around. His stride improved, his times dropped, and ultimately, he set new personal records and made All-Conference for cross-country.
Sunday night, I asked the coach what exactly had transpired between him and Taylor. He laughed when he heard the “mental wimp” comment, then told me what he had actually said. The coach told me that he and the other coach realized that they were handicapping Tate. After every practice, they asked how his leg felt. Before races, they cautioned him not to hurt his leg. They were hovering over him to make sure he didn’t get hurt again. They did it because they LOVE Tate, but what that love was accomplishing was fear in Tate’s heart.
Driving home that night, I thought about how often we do the exact same thing with our children. When they are tired, or quiet, or grumpy, or just not their normal self, and we aren’t sure why we fill in the blank for them. We say “are you lonely?” or “are you sad?” or “are you frightened?” or “are you (you can fill in the blank?)” In essence, we give them a negative emotion to hang on to for emotional support.
In the same way that asking Tate about his leg continually caused him to focus on his fear of injury, our insertion of a pessimistic emotion into our children’s thoughts causes them to focus on the negative and blinds them from the opportunity to see the positive.
As parents, we have the privilege (may I say, responsibility) to help our children remove those negative-emotion glasses and to replace them with biblically-focused glasses. Instead of handing them a “boo-hoo, woe is me” excuse for their feelings, we must instead assist and guide them to make proactive choices, in order to manage those feelings.
Feelings and emotions aren’t wrong, but they are never meant to rule our lives! When our little children learn to put emotions on the throne of their heart, they will have a difficult time making room for Christ on that throne! While there are certainly times that tears and emotions are appropriate, it’s certainly not as often as our children use them! Our children must learn that there are times that those negative emotions are just not appropriate to the situation.
When everyone is invited to a party, but we were excluded… It hurts! (Gosh, it even hurts as an adult, and in my strange introverted world, even though I probably wouldn’t want to go…I’d still want to be invited!) We can certainly acknowledge that hurt, but instead of giving our children “victim” words to cling to we can offer them biblical alternatives. We can help them use their experience to develop compassion for others who feel left out. We can remind them of how special they are to us. We can point them to Christ, who although He was deserted and despised, still continued to love the very people who cut Him off!
When a sibling gets to spend time with friends and your child doesn’t have the same privilege, we could ask them if they’re lonely or sad and they’ll cling to those words tenaciously. Or, we can help them learn to be happy for their sibling. We can point them to the scriptures and help them change their thoughts from me-centered self-pity to others-oriented consideration for their sibling.
The principle for this type of thought change is found in Philippians 4:8, where the Apostle Paul exhorts believers to think on those things that are: true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, and of good repute.
Why is this such a big deal?
Our culture is seeing the pitiful results of children who have been raised to depend upon and trust their faulty emotions. As we observe young adults who can’t handle disappointment, to the point of inability to go to classes, unrestrained weeping and wailing, and months of zombie-like despondency, we’re observing the fruit of lives based on emotions and feelings.
The parents, who encouraged those young adults as children to just “follow their hearts,” set them up to become victims.
They set them up for failure!
We all want our children to be successful and we have a responsibility to prepare them to live biblically! Teaching them to look first for how they are “feeling,” in order to determine their attitude and behavior is setting them up for future failure!
Moms and dads can help one another!
Listen to what you’re communicating to your children. Are you encouraging them to live biblically and pro-actively? Or, are you handing them ready-made excuses for their behavior and attitudes, as you offer them negative emotions to explain their choices. If that’s what you’re doing, you can be confident that you’re planting seeds of disintegration, that will bear the fruit of insecurity and victimization in their not-so-distant future!
Our little children will soon become young adults who live the way they’ve been trained. How are you training them, today?