I learned something today about the nature of a child

I went to the gym today so I could shower.

(a mama’s got to do what a mama’s…you know.)

My babes like playing in the kid zone at the gym where I work out, but today I didn’t feel like working out, I just wanted an uninterrupted shower. I got one, and then I got ready for my day and I came to sit in the lobby of my gym for a few moments before picking my kiddos up. As I was sitting there, I saw a man in his 50′s who had a clear mental disability. He was with a woman who was his guide/helper. The man went over to a vending machine and asked for a drink. The woman replied that she didn’t have any money, and all of a sudden the man started screaming. I nearly fell out of my chair out of surprise. It was loud! He was having a tantrum. And all of a sudden I had a revelation.

That man couldn’t help having a tantrum, he wasn’t completely in control of his mental faculties. He was responding as though a little child would.

How a child would.

Oh my goodness, how a child would!

Of course children have tantrums and act crazy sometimes, they are just doing what their little sin natures know to do! Sure, we could beat it out of them, just like that woman could have hit that man to get him to be quiet, but that wouldn’t really be fair or kind or respectful, would it? When the man yelled, the woman gently led him outside to talk with him (from what I could tell).

When my children yell or whine or have a tantrum or don’t obey very well, I want to remember that they don’t always know how to respond correctly, and that it takes time, a ton of time, to teach and train them. I need to be patient and compassionate as they mature, which takes years.

When I was going through a really difficult time with my Caroline disobeying, Sally said to me, “I really think if she could obey you she would.” Sally was right, my little girl wasn’t getting it, she was two and she just wanted to be with me, not go to bed. I expected her to obey immediately and perfectly. What an unrealistic and even cruel expectation. Not even God requires that of me.

I want to guide and teach my babies how to be in-control of their emotions. I want to teach them how to better express themselves. I want to prepare them for how to respond when life doesn’t go their way.

I want to remember that they are not adults.

And even if they were, how many of us have it totally together? How many of us still struggle with complaining or yelling or getting crabby when we don’t get our way? How should we be treated when we act in these ungodly ways?

I would want somebody to help me, to be on my team, to support me as I grow and mature and change.

So you know what? I’m going to be that person for my children. I’m going to be cheering them on, teaching them, leading them, and helping them as they navigate their emotions. I’m going to point them to Jesus, and encourage them to take on His ways, His humble ways.

I’m going to remember the man and the vending machine. And I’m going to remember that my children are maturing just one day at a time…just like their mama, who needs all the grace she can get.

 ”Treat others the same way you want them to treat you.” Luke 6:31

Love, SM

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  • Jaime Scott

    This is so good! Thanks for sharing!

  • Brenda

    Excellent, thanks for the reminder.  Have a 2 & 3 year old…sometimes I forget that they don’t ‘get it’ after the 10th reminder..Or the 20th.   Just like I sometimes don’t…

    • Tammy_Skipper

      Saying a little prayer for you, I remember those days…I promise that energy, clarity and a lot more fun is headed your way after you grow through this toddler season (a mother to -now- 16 & 15 year old kids)

  • Teressa

    Thank you for sharing!  

  • Deb Wolfe

    Oh… such truth!  Thank you!

  • Alicia

    Thank you for the reminder! My husband is often telling me that I expect the children to act a certain way, and they’re only 4 and 6!

  • agodlyhomemaker

    your post spoke volumes today

  • http://www.aprilesweers.com/marinate-blog/ Aprile

    There’s a big difference between excusing a tantrum b/c my child is only __ years old and “doesn’t know better” (the passive approach), and graciously dealing with the tantrum in a firm but loving age-appropriate way in order to train and instruct him. Sometimes I’m so afraid of the first option that I overcompensate and respond too harshly. Thanks for the reminder!

    • http://www.practicingprudence.blogspot.com/ Kayla P

      I agree. Sometimes it is hard to find the balance!

  • Pamela

    Wow Sarah,I was just praying about this very thing this morning.  I have five children my oldest is only 8 and my youngest is 9 mnths old.   One of my little ones is two years old, he has had a hard time adjusting since the baby was born.    Sometimes I just run out of patience with him, I know he is only two.  
    I so needed this.   God is working on my heart in this area of my life.  I love that children song “He’s still working on me”.   I want people to be patient with me.    I want God to be patient with me.   I love my children and I also want to teach them how to act but if I am not patient and kind I am sending mix messages.  “A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.”   I was reading the book of James this morning.  
    I so know the feeling about needing a shower, and wanting to take it in peace. 

    • http://www.likeawarmcupofcoffee.com Sarah Mae

      It’s amazing how easy it is to forget “treat others as you’d like to be treated” when applied to our children.

  • reneestam

    Beautifully put, Thank you :-)

  • Jeanette Chamberlain

    That was some wise advise for me to read today. Thank you for sharing this. God Bless. 

    • http://www.likeawarmcupofcoffee.com Sarah Mae

      It felt like wisdom when it hit me. I think it was just the Holy Spirit teaching me.

  • thecoffeecottage

    There is plenty of good truth in this. I, for one, am thankful you went to the gym for your shower this morning, because it helped cleanse all of our perspectives a little!

    • http://www.likeawarmcupofcoffee.com Sarah Mae

      ;)

  • me.burke

    I am so guilty of expecting my kids to act more mature than they are.  If they don’t get things right away, I get frustrated.  

  • http://www.WhimsySmitten.com/ Cara Sexton

    Thank you for this. Needed to read it today. My oldest is going on 13 and since the time he was 2, his vocabulary and ability to talk over something made it very easy for me to forget that despite the fact that he seemed so grown up and intelligent, he is still a child. He hasn’t lived the things that allow him to know the best ways of doing things or be able to trust his abilities or all the other things that I can get so frustrated. In the same light, my son is 4 and as stubborn as the day is long. I am at a point of complete frustration with him but I have to come back , over and over and over again every day to the reminder to see his whole self, his heart behind the defiant action, deal with it firmly but lovingly and take the time to teach and encourage in these moments, not just to correct the bad behavior.  

  • http://adamranck.com Adam Ranck

    I don’t have children, but this makes a lot of sense, and something I want to remember when I do. Thanks Sarah Mae.

  • Brookeclarke06

    I really enjoy reading your blog and Facebook posts. What often comes to me is, “Yes, I feel that way too” or “Oh good, its not just me!” This post was another one of those for me. My oldest daughter seems to be like your Caroline. I had some really negative and immature feelings towards her about how she is making MY life hard, oh poor me! Self pity at its worst. Then God helped me to see that this life is really tough for HER! My focus needs to be on teaching and loving her with the difficulties that she deals with in her life; we all have them! I got down on my knees and prayed for compassion and love for her and today was awesome. God has all the power and when I truly believe that and call out to Him he never disappoints. What an amazing God we serve! Thanks for posting this, it was so helpful. Bless you. Brooke

  • Michele

    I so needed to hear this. I’ve been dealing with this very issue. I need God to change me so I can help them. I have been expecting perfection then frustrated when they don’t comply. Thank you so much for your words of wisdom. I really needed it, especially since we are going to start homeschooling. You are such a blessing, Sarah Mae!

  • Jill Flory

    Amen.  So well put.  Thank you so much for this – that experience you had is a great perspective.  I will remember your story as you remember seeing it!  I have an 8 year old who regularly has meltdown tantrums.  Spanking does NOT work.  And I think like your 2 year old she wants more of my time.  And I look at her and think ‘she’s almost 9!  why can’t she just do what she is told and let me do my thing?’  This post stepped on my toes – and they very much needed stepped on – thank you SO much.  I get your posts by email and I read more than I have commented!  You are an inspiration – thank you for letting God work through you.

  • Lisa Maria

    Dear Sarah Mae…thank you for this very timely reminder. You really got the nail on the head for me with this one. I am so guilty of expecting perfection from my children and forgetting at times that they are still learning and growing and need lots of grace…just as I do!

  • Schneiderpeeps.com

    Great encouragement.  One of my children had a severe speech delay and was very emotionally volitile when he was younger and it took a lot from me to help him learn to control his emotions.  Being harsh just made things worse but being nice but firm really helped.  He’s now 14 and you’d never know he struggled so much as a young child. 

    So you may not see a difference today or tomorrow or next week but over time with consistent loving correction you will. 

  • McKenna

    I needed this today!  

  • Beth Williams

    What a powerful message Sara Mae!  Your blogs always contain some insightful information!

    Thanks

  • Michele

    Thank you! My son (4yrs old) was upset the other day over something he wasn’t able to understand. I was trying to help him, but just didn’t seem to get it. He ended up screaming and crying so I sent him to his room to calm down. It’s so hard when you’re not able to help him understand something new.

  • http://joyfulmothering.net Christin

    Kind of blows most those parenting books out of the water doesn’t it? Reminds me of Grace-Based Parenting; a book I stayed away from for a long time because I thought it was talking about “cheap grace”. But it doesn’t. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/rebecca.busenitz Rebecca Busenitz

    Wonderful encouragement. I need to remember this with my little ones (3, 2, & 1). I’ve always believed that children need to learn immediate, unquestioning obedience from day 1. That is so unreasonable, and I’ve become ashamed at my spirit of pride. Training is one thing, demanding results is another. I can lovingly “train” my children without expecting them to act perfectly. We all mess up. We all fight. We all throw fits. I don’t have the right to expect my children to “grow up” and stop having problems. 

    • Sharon O

      if you can remember this at your tiny ones ages you are MORE ahead of most mom’s. little ones are little only once. don’t expect too much.
      Perhaps that is why Jesus said ‘we are to come as children’… they have innocense we do not have and trust too.
      Grace is given when we learn to be patient. 

  • Sharon O

    Great thoughts, oh that we could see the little ones just as they are. Precious, innocent, loving and willing to obey so long as they understand the ‘process’… of what we want for them. (from a grandma of six who has been there many times with little ones)

  • Erin

    Wonderful thoughts.  I am an “experienced” mom and am expecting our 6th child.  When I look back at how rigid and demanding I was of my older children I just want to weep.  Thankfully, they are still all at home and I’ve had an opportunity to try a grace filled more effective way of child training.

  • Ljdroll

    I have a teenage son and this is so helpful.  I expect him to be an adult and he isn’t quite there yet.  Thank you for the reminder.  I love the innocent picture of that sweet child too.

  • http://aboverubies.net/ Jasmine Mansfield

    Sarah, I’m so thankful for your posts – you make me think. ;-)

    I don’t believe expecting obedience immediately is cruel if training has been administered repetitiously and consistently with love and grace. I think many situations call for first-time obedience. 

    Again, friend, thank you for your insights. 

  • http://www.downinfrugalrock.com/ Heather

    Thank you for this. I needed to hear this today. It’s raining and yucky out and my toddler keeps screaming for the park, and throwing every toy, snack, book I hand him. It’s been a very frustrating morning!

  • Monique

    Now we all do remember that man  ;o)  Thanks for sharing!

    Love from Holland

  • Jenni

    I can see where you are coming from on this, but I also think it’s not really fair to imply that a mother is cruel for expecting immediate obedience.  It might be wrong, and definitely she can be harsh in how she handles the disobedience, but for some reason the word cruel bothers me.  There are a lot of mothers out there trying their best to do what they think is right, and in a sea of different opinions on parenting, even within the church, every mom is going to make mistakes at times or expect too much from her kids.  There are also going to be times where the kids can obey you but won’t.  It does take great wisdom to handle these situations, I just wish it didn’t feel like the mom is always the bad guy in how she handles her kids’ disobedience.

  • Tammy_Skipper

    Love this, I tell young mothers who ask how we’ve raised such ‘good kids’ that I did it so wrong, so many days. I tell them I would let God work His patience through me so much more than I allowed him to do. I would understand that my babes were just figuring out life. Then I give myself a little grace, after all, we were only 20 & 21 years young ourselves…

  • Stephanie in SC

    Well, I must say, a child is a child. BUT we are to teach them to be in control. I expected my kids to behave as children, but I had given clear instruction on what was allowed, from an early age. I did spank my children, just as scripture gives clear instruction on ( not beat). My children did not ever throw a tantrum in public, and it was not tolerated in private. 99% love , teaching them what is expected, 1% correction, when needed.

  • M.

    Thank you for this post. It’s made me think a lot about my 17 month old, and how I often get frustrated and impatient with whining. I realize that she may not know how to distinguish her emotions from her behaviors. She feels clingy, so she whines. It makes sense to her young self. She’s just stopped being a tiny infant who cried for every need, so the transition to whining actually makes sense to me. I realize today that my fear is for her to think that her emotion is the bad thing–that it’s not OK to feel upset. I know it will take time to teach her that her feelings are just fine, but that sometimes we can’t act on them in certain ways. She is young and she will come to learn this, with lots of help, like we all need. Thank you so much for this story, and for sharing what you learned.

  • Shanna

    Thanks Sarah Mae! Needed this :)

  • Aaron Tricia Hunting

    You and Sally have been such a blessing to me, my family and my friends that are going through the book. Thank you so much for what you do! I know you get negative comments on here sometimes about how you respond to your child’s behavior, however I am blessed by what you share. I felt lead by the Holy Spirit to parent my children differently than many around me and got a lot of flack for it and I am so thankful that I am not the only one that feels led this way. I too am one of those readers who cried in the first chapter of Desperate because I was so relieved to know someone else felt the way I did! Thank you so much!

  • http://www.amyfritzswrites.wordpress.com/ amyfritz

    Thanks for making me think today.

  • Elissa Czerniawski Teal

    Great thoughts! Here is a snippet from a recent blog post of mine about the 2nd greatest commandment and the fruit of the Spirit in regards to how we parent/interact with our children. http://thecrunchymamachronicles.wordpress.com/2013/11/21/sometimes-parenting-is-tough-but-what-if/

    “When you are tempted to react poorly with your children, I pray that you will view it as an opportunity for both you and your children to build your character. Personally, God has helped me to come to the place that I am — where I hold up my actions, my attitudes and my words to the following: do my actions, attitudes and words reflect the 2nd greatest commandment and do they reflect the fruit of the Spirit? Am I loving my neighbor as myself? In other words: am I treating the other person in a manner that I would prefer to be treated or corrected when I am wrong? Do my actions reflect the following fruit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control? If not, then I need to stop whatever it is that I am doing and go to the Lord for the strength to react as a representative of Christ to others.”

    May the Lord bless you and keep you!