Parenting comes with a lot of surprises. The baby showed up before his/her due date (or in my cases, long, long after). The toddler decided to create her art masterpiece on the white chair while you were putting the baby down for a nap. The preschooler overheard a word you’d rather they didn’t know and then proceeded to try it out in front of grandma and grandpa.
But there is one thing in particular that seems to continue to surprise us, when, technically, it shouldn’t: disobedience.
As a momma of littles, I often have the wrong expectation. I expect that my children will wake up and be obedient and good-natured, and I am surprised when they don’t meet that expectation. I’m surprised when they respond to my request with a tantrum. I am surprised when the baby tries to fight naptime. I am surprised when slow dragging-of-feet occurs when I need us to move quickly.
What happens when I don’t expect disobedience? I get angry. I am upset that my children aren’t listening. Confusion hits me— “What did I do wrong? Why won’t they do ____? Why do they have to make everything so difficult?” In response, I am short and frustrated.
What if, instead, we expected disobedience from our children? Not tolerated disobedience, but rather anticipated its coming. I’m convinced that if we anticipated disobedience, we could shift our perspectives to see their disobedience not as an interruption to our day, but rather as an opportunity— an opportunity to train, to teach, to console, to help.
When I think back over some of the moments where I’ve gotten most frustrated with my children, it’s often because I have neglected to expect that they still need help! They need help learning to control their emotions. Children need teaching in how to give, be kind, and take turns. They need instruction on how to respect mommy. They need discipline when they hit their sibling. It’s ludicrous to expect, at such young ages, that they would naturally do the right thing all of the time. Let’s be honest: I’m still learning how to do that as an adult!
Moreover, when I neglect to expect disobedience, I am quick to anger. And I long for our house to be a safe place- a place that’s safe for my children to express their emotions. A safe place for them to have tantrums, to yell, to scream… a place that can give them a hug and say, “I see you’re feeling really upset right now.” [And then, of course, a place where I can calmly coach them through the right ways to respond]. When I am expecting perfection, I respond to their emotions with shrill emotions of my own. But when I can anticipate that there will be many tantrums and emotional moments in my upcoming day, I am much better equipped to enter into them graciously.
What about you? Are you flustered when you’re out in public and your little one has yet another tantrum? Are you caught off guard when your young child openly disregards your request? What would it look like to ready your heart to expect these moments and even welcome these moments as opportunities for teaching and training?