We arrived home later than usual one evening and were rushing to get the kids in bed as it was already past their normal bedtime. In the midst of it, my older two had a little bit of a conflict.
Frankly, I was surprised at Stefan’s response because he is normally patient with these sorts of things. And, really, the situation was fairly minor and he was clearly over reacting.
My first thought was to give him the, “buck up and deal with it” speech. This really wasn’t a big deal, we needed to get to bed, he was tired and just being overly sensitive.
Thankfully, something stopped me almost in mid-sentence. My instinct told me there was more to this than met the eye. After everyone got to bed, his sister fell asleep almost immediately, so I just laid next to Stefan without saying anything. I’d be there to listen if there was anything else he wanted to say.
Sure enough after a few moments of silence, it all spilled out.
And you know what? He had some very legitimate frustrations.
It had been bottling up inside and suddenly came out in a fairly minor incident with his sister. But they were genuine things that he had reason to be upset about.
When I told Brian about it later, we both commented that even as adults we would have been rather upset and might not have been as patient as he had been.
As I reflected on the incident later on, I realized how often I quickly dish out a command or reprimand without even taking time to pause and listen to my child. Yes, they are children. Yes, they need to be taught and admonished. But they are also people, and often, if we simply take the time to pause and listen for a moment, we might find out that there are some real legitimate feelings going on underneath the surface.
I’m so thankful that in that moment I paused and waited. I didn’t force him to talk because I know I never open up when someone is “forcing” me to. I just waited, and eventually I found out what was really going on.
We talked about ways to improve the situation. We talked about asking God to help us be kind and loving even when we are frustrated. (Though I did acknowledge that I have been struggling with the same thing lately.)
I told him I was sorry for not realizing what was happening. He told me he was sorry he had been unkind to Olivia. We hugged, and I laid there for just a moment longer. The next thing I knew he was asleep.
I got up from his bed so grateful that he had gone to sleep with a peaceful spirit and that I had gained another valuable lesson in parenting.
Don’t forget the essential part in parenting of pausing and listening. It may surprise you what you learn.