We know that as women we have hormonal changes that affect and often dictate our emotions. These are often chemical responses that we have no control over, yet we must still carry on with life. We cannot control the circumstances, but in many cases we can control our response to the circumstances. (I say in many cases because sometimes it is a chemical response that we cannot control. In those cases, medical intervention is necessary, and beneficial)
How can we help our children learn to have healthy emotional responses to others and the world around them? First we must acknowledge that emotions are a God-given aspect of our nature as humans. Healthy children are born expressing emotions; crying when hurt, lonely, or afraid. They also begin early smiling, laughing, and expressing excitement. Two of our grandsons LOVE to eat and it is fun to see their excitement when their mothers call them to the table. Their siblings better keep an eye on their food!
These expressions of emotion should be encouraged and affirmed when exhibited appropriately. They should be ignored or addressed firmly when used to manipulate or control. I remember the first time one of our children threw themselves down in Roses (pre-WalMart) and threw a fit in hopes of getting a certain toy. I had been taught to ignore the child when he/she throws a tantrum and I did just that. I calmly went down the next aisle and waited. It soon became quiet and I pushed the cart back to the previous aisle and saw our child lying there, waiting to see if anyone noticed. Since the “fit” did not result in extra attention , and certainly not the desired toy, I did not have to deal with that outburst again. A strong-willed child may try this several times, but by being consistent and firm your child will learn to control this negative behavior.
The Bible talks often about the “heart” which refers to the emotions. In Mark 12:30 Jesus says when asked what the greatest commandment is:
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”
When we encourage our children to love God with their whole hearts, it puts their own emotions in check. When we love ourselves first, emotions control our actions. It is all about us! As children begin to place God’s will and purpose for them first, they are able to learn that feelings come and go, but God’s love for them remains forever.
As a teacher, I have gotten to know a great variety of students over the years. The unhappiest young people I see are the ones who have gotten their own way most of their lives. Their parents have mistakenly given in to them and they are never satisfied. These young people are selfish, demanding, and emotional wrecks because they are treated the way they treat others.
The happiest students I see are the ones who put others first. This is without exception. These students are kind, generous, and respectful and they receive these qualities back in return. Gary Smalley teaches about “Emotional Bank Accounts.” He says that what we invest in is what we withdraw. It makes sense, doesn’t it? Luke 6:38 says this very thing.
“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
Emotions are a part of who we are. They can be a blessing when we help our children learn to control their influence. This becomes more important the older our children become. So, now is a good time to begin encouraging positive emotional expressions and learning self-control of negative emotions. Then, hang on for an exciting ride!
Next week – the fourth aspect – Encouraging Spiritual Health.