Thursday, February 4, 2010

A Muttering Hole

What do you do when one of your kids gets angry? I have one who is sunshine on legs, she’s so cheerful, so easy, so outgoing, friendly, and…bright! She’s eager to please, eager to learn. But sometimes…she gets angry.

This child does not slam doors, yell, or throw things. She’s much more subtle. She mutters. She talks to herself at varying decibels about how unfair life is, I am, a consequence or state of affairs seems to be. She replays whatever made her angry, as if she’s narrating to the room. It drives me crazy, and I recently realized why.

I think it’s passive aggressive. I explained to her that that means she wants me to hear her complaining. By muttering, she’s able to talk back, saying things to me that she would never dream of saying to my face. She’s also working herself into an angrier state, as she hears her own arguments about the unfairness of an early bedtime, for example, and then agrees with herself, more indignant than before. When I suggested these two problems with muttering, she blushed but didn’t deny it.

Muttering is not a good habit, we agreed, but I wanted to validate her feelings. There’s nothing wrong with being angry. My job as her parent is simply to teach her what to do with angry feelings. She clearly likes to talk them out, even if she’s the only listener—and she does like to talk things out!

I suggested a Muttering Hole—a place to go when she’s feeling angry. Instead of telling herself why she’s angry, though, I asked her to say Scripture to herself. Especially the verse about thinking on whatsoever things are pure and lovely and of good report. I told her we’d print it out, hang it on the wall, and she could read it to herself when she was angry. I told her that when she goes to the Lord with her feelings, through prayer and Scripture, He will help her sort through those feelings. Sometimes it’s good to be angry, and when you pray about it, the Lord will direct that passion. Sometimes we’re wrong with regard to how we see a situation, and the Lord will clarify our vision when we turn to Him.

She was happy with that solution. The anger itself wasn’t wrong, just her way of dealing with it. I gave her different words to say, and she thought that would work fine. The next day, before we’d had a chance to set anything up, she said, “Mama, I need a Muttering Hole.” I thought, “Uh-oh. Angry already?” Clearly some kind of sibling argument… But no, she said she was just looking for a place to be the Muttering Hole.

Once she found a spot—under a game table—she spent the rest of the day copying verses from a pack of ABC memory verses from Abeka. For hours, she copied verses like, “Children obey your parents in the Lord for this is right” onto construction paper. We didn’t get to school that day. I didn’t have the heart to say, “Okay, now put your Bible verses away so we can learn about the Civil War.”

She’s got a Muttering Hole and hopefully a new tool to help her approach her own and other people’s feelings. Now? I should probably ask her to make me a Muttering Hole.

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