It is so easy to be mad and upset.  You just have to give into your emotions.  Being mad is the weakest human response there is because it requires no thought, planning, or self control.

Prov. 25: 28

28 He that hath no arule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls.

Some People Don’t See

One day while I was sitting at a park I saw a grandmother with two young children.  The grandmother wanted her older child to come over to where she was with the younger child and called to him, “Jake, come over here right now and play with your brother John.”  She was saying this because she didn’t want to go on the playground equipment with the younger child.

Before grandma had called, Jake was playing happily in the sand pile with some other children and had removed his shoes.  The playground was covered in pointy wood chips.  I watched as little Jake, about age three or four, slid down the sand pile and started messing with his shoes.

Grandma yelled to Jake, “Jake, don’t put your shoes on.  Just come over here.”

Jake didn’t answer and was still fussing with his shoes; trying to get them on.

“Jake, what are you doing?  I said get over here.  Just pick up your shoes and walk over here.  Jake!”

At this point Jake looked up in frustration and said, “I can’t come.  I don’t have shoes on.  I can’t walk over there without my shoes on.”

Grandma repeated, “Just pick up your shoes and walk over here Jake!!!”

Jake was obviously nervous.  He could see the difference of texture between the sand and the wood chips.  He really felt the wood chips would hurt his feet.  Maybe he had had experience before on the wood chips and didn’t like the feeling.  Jake was also frustrated because at such a young age he couldn’t get his shoes to work properly.

At this point his grandmother said, “URGH!” and stomped over to the sand pile.  With a heavy hand she spanked little anxious Jake.  After a good loud swat on the backside, she grabbed his arm and pulled him over the pokey ground to the play set.  The boy was crying the whole way.

Grandma was really deep into a power struggle at this point and didn’t even realize she had started the power struggle and kept it going all on her own.  I felt so bad for her.  I just wanted to jump up and say, “You don’t see.  You need to see.  Stop.  Look at your grandson.  He is trying to tell you something.”

While she was forcing Jake to walk on pointy sticks against his will, grandma accidentally pushed the younger boy, John, over onto the sticks.  Now things were really falling apart, and I think grandma finally realized she was on public display.

Grandma said, “Jake, look what you made me do to John.”

Jake was still crying and saying, “I can’t walk over here.”

Grandma was determined to make it look like her grandson was a boy out of his mind so she said, “What do you mean you can’t walk?  You just did.  You just walked over here and you are fine.”  After this, grandma started jamming on Jakes shoes as quickly as possible.

Jake began to cry again because his feet were covered in sand and wood chips.

When the new crying began, grandma said, “URGH!…  Hey if you don’t like how I put your shoes on, then you can do it yourself.”

This statement made the four-year-old even more anxious.  He didn’t know how to fix the problem with his shoes.  All people have a certain amount of anxiety, but children are even more anxious than adults.

I saw grandma order little Jake around a bit more and blame him for all the problems his brother was having on the playground.  I also saw grandma spank Jake again for accidentally sliding into John as she was encouraging them to try to walk up a slide.  After a few more exasperated “URGH!” noises, grandma made the children leave the park because they had lost the privilege to be there because of bad behavior.

Leonardo DaVinci said, “There are three classes of people: those who see, those who see when they are shown, and those who do not see.”  This grandma was one of those people who did not see.

Why Did Grandma Not See?

She chose not to see, not even to look, because then, if she was an honest person she would have to admit that she was at fault for the majority of the power struggle.

Honestly looking at our own communications and short comings is possibly one of the hardest things to do.  No one wants to see their faults and more than that, no one wants to have to admit they were wrong.  Most relationships are ruined because one party doesn’t want to admit they have offended another, or is too prideful to see a fault and change it.

Following along this line of thinking, it is also a relationship problem to point out every fault you find in the other person.  Fault finding is prideful, just like not wanting to see your own faults is prideful.

What To Do

I couldn’t help but think of this grandmother’s relationship with her spouse and children as I watched her power struggle with her grandchild.  I wondered if she nags her spouse and tries to emotionally force him to do as she wants.  I wondered if she gets loud and tries to get her way by force with them too.I wondered if grandma realizes that the power to change her mood, and her relationships comes from within herself; not from another person’s actions.  If she stopped talking, stopped being frustrated and controlling and started looking deeper into the feelings and desires of her family then she would have a great power; the power to see.  Stephen Covey calls it “Seeking to Understand.”  “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”

Choosing To See

One day I was standing at the stove cooking dinner and thinking very deeply about something when my son Porter, who was three-years old at the time, came and asked me for a drink of cold water in a sippy’ cup.  I heard Porter, but for some reason, I didn’t look at him or speak to him.  I didn’t acknowledge him in any way.  I was just so deep in thought that the world around me was gone.

Porter asked again for cold water in a sippy’ cup.  Again, I allowed myself to wander through my thoughts and not respond to Porter’s request.  The next sound I heard was crying, which snapped me right out of my mental wanderings.  My three year old son was communicating frustration and despair to me.  I immediately knew he needed to know I understood his communication.

I walked over to the stairs and sat down by Porter and said, “Porter, I know you want a drink of cold water in a sippy’ and I know you think Mommy didn’t hear you and that this made you sad.”  At this point Porter completely relaxed and started to smile.  I said, “I am so sorry I wasn’t listening to you.  I will get you a sippy’ right now.”  Then we hugged really big and Porter got his sippy’ and went on his way.  As soon as Porter knew I understood him, he was emotionally well.  Maybe we all need to understand each other a little better.  A vital principle for teaching children is make sure the child knows he is understood.

This principle applies just as much to teens as it does to toddlers.  In fact, it applies to everyone.  If you want to inspire change in your child’s heart you need to first determine where they are at; how anxious they are and what they think you don’t understand.

  After a person feels understood they become ready to talk about whatever behavior needs fixing.  Seeking to understand is the easiest way to get your child’s heart in the right place to learn and improve.

Know What Anxiety Is And How to Stop It

Feeling understood decreases anxiety.  Children are very anxious people.  They live their lives not completely understanding everything which is happening around them.  Children also make lots of mistakes and bad choices.  They know when they make mistakes or bad choices someone else could choose to get mad at them or hurt them.  They are not always sure if they are safe because the Mom and Dad are bigger and older and take things so seriously all the time.

We need to look past our judgments of behaviors and see if there are any hidden fears or anxieties.  We become the expert on our child’s behavior when we look for the feelings which only a child can understand.  Children often think parents are all knowing;’ that they already understand the whole situation or behavior.  Knowing children think this is helpful.

We can try harder to really understand situations and behaviors completely, and we can seek to understand by asking more questions when something happens so we really do understand.




When you see your child in a difficult emotional time, try looking deeper into his soul.  Think of yourself as the child.  Try to figure out what you don’t understand.  When you think you understand something, tell the child what you understand.

We Know What We Have Done Wrong, We Just Need To Stop And Listen

Little Jake kept telling his grandmother, ” Nana, I didn’t want to walk on the pokey ticks.  My feet hurt.”

Grandma wasn’t really listening to Jake, but inside she knew what he was saying and even told herself and him the problem.  She said, “I never asked you what you wanted.  I told you what to do, and you didn’t do it.  I don’t care if you don’t like the pokey sticks or how I put your shoes on.  If you don’t like it you can do it yourself.”  Nana told Jake that she didn’t care about understanding and that she expected him to understand her.  That’s not how it works.  “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”

If only we would sometimes stop and listen to ourselves.  Just by stopping and feeling our own communication we can see we are not understanding something.  Train yourself to recognize when you are frustrated.  When you feel that way, teach yourself to stop and feel.  If you feel out of control, then ask yourself, “What do I need see?  What do I need to understand?”  If you do this you will be free to think clearly, communicate calmly, understand fully, and inspire change.

Samuel Smiles said, “…we should be free from wrathful sentiment.”  Anger is bondage and will always control us if we give in to it.

Leonardo da Vinci said, “You can have no dominion greater or less than that over yourself.”  This is true.  If we all focus more on our own communications and actions then we will have the power to inspire others to communicate better too.  We should all be free.  When we seek to understand our children before we start correcting them then we will be able to remain calm and free and have the power to spread that emotional freedom to our children and families as well.  Take the power, invite the Spirit; seek to understand.  Understanding is the first display of love.

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