It wasn’t funny at the time…”
Whether you have a special needs child or not, I’m sure every parent has a story to tell of a time when they felt control of a situation slipping from their fingers. During the holidays one year, we had such an incident.
Right after Thanksgiving a drama team was in our area helping homeschooled children participate in a play. Our daughter performed as an animated corn stalk in a farm scene. The play was cute; everything went well.
However, the next Sunday at church, our daughter was to be a demure angel in the children’s Christmas program . We had not anticipated the connection to the training the week before until we sat and noticed one very animated angel among the others. Since people usually expect something out of the ordinary happening in a kid’s program, the situation was okay. But then – horrors – instead of the children coming down to sit with their parents for the remainder of the service, they were seated in the choir loft with our animated one in the front row. After a moment of panic, I made my way to the back aisle to try and catch the eye of our still animated, shiny angel seated–well, not exactly–just behind and to the right of our Pastor who was presenting a serious gospel message. That felt like the longest sermon we have ever heard!
Another time when Ron was helping to serve communion, our then small daughter was getting restless after sitting through the service and now the Lord’s Supper. As a help, I sat her on my lap, but she didn’t want to sit on my lap and went stiff as a board. I knew what was coming and quickly carried her from the sanctuary. In my haste, I left my purse and my car keys behind. Now I was trapped in the foyer with a screaming, kicking child. Thankfully, a dear lady came along and retrieved my purse so we could go home. We had recently been teaching at home about asking for forgiveness. As the parking lot attendants watched me carry my daughter across the parking lot with her kicking and screaming “I forgive you! I forgive you!” they seemed amused! It wasn’t funny to me at the time.
Parents of challenging children must continuously weigh out where a situation may lead, and if necessary, how they can defuse it. The situation in the first example could have been avoided if I had asked more questions ahead of time. Instead, my daughter was placed in a situation where she was overwhelmed. Since one of my responsibilities as a parent is to protect my children, I must pray for God’s wisdom (James 1:5 ), glean from others, and learn from my past mistakes, in order to become an expert strategist.
Another major parental responsibility is dealing with the sin nature inherent in us all (Romans 5:12). The second example was such a battle of the will. We have found, however, that no instruction can take place in meltdown or temper tantrum conditions until we calm our child first. Then if the sin is rebellion, the child receives discipline and subsequently forgiveness and reconciliation. In meltdown, she receives comfort and/or instruction. But, again, we have to calm her before either of these can be effective.
Do you remember the old record players? Sometimes the record would get scratched and the needle would stick in one groove and play the same thing over and over (sometimes a CD will too) until you gave it a little bump into a different groove. Comparatively, sometimes our children’s thinking patterns get “stuck” and we need to “bump” them to help them get their minds in a different track. For example, when our daughter starts getting frustrated or agitated, we may have her fold her hands together. Then I’ll say “right thumb”, “left pinky” etc., so she is concentrating on moving that particular finger and not on what is aggravating her. When she didn’t know right from left, I’d point at a finger. Another way we have heard of to “bump” is to place a plastic straw in the child’s teeth horizontally (from side to side) which makes the corners of the mouth go up into a smile. When we first tried this, we all smiled and laughed! Another way is to have the child press his palms together as hard as he can or to press against an unmovable object such as a table or wall. Alternatively, just sing a song. Once the child is calm, nurturing or correction can take place.
Keep your sense of humor and remember, even if you are not in control of a situation, GOD IS!