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Oct21FriHow to discipline your inner toddler. October 21, 2016 by Major Danielle Strickland
I've got a six- and three-year-old who have something wrong with them—massive hormonal swings and extreme reactions. I think this is the case with all kids, but I'm sure it is with mine. Crazy ideas like “clean up time” and “homework before screen time” are met with wailing fits of protest. They rage against the injustice of it all.
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- Opinion & Critical Thought
When I'm able to look at it from a distance, it's funny. But mostly I just hold in my own hormonal response. What I want to do is scream and shout louder. But I don't, because I'm an adult. I think it's rather big of me to stop the cycle.
As I reflected on the most recent fit, I saw myself—my own inner emotional response to God's invitation to put first things first. Prayer before action? The nerve! No one has time to pray … all the other kids don't have to … I want to GET SOMETHING DONE.
I rage against the discipline and rush past the prayer closet, in the hope of getting on with the “real work,” sulking over my divine parent's nerve in steering me to what will help get the real work done.
Making time for relationships? Are you serious? I'm swamped already. Plus, let's be honest—I'm so awesome I don't need anyone! And the inner tantrum begins.
I seem to be a perpetual spiritual toddler—my initial reactions are almost always extreme. The only difference for me is that it's an internal battle. I shout and scream and pound the floor in my own mind, heart and will.
And then I take a step back and look at myself, raging out of control, and feel the parent in me rising. Let's review, I think. What has God asked of me? I go over it in my mind. Why has he suggested this? I realize that if I participate in this journey, it's going to lead to freedom.
Much like my six-year-old, who was reluctant to practice his letters, I find the practice of prayer journaling to be liberating and infuriating. But when he was finished, he looked up and smiled at me, and said, with a great sense of accomplishment, “I did it!” It made me remember how I feel when I finally relent to God's instructions, as he teaches me what really matters.
I may always have toddler tantrums on the inside, but I'm so glad that God is patient and kind, and willing to keep inviting me to put the things that matter first. Maybe you need to take a moment in the midst of your own emotional reactions to be reminded of God's promise to discipline (instruct, enforce boundaries, give direction) to those he loves. Then count yourself blessed to have that kind of parent, and do what he asks. Because in the end, that's what really matters.
Major Danielle Strickland is the territorial social justice secretary in the U.S.A. Western Territory.