Anger emanated from the boy’s tear-rimmed eyes. I could almost see the heat as he glared daggers at me. I’d said something that triggered the anger, and once that beastie escaped, there was no off-button. He stormed to his room. While I was talking with our other son, trying to pray and calm both of our hearts, Thumps and banging sounded from the floor below.
I walked down, praying for guidance. I turned the knob on the door to his bedroom, expecting it to be locked. Instead, the knob turned, but opening the door took great effort. In his anger, the boy had moved a shelving unit across the door. He tried to stare me down. His face contorted with his rage.
Calmly, firmly, I told him he was not to block his door again. He needed the boundary set, amid the anger.
“I hate you!” Twice.
About broke my mama’s heart. But it was in that moment—in hearing those words spew from his mouth—that the Lord reminded me of all the times and all the ways he’d conveyed just how much he loved me. God showed me it was his anger speaking, not what he really felt.
I took a deep breath, and in a calm voice I said, “I love you. I always will.” I turned and walked upstairs, my heart trembling.
Often, it’s a gentle voice in response to strong anger that begins to turn the key and unlock what’s really in our children’s hearts.
A little while later, I thought I heard crying coming from his room. I waited, just in case he was still working through his mad.
He trudged up the stairs, his face red. But this time, deep sorrow defined his posture, his words. He told me he didn’t mean those hateful words he’d uttered.
We cuddled on the sofa, his twelve-year-old frame curled as small as he could on my lap. And he talked. Really talked. Shared from the depths of his heart. His current struggles, his remorse over his words.
And two hearts mended.
Often the door to our children’s hearts are opened with a simple key: the gift of knowing they’re heard.
I’m learning there are times to drop all my tasks and just listen when my boys want to talk. When they see me put them before my to-do list, it opens up future doors to connecting.
They’re growing so quickly. I won’t always be their confidante. But I can always give them the gift of two ears, and a silent mouth when they need time to process what they’re thinking and feeling.
As a parent, it’s my job to respond, not react. I don’t always do this well. I’m a react-or by nature. Sometimes on the scale of a volcano erupting. Self-control is hard in the middle of strong emotions.
Things I’m learning in my role as mom are:
- I need to keep an accurate perspective. When my boy spewed those horrible words, I could see the broader perspective—he loved me. He’d proven it over and over again. One moment of anger doesn’t define a lifetime of relationship.
- A gentle answer truly does turn away wrath. I could have gotten up in my boy’s grill and yelled back at him. And it might have felt good. For about two seconds. I suspect giving him a gentle answer began to break the wall of anger that separated us. It’s hard to be calm with high emotion, but when our kids see this, they often respond to it.
- Taking time to talk when calmer hearts return can lead to deep connections and growing trust between child and parent. When parents let their kids talk without interrupting or trying to fix them, children grow in trusting their parents.
- Humility goes a long ways. Asking for forgiveness when we’ve yelled or been short with our kids? This is another key that opens the doors of their hearts. It defuses the anger and sometimes leads to genuine sharing as parent and child talk together.
This parenting-gig is the toughest road I’ve ever walked. It’s brought me to the end of myself. It’s teaching me how to better reflect Jesus to my boys. And, it’s helping me better understand God’s love for each of His children.
What about you? How do you unlock the doors to the hearts of those in your life? What would you add to my list?