A friend mentioned recently that she sometimes felt like distracting her young son (toddler) was neglecting to teach him/ discipline him. This statement got me thinking about this technique, since I too, have found that it is a very effective technique with my own children. Here is a typical scenario: baby has to share or give back a toy she stole from big brother, baby throws a fit (screaming, hitting, etc.), mother finds something that will get baby’s mind off the toy she wants, baby is happy. Ever tried this at home?
So is this neglecting to teach baby how to deal with anger? Is it, as I sometimes am afraid, tantamount to bribery (“please stop throwing a fit, and I’ll give you this nice treat”)? I think this is what I’ve wondered about.
However, I am realizing that distracting Bethel or David is quite similar to what I do when I am dealing with anger in my own life. Here is a typical scenario: somebody does something I don’t like; I throw a fit (a very sophisticated one, but I might be moody, depressed, irritable, or just sulk); I finally tell self “Self, get over it and find something else to think about”; I remind myself that God doesn’t promise to give me everything I want, but he infinitely loving and all-knowing, and promises to give me everything that’s good for me; I deliberately find something to do that gets my mind off of myself (for me, I’ll often make cookies for somebody else who will appreciate them).
So, distracting can actually be a part of teaching my children how to deal with anger or disappointment biblically. I think it is appropriate to explain how changing your thinking changes how you feel. Just last night Bethel was in the car whining because she was told no, and David piped up, “Put some music on for her.” That’s because I frequently suggest that he turn on some happy music in his room to help him think happy thoughts (he has a Scripture songs CD in him bedroom stereo) I will often say, “Let’s find something happy to think about” as I try to find a toy that will please a child instead of the one he covets. Sometimes I will point out to an angry child that as long as he is thinking selfish, unhappy thoughts, he will feel miserable. Then we’ll think of something happy to do. As I type this, I realize that I could do more directing that change in thinking outward to others (like what I do with cookies), and explain how thinking of others helps us to be happy, too.
I think that it is possible to bribe a child instead of merely distracting him by taking a pleading, servile position. I’m not sure of what makes the difference, other than to say I try not to do anything that will make feel me like I’m bribing. I’ll think through this and write about it in the next day or two.