Yesterday we looked at different contributing factors to baby being angry. This is a good step as we strive to think about responding to a challenge biblically.
With an infant, I tend to wonder first whether the problem is developmental, something normal (and not necessarily sinful) for her stage in development. An infant who is putting everything in his mouth is most likely simply at a stage where he learns a great deal by putting objects in his mouth. Understanding the stage in development is going to help me give him good things to put in his mouth while I teach him what he should not put in his mouth (such as electrical cords). It helps me to realize that the challenge is going to resolve naturally as the baby gets older. It doesn’t mean that I ignore the developmental bump, but it does give me greater understanding and patience. Sometimes it means that I simply remove the temptation and focus on other challenges I am facing. If I am working on too many challenges for my own sanity or my child’s, I’m going to eliminate developmental challenges first.
This idea is relevant when dealing with anger because a good deal of Laurel’s anger and frustration is developmental. She doesn’t have the words to say what is happening, and when she is misunderstood, or in a time of great emotion, she’s at lost to express herself. I’ve been trying to figure out how to determine if the problem is a sin problem or developmental problem, and finally discovered something about my daughter that has helped me.
When she’s frustrated with an inability to do something, I simply say, “say help mommy” or “say more corn, please.” She usually stops crying to repeat the words. (The blessing of this developmental stage is that they like to repeat what you say. I’m using it to my teaching advantage.)
If she’s simply frustrated because she cannot communicate, she stops crying immediately if I repeat what I think she is trying to tell me. David took the chair away? You wanted more peas [when I misunderstood and gave her more meat]? You want to go with daddy? If it’s only a matter of communication, speaking her words completely solves the problem. (By the way, I don’t think either of my other children responded so dramatically in this way.)
I’m in the process of teaching her how to respond to conflict. Usually I’m simply telling her what words to say to her siblings. Have that, please? Have a turn, please? Give back, please. Help, mommy. [notice that my sentence structure is just one step ahead of her. She can repeat two words, but not three.] This takes place many times a day.
So let’s say I’ve know a situation is not a frustration issue. It’s not a sibling conflict. I’m careful to make sure she’s getting the food and sleep she needs, and we have no television in our house. Moreover, our house is generally a happy house. That’s not to say I never struggle with anger, but it’s not a characteristic of our household.
In dealing with the non spiritual issues, I see that I’m also resolving some of the spiritual struggles I face: I’m not neglecting her when I’m actively making sure her needs are met (including boredom). I cannot be lazy when I’m diligently teaching her how to respond to her brother and sister. I am replacing laziness with diligence. I am replacing selfishness with unselfishness when I turn away from my desires to meet others’ needs.
The only thing we’re left with is my giving commands or making decisions and her response to them. We’ll talk about this in the next post.