Let it never be said that my own children are not sinners, that they never have bad attitudes, and that they never embarrass me at the grocery store.
Now, I regularly take all three children grocery shopping with me. Because we do it all the time, we have a routine. I’ve learned that keeping them busy checking prices, weighing produce, and retrieving items all keep them happy and out of mischief. I’ve figured out that having them help put groceries on the checkout counter helps, too, and if they are well behaved, I give the girls an ink stamp (that says “payable to USAF Commissary, or some such phrase). We’ve had bad days at the grocery, but as the children have gotten older, and since we go every week together, they’re actually well behaved.
You can understand then, the shock and embarrassment I felt when Laurel decided she did not want to be put back in the cart after unloading groceries. She wailed and screamed, and when I told her to stop, she went on without a pause. I avoided eye contact with all grown ups, and she cried half the way home.
Later that evening, she was still grouchy. I recognized that she needed some exclusive time, so I pulled her on my lap and rocked her. On a whim, I started telling Laurel stories, and this kept her on my lap much longer than she would have otherwise. I told about how Laurel woke up one morning with purple spots all over her, told how Laurel chased a white rabbit down a rabbit hole, and so on. Then, I told how Laurel went to the grocery store with her mommy.
She perked up and listened intently. I decided that I’d tell the story, but change it so that Laurel did right, and didn’t throw a temper tantrum. I could tell by her interest that I might have discovered a good teaching tool. When I explained that Laurel’s mommy wanted her to go the cart after unloading groceries, Laurel stifled a sob and said, “Why did she do that?”
I had an opportunity to explain that Laurel didn’t understand why mommy wanted her in the cart, and that Laurel wanted to obey even though she didn’t understand. She was obeying just like Jesus always obeyed God. I wanted to remind her that we must obey God (and parents), even when we don’t understand and don’t like what we’re asked to do.
A few thoughts:
- Her emotional reaction hours after the event tells me that she’s old enough to wait to discuss events, and that discussing them might be very important. I assumed that she had gone on with life, but she hadn’t quite done so.
- Even though she was in the wrong, neglecting to explain the situation biblically has the potential to cause a root of bitterness. She may not like it, and she may still be unhappy about the situation, but it is loving to put the event into the context of God’s Word.
- Talking about the event like a story works well for her. She’s three, and I don’t think that when she’s six she will respond the same way. Jesus taught with stories, and I’ve thought before that I needed to tap into this approach as a mom. But I’ve thought to myself, “I don’t have time to think up stories that match what they’re dealing with.” I’m realizing that I don’t have to make up a story for it to be effective.
So wonderful that you were able to do this Michelle! So glad she responded. I think sometimes even stories work with our 9 year old…it just depends on the situation. He usually understands the story but doesn’t usually have any heartfelt change….but you never know what might trigger that soft spot in their heart. Inquisitive children have a hard time with doing things without a reason or an explanation. Keep up the good work and keep sharing it with us!