“Peace, be still!” I yell at the top of my lungs with an exasperated mix of bewilderment and indignation as I dodge another random object thrown in my general direction. The trifecta of no nap, a sister pushing all the right buttons, and my allegedly irrational requests is a recipe for the perfect storm.
It’s incredible how Jesus makes commanding peace look so easy. While I’m not sure why God does not specifically designate “calming storms” as a spiritual gift, I’d like to consider myself above average when it comes to storms—emotional ones anyway. Next time you feel weary of calming your child’s inner storm, I hope these four strategies empower and encourage your heart.
- Come with the opposite spirit. “A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare” (Proverbs 15:1). In the heat of the moment, it can be easy to match a child’s defiant mood with an equally escalated reaction. Instead, consider an opposite response. Meet a yell with a soft whisper. Confront your own lack of control with surrender in prayer. Not only are you modeling peacemaking, but also demonstrating to your child that the storm does not produce the negative reaction he or she expects. Romans 8:9 reminds us, “you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you.” My son does not hold captive my emotions and, with the help of the Holy Spirit, I can be an ambassador of peace.
- Lean into connection. “Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts” (Colossians 3:14-15). Rather than reacting in a way that disrupts the attachment, leaning in to physical or emotional connection allows your child to be seen, heard, and felt in the midst of dysfunction. When Jesus identifies sin, he pursues the sinner with love. We know that “no power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39). I seek connection with my son in order to bring him back into the fold and try to emulate Christ’s relentless love for him.
- Assess needs and triggers. “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh” (Galatians 5:16-17). Almost always, an unmet need underlies difficult behavior. We are all human and have physical, emotional, social, and spiritual limitations. Just as Satan tempted Jesus in the desert (Matthew 4), we are open to attack when our needs are lacking. Are either of you hungry, tired, bored or overstimulated? Prayerfully, consider how we can we satisfy a need and allow the Spirit to strengthen us in a moment of weakness.
- Gracefully empower. “But I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me…Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 7:23, 25). When the law exists apart from grace, our sin takes a tumultuous center stage. Instead of being told what we can’t do, we flourish when we truly internalize what we can do. Verbalize how certain behaviors embody the values you are nurturing within your child. It is no mistake that when a Pharisee asks Jesus about the greatest commandment, Jesus does not reply with a “thou shalt not,” but rather answers with the affirmative, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37). If a child feels condemned by the law, they may feel compelled to obey out of fear or shame. Gracefully empower a child so that, in the midst of the storm, rules and boundaries become a source of safety and freedom.
One thing we know for certain is that storms are inevitable. The waves will crash and the tears will fall. I pray you can see the storms as grace-filled opportunities to compassionately walk alongside your child as the mighty storm-calmer God has empowered you to be.