Getting to the Heart of the Matter

Spring hockey started this week. Last night was my youngest daughter's second practice. I could tell something was wrong almost from the minute she stepped on the ice. She wasn't paying attention, and she was putting very little effort into the practice. By the time we got in the car, she had told me her head hurt, she wasn't having fun and she didn't like her team. I knew something was up. I also knew it was unlikely that any of those things were actually the true reason she was upset.

She cried all the way home and finally announced that she didn't want to play hockey any more. Now, if you've followed this blog for any time at all, you're probably as shocked by those words as I was. My daughter loves hockey. She eats, sleeps and breathes it.

So, I knew there had to be more to how she was feeling than just not wanting to play. I asked all the right questions. Was someone mean to you tonight? Are you upset that your friends aren't on your team? Are you worried about having a new coach?

I got nowhere. All she kept saying was that she didn't want to play any more. By the time we got home, I was frustrated. I not so calmly told her she was signed up to play spring hockey, so she couldn't quit now. If she wanted to talk about it after spring hockey, we could. She got out of the car bawling, and I carried the hockey gear inside.

As I walked in the kitchen, I was confronted with Proverbs 15:1 from yesterday's post, which I had hung on my kitchen cabinet. My husband looked at my daughter and pointed at the sign. I took a deep breath, asked God for some wisdom and headed to my daughter's room to try again.

After another 20 minutes of talking and crying, I finally figured out that my daughter did want to play hockey, she was just worried about making new friends on her team. She was upset two of her friends were put on another team. She was worried about having a new coach. And she felt like everyone else was bigger, faster and stronger than she is.

I can't do much about any of those things, but at least we had gotten to the heart of the matter. We talked about how important it was to make new friends and to give the new coach a chance. We talked about ways she can get better at hockey. And we talked about how God puts us in the place that He wants us -- even when it comes to hockey.

Unless you have a super articulate kid, it can sometimes be hard to figure out what's bothering our children. Sometimes our kids don't want to tell us. Other times, they simply can't analyze their own feelings enough to figure out what's bothering them. That's why it's so important to be persistent in getting to the heart of the matter when our kids are upset. Keep these things in mind the next time your child is upset about something.

Know your child. My youngest daughter tends to make broad, sweeping generalizations like "I'm not good" or "I don't want to play hockey." I've learned that these are generally the indicator of a much smaller problem. If my oldest daughter is going to talk to me, she's going to bring things up either at bedtime or right after school, so I try my best to be home at both of those times.

Hang onto your patience. Last night I wanted to throw up my hands and walk away. My daughter was talking me in circles. Yet, 1 Corinthians 13:4 tells us that "love is patient." When our patience wears thin, we need to ask God to fill us back up with His love, which is always patient. Patience will get you to the heart of the matter much faster than impatience.

Be willing to take a break. When your patience is fraying and your child is frustrated, step away from the issue and your child for a few minutes. Refresh your spirit and then take a different approach.

Keep asking questions. Our kids want to know that we care. They may make it hard for us to get information out of them just to make sure we care enough to keep asking. My youngest daughter often says, "I don't want to tell you." That's a sure sign to me that she needs to tell me what's on her mind.

Be wise in your answers. As you're talking with your kids, be praying about your response. Our kids need godly answers to their issues. We can only provide those if we're tapped into the giver of wisdom.

Help your kids seek out the Truth. Bring scripture into your conversation. Help your kids look up what the Bible has to say about their particular situation.

Recognize that there are situations your kids will have to solve on their own. If your child is really resistant to talking with you, let the subject rest. Make sure your child knows you're available to talk with him whenever he would like and leave the topic alone. A lot of kids will process through some of the issue on their own and then bring it to you.

No matter how old your children are or how they deal with issues, they need to know you care enough to get to the heart of the matter when crises arise in their lives. They need patient, wise parents who can help them sort out what the issue truly is. Ask God to help make you the parent that they need.

Linking up today with Raising Mighty Arrows.