I was on the phone when I heard the crash followed immediately by a child yelling, "Mom, come help me," in a panicked voice. I walked out of my room to find my older daughter standing in the middle of the living room, crying and holding her bloody hand. On the counter was one of my brand new plates, in pieces.
My daughter's hand was gushing blood. I expected to find a huge gash in her hand. The more I tried to clean it out, the more it bled, and I couldn't get a good look at the cut. After a few minutes of not being able to get the cut to stop bleeding, I determined that we needed to make a trip to urgent care. I wrapped her hand up and put her in the car.
When we dropped her sister off at a neighbor's house, I had my daughter unwrap her hand so my neighbor could look at it and tell me what she thought. The wound had finally stopped bleeding. Turns out, it wasn't deep, and it probably didn't need stitches. All that blood was covering up the small puncture wound that did exist. We bandaged it up good and are hoping it will heal in a few days.
Sometimes discovering what's bothering our kids is a lot like dealing with my daughter's wound. There's so much bluster around the thing that's bothering them that it's hard to get to the important stuff. It's hard to find the root problem.
I have one child who usually tells me everything and one who doesn't like to tell me anything. It's often difficult to find the root cause of a problem with the child who doesn't share easily. It's this part of parenting that takes patience and wisdom. Just like my daughter's wound, this child sometimes needs a little time to let the bluster die down before we can figure out what's really causing the problem.
So, here's what I've learned about getting to the root of whatever is bothering my kids:
1. Have patience. A lot of times our kids want to tell us what's bothering them, but either they don't know how to tell us or they're afraid of our reaction when they tell us. Be patient and let your kids know you're ready to listen when they're ready to talk.
2. Apply pressure when necessary. Just like stopping the bleeding in a wound, sometimes applying a little pressure will get our kids talking. Sometimes we need to know what's going on. Sometimes we need to step into a situation. We can't do that until we know our child's side of the story. Let your child know that you're willing to listen and help solve the problem. Let them know that problem-solving is a team effort between you and them.
3. Be ready to listen. When your child is ready to talk, you need to be ready to listen. That means dropping whatever it is we're doing or setting aside a time just for them to talk to us. Then we need to really listen to what they have to say. We can't shed any wisdom on the subject until we listen to them. Proverbs 1:5 says "let the wise listen and add to their learning.” When we listen to our kids, we add to our own wisdom before we get involved in the problem.
4. Hold off on judgment. When your child is struggling with something, they need to know that when they tell you, you're not going to fly off the handle. Whether the issue deserves discipline or you getting involved, they need to know that when they talk to you you're going to offer up a reasoned response, not an instinctive emotional one.
5. Cover your kids in prayer. When a child is reluctant to share what's bothering them, they are struggling alone. The problem is eating at their confidence and their soul. Pray for your kids that they would share with you. Pray that you would react appropriately when they do. Ask God to ease your child's worries and frustrations and would help your child discover a solution to the problem.
Some of the things that bother our kids may seem trivial to us, but they are a big deal to our kids. So, whether your child is five or fifteen, invest the time and the energy to discover what's eating them up on the inside. Give them your love, your patience and your involvement without judgment. Because our kids need us to help carry their burdens. They need us to show them how to solve problems. They need us to be patient and persistent. They need us to pray for them.