From the Archive: Helping a Grumpy Eight-Year-Old

Everyday TalkEight-year-old Ryan is having a hard day. Several things he has wanted to do haven’t happened. Now a thunderstorm has wiped out playing with his friends outside. He feels he has every justification to be grumpy. Then Mom says this:

“Ryan, I need your help right now in getting ready for company tonight. Would you watch your sisters for me?”

“Mom! This isn’t fair. All day things have not been fair. And now you want me to watch Sarah and Michelle?  Can’t I have a break?”

Mom realizes Ryan is struggling. So, instead of forcing the issue in a way that would certainly lead to discipline, she takes a minute and calls Ryan over to the couch to sit with her. (Parenting is not an automated routine. In another instance, pursuing direct discipline would have been appropriate. Here mom is exercising wisdom as to how to best help eight-year-old Ryan where he is right now.)

“Ryan, it is has been a hard day, huh?”

“I guess so”.

“Let me see, school didn’t go well, you don’t feel great, your favorite basketball team lost last night, the storm kept you from going outside, and now I want you to watch your sisters. Is that some of what you think is making things unfair?”

“Yeah, and Sean hasn’t wanted to talk much recently.”

“Ah, I wondered about that when I saw he was hanging out with some other guys at church on Sunday. That’s kind of hard, too, huh?”

“Yeah, mom. I didn’t know you knew about all that stuff.”

“That’s my job, Ryan. What happens in your life matters to me.”

“Thanks, mom. Does this mean I still have to watch Sarah and Michelle?”

“I am afraid so. But what is really important is do you know who else is watching over what happens in your life?”

“Yeah, I know, God. But it still seems unfair.”

“Sweetheart, I know that is how you feel. But, how you feel is not the most important thing in life, right?”

“I know, I know. That is what you and dad keep saying. But I know dad is not too happy about the basketball game either.”

“You are right about that! But he knows that God is still good and he went to work just like he always does. And right now, you need to trust God and go play with your sisters while I finish getting ready. Okay.”

“Okay, mom.”

Later, after dinner is over and the girls are in bed, dad comes over to Ryan.

“Hey kid, mom tells me you have had kind of a rough day.”

“Yeah, but she helped me get through it, even though I was kind of grumpy.”

“Your mom is like that. Hey, you want to try a little bit of the brownie that mom made for tomorrow?”

“Sure! But…”

“You are wondering why you should get a treat when you have not exactly been the most pleasant kid on the planet today?”

“Yeah, something like that.”

“Ryan, God does not treat us as our sins deserve. If God treated you and me the way our sins deserve you and I would be in big trouble. You know that, right?”

“I know dad, you’re right.”

“Cool. Do you think there is something you need to talk to mom about?”

“Yeah, I need to ask her to forgive me for being so grumpy today. Thanks for understanding.”

Conversations like this do not happen by accident. There is no magic technique that can be employed. This kind of conversation is the result of praying and planning by mom and dad. It is the result of carefully observing the things going on in their children’s world. In this case, mom made a judgment call as to how best to address this situation with Ryan. This is the result of a consistent commitment to God being lived out in everyday life.

This conversation is part of a conscious effort of Ryan’s parents to make God’s wisdom attractive to their children. It illustrates the difference between instruction and manipulation.

Shepherd Press