Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Growing Pains

I read this the other day: "Kids go through developmental surges. You can mark it on your calendar. Somewhere around their birthday and their half birthday, you can expect trouble. They'll get cranky and uncooperative. They might be incapable of doing what they were able to do just a few weeks before. Nothing seems right. They're easily frustrated...Their inner systems are restructuring, creating a new, more complex way of understanding the world. Think of five building blocks. Stack them one on top of the other until you have a tower of five blocks. This is your five-year-old, his inner structure that controls how he sees the world and responds to it. It works well for him but as he nears his sixth birthday, changes begin to occur. A new block will be added to the structure, but it won't just be added to the top of the stack. Instead, the tower will come crashing down--it will disintegrate and a new structure with six blocks will be formed...It will be a totally different structure" (from Raising Your Spirited Child by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka).

I have definitely seen this in my little guy. Right now, he has reached a stage of equilibrium. He is happy with life. But we are coming out of a stage of disequilibrium and I know that soon enough we will enter a new stage of growth and change. God made it this way. He wants new human beings to enter this world as babies. He wired their brains so that they would slowly learn and begin to understand the world around them. This learning takes time.

Have you ever read in the gospels how Jesus interacted with children? At one point, Jesus' disciples were trying to shoo the children away from Jesus. I ask myself why? The children were probably being loud and noisy. Maybe a few of them were crying. The disciples thought that they were disrupting Jesus' ministry. Jesus responded with such kindness. "Let the little children come to me," he said. "Do not put a stumbling block in front of these children," he warned (this more literally means "Do not cause them to sin"). "Become like a child," he admonished. He turned everyone's attention to the children. How different this is than what we often hear today: "Make sure that your children don't affect your marriage. Make sure that children don't bother anyone; keep them quiet. If children misbehave, put an abrupt end to the misbehavior--usually, so that they don't embarrass you, the parent."

Children are learners. They have so much to learn. They have so much harsh reality to come to terms with as they grow older. If we can put ourselves into our child's shoes, and see things from their perspective, it will help immensely with our parenting. We will be more understanding, and we will know how to help them progress through their stages gently, kindly, and firmly.

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