We were at a friend’s house last week and Happy Buddy got extremely grumpy when it was time to go. He completely forgot his manners and headed down that spiraling funnel of whining, negativity and impoliteness.
I was feeling a bit embarrassed as all of this was playing out in front of my friend. In an act of desperation, I pulled out a silly old trick to redirect his plummeting behavior.
Later, my sweet friend texted me a few encouraging words about the way I helped my boy find his smile and manners again. It surprised me because I didn’t think anything of it at the time – in fact, I was feeling quite bothered that I had had to correct him at all! My flesh had wanted to get angry with him, but I ended up being goofy and it worked so much butter!
I have found (mostly through the hard moments of humiliation) that a stern lecture and furrowed brow of disapproval aren’t effective in helping a grumpy child get out of the pit.
Sometimes what they need is a joyful reminder that life out of the pit is so much better.
Where is your smile? – When your child starts acting grumpy, start asking him, “Where did your smile go?” Then begin ‘searching’ for his smile by checking various places on his body. I will say, “Is it under your arm pits?” and then pull his arm up to look. Or, “Is it in your pocket?” or “Is it under your shoe?” Usually there is some tickling while I search and eventually that smile makes its way back where it belongs.
Throw it out the window – One time we were driving home and Happy Buddy was just stuck on a railroad track of complaining. After several corrections that were not obeyed, I pressed the button to open his car window and asked him to toss his grumpy spirit out the window. I made him pretend to throw all of his complaints out of the car. If he complained again after that, I rolled the window down again and we repeated the whole thing until it was finished and we were giggling.
Family Sandwich – A few weeks ago Happy Buddy was throwing a fit in his room so Happy Baby and I went in, found him on the bed and announced that he needed a Family Sandwich. Happy Baby and I were going to be the bread and Happy Buddy was going to be the peanut butter. Then we piled on top of one another until we were all laughing. In their moments of weakness, sometimes our kids just need a physical reminder of the Lord’s grace for them.
Barf it up – I’m sure I will lose a few of you on this one, but desperate times call for desperate measures. Another occasion where the fussing of one of my children was literally sapping me of strength, I took him by the arm, led him into the bathroom and said, “Son! You have a bad case of Whineyitis! You need to throw up all of that whining so you can be well again!” I then proceeded to stand behind him in front of the toilet and we pretended to barf (loud yacking sounds are what made this trick especially funny). **Don’t forget to flush.**
Note to self – Anything involving potty humor usually does the trick! 🙂
Or I just start doling out a list of chores to do.
And I also want to stress that even though we try a light-hearted approach to grumpy behavior most days, I still address the behavior with my child once the emotions have settled down.
For example, once we were in the car headed home from my friend’s house that day, I asked Happy Buddy what was wrong with the way he responded to my saying it was time to go home. We practiced the correct response for next time (a cheerful, “Yes, Mommy!”) and later we confessed his sin in prayer at bedtime. Plus, you can bet that I am always in his room praying over him while he sleeps to grow in the fruit of self-control.
Sin is sin. It must be dealt with — but Jesus! Jesus came so that we might have JOY. Our sin is no more – we are set free.
And we are able to help our kids learn how to navigate their sin without getting run down by it.
If that doesn’t bring a smile to your face – you might need to go throw something up in the toilet. 🙂
“A joyful heart is good medicine…” Proverbs 17:22