“How should I instruct my children if they are being mistreated?”. This was one of the questions asked at a Q&A that I attended, dealing with the issue of anger. It opened up a box of more concerns, questions, and comments from those in attendance at that meeting. We, as adults, encounter anger all the time, and we would hope that we know the steps and possess the maturity to handle it rightly. But with our children, it’s a different story. We can only protect them so much, and part of that protection is to equip them to handle conflict even when we’re not around. But this my challenge with Gabriel.
One day, I was picking up my children at a Kids’ Club at church. When I saw Gabriel, the first thing he said to me was, “Kenny is mad at me.” Then, he ran from me faster than I could catch him. When he stopped, he was obviously frustrated and upset. It took a long time to calm him down before I could even talk to him.
The first thing I had to do was get the story straight. This was not easy because of Gabriel’s communication limitations, but it challenged me to ask the questions in different ways in order to draw out the answers from him. So from what I gathered, the other child, Kenny, was playing ball with other children. The ball rolled over to where Gabriel was, and Gabriel threw it, away from Kenny. I don’t think he meant anything by it, but Kenny wasn’t too happy about it.
One thing that was mentioned at the Q&A was that we have to teach our children how to go to authority, and when Mommy or Daddy is not around, it would be the teacher or another adult in charge. This was a bit hard for me to grasp. I don’t disagree with it, but we’ve always taught Gabriel to move on when faced with conflict. In the past, we would often get called because his teachers didn’t know how to handle his melt-downs. It was frustrating for everyone, and we were afraid that we would be asked to withdraw Gabriel from class because they weren’t equipped to handle him. Training Gabriel to move on seemed helpful, but I realize that this was simply a bandaid on the situation and did not really get to the root of the infection.
When I picked up Gabriel that night, I could tell by the look on his face that something wasn’t right. He was ready to burst, and burst he did. So, really, Gabriel did not move on. Instead, he kept it in until he could no longer handle it. Even when I asked one of the teachers, he had no idea there was even a conflict between Gabriel and the other child.
In my instruction to Gabriel regarding this and other situations like this, I tried to keep it simple for him. I gave him 2 things to remember: (1) tell your teacher so that he can help you and (2) forgive as God has forgiven you. The former, as I’ve mentioned, is difficult for me to say because I know that I may involve the teachers more than they are prepared to. But, I trust that God will grant them the love, patience, and grace to help Gabriel as He is doing for me. The latter is to help Gabriel see that, though a resolution we desire may not come about, we need to follow God’s example of forgiveness. We were the offenders; yet, He came to us when we did not seek Him and forgave us for our sins against Him. “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32)
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