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5 Ways To Relate to Your Child When You’re Not Sure What To Do


I work with dads of daughters. These dads will often tell me their daughters are complicated, confusing, and unpredictable. The mysterious nature of a young daughter’s tantrum or a teenage attitude spooks fathers everywhere into frustration in their relationships.

However, I have discovered that girls are not as hard to understand as we may seem! Honestly, these tips will work whether you have a daughter or a son. Today’s decoding strategy comes straight from the one Man in all of history who always got it right when it came to relationships. You may know who I’m talking about: Jesus. I figure there’s no better example than learning from the best! Here are 5 ways to relate to your child when you’re not sure what to do.

During Jesus’s time on earth, He met two sisters, Martha and Mary, and they were close, personal friends of Jesus. He knew them and they knew him.

Let’s pick up the story (from Luke 10:38-42 if you want to look it up) where Martha is overly reactive, super stressed, and basically freaking out.

If you can relate to experiencing any of those realities in your home, listen to what Jesus did to enter the fray with His frazzled female friend.

5 Ways to Relate to Your Child When You’re Not Sure What to Do

1. Listen while your child vents.

Even when she dramatically tells Jesus that He “doesn’t care” (false assumptions always take place during meltdowns) she continues by crying about having to do everything “by myself.” And if that wasn’t enough, she then barks at Jesus and demands that He tell her sister to help her. Surprisingly, He doesn’t lecture but listens and absorbs her intensity by being her sounding board.

2. Say your child’s name…gently and lovingly.

There’s something calming when any of us hear our name. It’s grounding for us to be spoken to by name. If you speak your child’s name with love in your tone and in a gentle way, your child will come toward you—maybe not right away, but it is a powerful, healing strategy that works.

3. Sit with your child’s emotions.

Notice that Jesus didn’t try and talk her out of what she was feeling or try to get her to think rationally. No lecture. No criticism. Jesus knew she couldn’t hear it anyway while being so worked up. So, He simply stays with her, looks at her, validates her, and puts words to what she’s feeling, calling it “worry” and “upset.” He tenderly names her emotions. No judgment.

4. Provide proper perspective.

Most of us are typically trying to multitask. That’s why we can be on the phone, watch a show, and do homework…all at the same time! Yet all of a sudden, we reach the end of our rope and implode. Again, this is where we need gentle grace not power positions. Jesus told Martha that He knew she had “many things” going on, leading to her meltdown. How kind of Him to notice. If you validate all that is pressing in on your child, your words will go long and far to make your child feel heard and understood.

5. Suggest your child focus on one thing.

Jesus tells her that “only one thing is needed.” The implication is that it’s about focusing on Him as the one thing rather than all the needs around her. When we get overwhelmed, we need gentle, supportive guidance to take it one thing at a time. Breaking it down into bite-size pieces is immensely helpful when we’re breaking down.

Summing up: When your children are melting down, sit alongside them and let them vent. Move toward them, and lovingly say your child’s name. Explain that you understand they are “worried and upset.” Let them know you see that they have a lot on their plate, and help them to focus on one issue.

I know it’s easier said than done, but these 5 things will make all the difference when you are trying to connect through your child’s complexity. And after the storm, your child will remember you were there through it all.

Portions of this post originally appeared at the blog of Michelle Watson-Canfield.