June 09, 2005

Kicking the Wall

Ethan turns eight next month. For most of his short life, he's been a little insecure, and easily upset when things don't go his way. If he's asked to do something (say, put his shoes away), he often throws a fit. Then he gets sent to his room for a "time-out." In his room, he'll scream and yell and kick the wall so hard that figurines in the shadow box on the other side of the wall fall to the floor and crash.

I've talked to Ethan about his anger. I tell him it's OK to be upset, it's OK to be angry, but one needs to learn to control one's anger. Kicking and screaming are not OK. Figuring out what's making you upset, and then doing something constructive that will help you not be upset, is good.

Turns out, a lot of people need to hear this. At church two weeks ago, I mentioned Jesus' command to "turn the other cheek." After worship, I had someone come up to me and say to me, "What do you think would have happened if we had turned the other cheek with the Japs?" I told him I don't know, because we didn't try it. Later I overheard the same man say to someone else, "I wonder if the Qur'an that was flushed down the toilet was the same Qur'an that flew into the World Trade Center?" To him, it was a rhetorical question.

I recognize that being a peacemaker is not easy. But for centuries, we've tried war, and it hasn't worked. We win battles, but we haven't ended warfare.

I know my views are kind of extreme. But I think that Jesus really meant it when he said that we are to be peacemakers. When it came to a conflict between Jesus and the Romans, the Romans crucified Jesus, and yet, I ask, whose kingdom is still around today?

Some parents in my community teach their kids to not put up with anything, that if someone is giving them a hard time, they are to "teach them a lesson by kicking their ass." That's not what I teach Ethan. Sometimes --- no, a lot of the time --- I wonder if I'm teaching the right thing. But last night, as I was putting Ethan to bed, he was terribly upset because he had misbehaved and lost his bedtime story as punishment. After I put him to bed, I could tell he was upset, so I went in to talk to him. "I don't know what to do," he said. "I'm angry and upset, and I really want to kick the wall, but I know that's not right, so I haven't." I told him I was proud of him. "But I really want to kick the wall...." I told him I know, but that he was learning to control his anger.

He's figuring things out, this amazing kid of mine. He's wrestling with the same moral dilemmas we all face, how to respond when we're angry or upset. All I can do is teach him what I believe to be true, pray, and watch.

1 comment:

Purple Hydrangea said...

Sometimes it is so frustratingly hard to be a parent.... but, then later after the water calms, I remember that it was so very very frustratingly hard to be a child.

Compassion is patiently waiting outside the window, on the other side of the door... waiting waiting waiting... for anger to leave the room.