February 18, 2019

Escalating

Devotion for the Week...

You would think I'd be used to it by now, but I'm still amazed by just how often working with toddlers reinforces concepts found in the Bible. Just last week I read "A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare" (Proverbs 15:1) and immediately I could picture it.

It's a common occurrence for one child to be sitting and looking happily at a book, when another one leans over and touches the page, causing the first child to squawk loudly and yank the book out of their reach, which then makes the newcomer protest and try to grab the book to bring it back to where they can reach it. The book holder then gets even louder and pulls harder and on it goes until I intervene.

Biblical truths are so often evident in toddlers because, at 2 and 3 years old, they haven't yet learned the self control that society requires of us. They don't know to use their words rather than yanking things away or yelling incoherently when something is happening that they don't like.

Of course, even after we do learn that self control, 'harsh words' still surface sometimes and make tempers flare unnecessarily. We  don't squawk like a 2 year old, but we can lash out and when we do we often find that the person on the receiving end of our words lashes right back.

It's hard to respond to unpleasantness with a gentle answer, isn't it? It's natural to want to lash out in some way, which is precisely why we see toddlers doing it all the time, but all it does is escalate the situation.
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When I have to intervene with the kids, I usually start by pointing out who had the book or toy first, telling the newcomer that it's the other child's turn and they can have a turn in a few minutes. But then I also tell the child who has the book or toy that next time they need to use their words. They can either say, "It's my turn," or they can ask me for help. Either way, using calm words works so much better to keep everyone involved from getting angrier and angrier. It allows us to work towards a solution, rather than just reacting angrily to what is happening in the moment.

I wonder how different our world would look if everyone remembered this simple principle. "A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare" (Proverbs 15:1).

1 comment:

  1. Wouldn't the world be a much nicer place if we could all remember that! There's been SO much hate and anger spewing out of people's mouths and minds in the past week...

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