Psalm 34:17–The righteous cry, and the Lord heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles.
Have you ever been so heartbroken, so utterly lost, that you have cried out to God with your heart only and not used words? I have. Cohesive thoughts didn’t get through. Just the innermost anguish of my heart. I prayed and God heard me, though I didn’t even understand the prayer myself. And pretty soon, the answer to my prayer came along, and it was perfect and comforted me. God understood my efforts at communication and provided exactly what He knew I needed, though I couldn’t ask for it with words.
When our children cry, it means something. As infants, it’s pretty easy to interpret. Hunger. Need to be changed. Tired. Physically uncomfortable. Their needs are basic and physical. As they grow into toddlers and two-year-olds (yikes!), they keep those basic physical needs but add a layer of complexity with emotional needs. They are starting to understand they are little people with wants and desires that sometimes have nothing to do with physical needs. Yet they still lack the communication skills to properly tell us exactly what they want. When you add a child whose sensory, vestibular, and proprioceptive processing systems struggle to give them proper input, well, that adds a whole new level to the complexity.
Take our two-year-old for example. At church last night she removed the ice pack from the cooler and began licking it. It was covered in milk that had leaked out and pretty icky-looking. She laid it down on the pew and I quickly realized a big mess was in sight, so I told her that we needed to put it back for now. She cried and it was my job to figure out why. I could’ve looked at the situation and assumed she was just angry at not getting her way, or I can look at it deeper and address the more specific issue. Was she hungry? Probably not. Was she upset? Yes. Why? Because I took away the ice pack? Yes. But why did she want the ice pack in the first place? She was bored. Was she bored because church isn’t as exciting for a two-year-old as it is for me? Probably, yes, but was she also bored because her sensory system wasn’t getting enough stimulation? Ah, yes! How can I redirect her and provide her with more stimulation that is not disruptive during church? Fidget toys, coloring, small (not too small) pieces of things to play with, therapy brushing, massage?
I’ve now taken the time to figure out the exact problem, which is not a behavioral-I’m- being-bad issue. It’s a physical need that she couldn’t express to me in words. And as soon as I provided her with another sensory-stimulating activity, her cries stopped.
As parents we have a huge responsibility. It isn’t always easy to interpret a child’s unspoken messages, but it’s incredibly important that we take the time to figure them out and not dismiss them as ‘being bad’ or ‘she’s just upset.’ Upset means so many different things! If God answered our cries in a way that was inappropriate–say we need marriage help and he gives us financial help. Though it would be nice to have a million dollars, did it fix my marriage? No–how long would we continue to go to Him and cry out for help? Probably not very long. God gives us what we need, when we need it because He is a great parent. He takes the time to listen to our sometimes jumbled and incoherent cries and provide the solution–or the tools we need to work toward the solution ourselves–that fits our problem. And each time that He does, our trust in Him grows.
When a child comes to a parent crying, he or she is asking (in a not so graceful way) for something. They are begging us to figure out the problem and fix it. If we give them a solution that doesn’t answer the real problem, how long will we continue to build trust with that child? Probably not very long. More than likely we will have a gradual dissolution of trust until the child doesn’t cry out to us anymore-and then the real problem will be anger and resentment towards us.
Our pastor preached Sunday morning that we need to make sure we parent by the Bible. I couldn’t agree more! God is the PERFECT example of a perfect parent. While we can never be perfect (trust me, I am FAR from it), we can strive to follow His example. Not just the parts of the Scripture that we choose to focus on, but all of it. Lazy parenting picks out portions of the Bible that give us excuse to be lazy. Thorough and loving parenting looks at each example of God’s amazing kindness, teaching, and love to us, and aims to replicate it. Aren’t you glad that even as an adult, maybe whose earthly parents are gone or not doing such a great job (not me-I have amazing parents and what a blessing they are), you still have a heavenly Father who answers each and every one of your cries in the perfect way? I sure am!