When we lived in Guatemala we were surrounded by volcanoes – some dormant and some quite active. That’s when I learned that a smoking, bubbling volcano that oozed a little lava now and then was far less dangerous than one that seemed quiet but was actually building up pressure inside. The daily “ooze” released pressure making it less likely there would be a sudden violent eruption.
That principle works for people, too – and kids. There are times we do things to frustrate our kids. They get treated unfairly – either in reality or just in their perception. They don’t get to do something that’s really important to them. We may minimize their feelings or ignore them in the hustle and hassle of life.
When the pressure builds it’s important we allow them to “blow off some steam”. Hang in there with me. I know what you’re thinking but hear me out.
Like that volcano, if you try to cap it and keep the pressure in it will come out one way or another. Sometimes kids respond to pent up frustration by getting aggressive with their peers – bullying and venting their anger on others. Sometimes they take a more passive approach and oftentimes don’t even realize why they behave as they do. It can be overeating, bed wetting, depression, withdrawing into TV or games, etc.
A healthier approach is to let them “vent” with you. (This also applies to frustrations that you were not the cause of.) If they can vent with you then it’s less likely they’ll explode in an uncontrolled manner somewhere else.
And control is the key to why this works. They need to vent but they also need to respect you as their parent. So they can express all their pent up frustrations but in a respectful way. How does that work?
I let my kids express their feelings to me – even if it was something I didn’t like hearing – as long as they said it in a respectful manner.
- “I didn’t do anything wrong and you didn’t even listen to me before punishing me.”
- “I don’t see why (oldest child) gets to do that but you won’t let me.”
- “I think you let (youngest child) get away with murder and are always riding me.”
As long as the complaint was stated in a respectful tone of voice I would hear them out and try to consider the validity of their complaint.
- “You are right. I got angry and acted without listening to your side of the story.”
- “(Oldest Child) gets to do that because he has shown himself more responsible in that area. Here’s what you can do to earn that privilege too.”
- “Of course, we let (youngest child) do that. He is our perfect child and clearly our favorite.” (I’m just kidding here.)
Teaching our kids how to express their frustration in a positive and controlled way not only helps avoid volcanic eruptions but it also prepares our kids for life. After all, one day if they marry they may find that perfect spouse also frustrates them at times. You are giving them a huge head start on marital harmony by teaching them how to express their frustration in a controlled and reasonable way.
“Honor your father and mother. Then you will live a long, full life in the land the LORD your God is giving you.