Help, Dr. Dean!
 Help!  Just recently, my little girl has been tantrumming much more than usual. What’s wrong? I’m concerned. What should I do?
Its hard when they seem to be going nuts! I can certainly identify with your situation… I’ve been there myself! Here’s something I found helpful recently… after a long weekend retreat, I arrived home tired and was looking forward to a nap. My youngest daughter was in a 'mood' --fussy and tired. She happened to pick up a ball and, still scowling, tossed it to me. My first inclination was to remind her that ball playing was for outside - and that I needed to sit and rest. But as we started playing, there came a number of ideas on ball passing - and we both enjoyed ourselves. With the ball. In the house.

An amazing change took place. She became gentle, helpful, cooperative-- more light-hearted and happy. It was amazing! The rest of the evening was much better, and the mood was good - for all of us.

Max Lucado talks about an interesting experience shared between him and his father when he was younger. When his father would come home, Max would try on his father’s work boots and hat, and dig around in his Dad’s lunch box.

“What more could a five-year-old want? But suppose, for a minute, that is all I got. Suppose my dad, rather than coming home, just sent some things home. Boots for me to play in. A hat for me to wear. Snacks for me to eat. Would that be enough? Maybe so, but not for long. Soon the gifts would lose their charm. Soon, if not immediately, I’d ask, ‘Where’s Dad?’ Or consider something worse. Suppose he called me up and said, ‘Max, I won’t be coming home anymore. But I’ll send my boots and hat over, and every afternoon you can play in them.’ No deal. That wouldn’t work. Even a five-year-old knows it’s the person, not the presents, that makes a reunion special. It’s not the frills; it’s the father.” (excerpt from When God Whispers Your Name by Max Lucado)

It takes relationship time to raise children. If children are going to grow up in healthy ways, we must find ways of being present to them. This is born in the research, as we continue to learn about the amazing growth that takes place as parents spend time playing on the floor with their child. And this 'floor time' is needed from very early on - while the need for relational time continues on into the march to adulthood. Presence teaches our kids that relationships are what count; it teaches them to care. It teaches them to take responsibility with others. It teaches them the healing work of relationships. It teaches them about what is most needed in relating.

We must find new ways to be present to our children. Let them lead. Follow their lead.

When my daughter picked up a ball, it wasn't my way to have a relational time with her. But it was the key for her at that moment. Of course, usual ways are important. Like tucking into bed. Kissing them awake in the mornings. Bedtime prayers. Talking around the dinner table as you eat a meal together. Listening to chatter. And more chatter. Where the inner self of the child is fed, nurtured, grown and healed.

And so, start. Watch for a ball to come your way. Make relationships your first priority and simply focus on being present. The magic, power, miracle of parent/child relationship will happen. The child will lead you to greater friendship and the rewards will be significant.
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