Learning From A Tantruming Child

This is the Doctor. He's a 2,000 year old alien and goes gallivanting about through time and space. He's also got some major PTSD and knows a thing or two about a tantruming child.

This is the Doctor. He’s a 2,000 year old alien and goes gallivanting about through time and space. He’s also got some major PTSD and knows a thing or two about a tantruming child.

First of all, this is not a post about Miss E. Secondly, this isn’t a post about X number of steps to magically calm a tantrum (secret: there aren’t any). Third, if you haven’t seen this week’s episode of Doctor Who, “The Zygon Inversion”, you may be able to infer spoilers from this post even though I’m not really discussing the plot. Fourth, I do include some steps for dealing with a tantrum, but it may not be what you expect.

At one point, near the climax of the episode, the phrase “tantruming child” comes up. We’ve all seen it. A child doesn’t get their way and various displays of irrational behavior ensue, mostly of the anger variety. Which means, of course, that we’ve all seen plenty of ways and theories on how to deal with tantrums. I’m not going to lie: I’m still figuring out the whole tantruming child thing. And I don’t mean Miss E.

The Tantruming Child

At one point, the Doctor asks the “tantruming child” for what they want. Immediately, after getting an answer, he all but spits it back in their face and rather pointed states that “like every other tantruming child, you don’t know what you want.”

Is that true?

At first glance, that seems not entirely correct. Of course a tantruming child knows what they want. However, there might be a nugget of wisdom here. One of the first things we learned in Economics is that people don’t want a good or service for the sake of possessing it. We want what we want because of the benefits we think it will bring to us. Except, we don’t always know what those “benefits” will be.

In this respect, children aren’t any different. They see something they want. They think it will bring about a certain result, and then they pitch a fit when they don’t get it. Now replace the word “children” with “humans.” Read it again.

The Bible repeatedly refers to Christians as “children of God.” Not “adults of God” or “trustees of God” or “knights of God” or some other name. Children.

And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Jesus told us that we must have faith like a child. He told us that the Father cares for us as children. Paul and John referred to people they had discipled as children. There’s nothing wrong with child-likeness.

But even as adults, we still struggle with that inner tantruming child. Think about it. What do we do when we don’t get our way? Complain about God. Complain about each other. We get jealous. We pout (which is just a quiet tantrum, really). We sabotage. We try to get what we want some other way — with all of its unintended consequences and heartache. We’re just a bit more subtle than throwing ourselves on the floor.

Watching the Doctor talk down a “tantruming child” made me think about my own trigger points. What causes me to sulk? What causes me to act bitter? What is my reaction to God withholding something from me? Ultimately, they all come down to a lack of faith. The whole “waiting on God” thing grates against my desire for instant gratification. And the anger? Well, it just clouds my vision and generally prevents me from making any semblance of a good choice.

So What Do I Do When I Feel It Coming On?

  1. Breathe.
  2. Allow myself to feel the anger, disappointment, etc.
  3. Pinpoint what exactly angered/disappointed me.
  4. Don’t allow myself to feel the anger, disappointment, etc. indefinitely.
  5. Pray (With an attitude of “Not my will, but Yours be done” and a view of God’s sovereignty).
    1. Repent often and as needed (My anger is most often my fault).
  6. Forgive (Even if they didn’t do anything wrong or don’t need to be forgiven).

And I think to myself quite often: If I can keep doing this myself, maybe I can teach Miss E and her (hopefully someday) future siblings the same.

Man, this self-control thing is hard.

 

Updates for October

Long time, no see. So, we’ve been busy. Who isn’t, though? So far, it’s been a great fall. Here’s some of the highlights:

  • Mrs. Jones and I have started working with Mercy Clinic Fort Worth to provide communications services. You should go check it out (after you’re done reading this post, of course).
  • Miss E was the cutest Halloween strawberry:
    halloween strawberry
  • The MBA is coming along nicely. It’s just the academic challenge I’ve been itching for. Each class is a window into a world of insights that I honestly didn’t know anything about or just refused to see. Such as:
    • In Economics (the market kind, not the Marxist kind), did you know that competition isn’t between sellers and buyers, but amongst sellers or buyers. I didn’t. Probably through a combination of bad information and English professors, I had just come to a meandering conclusion that to sell anyone anything meant accepting a certain level of being ripped-off, as if the whole world were populated by unethical used car salesmen (what can I say? I went to a state college with a strong populist bent). I was wrong. Capitalism may be about competing for market surplus, but it can’t survive if everyone is cheating each other.
      People who cheat won’t survive in the long run… which sounds an awful lot like Proverbs 10:2: “Treasures of wickedness profit nothing, but righteousness delivers from death.”
    • The four functions of management are: planning, organizing, leading, and controlling (monitoring). Note this does not say: “ordering people around.” I’ve got a whole other post coming up about this.
      Bill Lumbergh

      Bill Lumbergh… the classic middle management caricature.

      So, yeah… not coming in on Sunday.

    • Any group of humans who manage to stick together long enough to accomplish something have a system of rules – some explicit, some implicit – which govern behavior. It’s the implicit rules, or culture, that usually trip up newcomers. I’m not sure why I’ve refused to acknowledge this reality — I’ve always seen it, but refused to accept it. I’m not sure why I expected ministry to be different — people are people, even the saints.
    • Good strategy comes from the top. Good feedback comes from the bottom (and the top). When this cycle is disrupted, there will be problems. Guaranteed. How is this cycle disrupted? A combination of bad internal communication and misunderstood culture (see the point above). When I think about the dysfunctional organizations I’ve been a part of, this stands out big in my mind.
    • Black Friday isn’t a bargain. Most people know this. It’s not about the bargains; Americans like the thrill of the hunt and competing with one another (see my first point above).
    • A good attitude is vital to your survival. When I say good, I mean healthy not unrealistically optimistic. Some days are going to be fantastic and others will be rotten. A good attitude is a mindset of responding in a correct and mature fashion.  There is nowhere you or I can go that will ultimately reward us for having a bad attitude. The struggle is real, but struggle we must.
    • Showing up (aka. doing what you say you will do when you said you will do it) is definitely more important than being the smartest person in the room. Again, the struggle is real. If you struggle too, do what I do — tell yourself a new story: “I am a person who shows up.” Then do it. When you struggle, don’t change your narrative — admit your limitations, and just keep swimming.

Business school has been great for me. Modern management shares many commonalities with stewardship. Every class I learn something and think to myself: “Wow. I can’t believe I want to serve the Church, and I didn’t know that!” This is definitely Phase II of equipping myself so that I can equip others.

Until next week (yes, showing up is part of my narrative now)!

Oh, and don’t forget! Check it out: mercy-clinic.org