Sunday, June 10, 2012

What They Really Want More than Anything

Drew wanders up the stairs, first one up this morning, and asks for his morning dose of chocolate milk. I tell him I'll get it for him in just a minute, as I am waking the others to get ready for church.

I wake each child up and the youngest one is raspy with a runny nose, so I decide to keep her and Drew home with me and send the older two to church with their dad.

I head back to the kitchen, open the refrigerator to retrieve milk and chocolate syrup, and discover no milk. It's then that I remember I didn't make it to the store yesterday and we drank the last of the milk last night.

But I spot two caprisuns and I think they will like that, so I offer them to Drew and Madeline. Madeline is happy, however, Drew is not.

"I want chocolate milk!" Drew cries.

"I'm sorry, Drew. We used the last of the milk last night. But I'll buy some more today so you can have some later."

"I want chocolate milk!" He persists throwing himself prostrate on the floor pounding his fists.

"I'm sorry, Drew. We'll buy more later."

Knowing there is no reasoning with him, I simply set the caprisun down and walk away to give him some time to work it out on his own.

Tantrums are never easy to contend with, but as I walk down the hall, I remember the statement I read in Raising Great Kids a few years ago. The statement that encourages parents to empathize with their child's struggle because this stage of life is hard on them, as they are expected to transition from completely self-centered to thinking outside of themselves.

His rage, defiance, or whining may be hard on you. But your child is in lots of pain himself - that's why he is protesting. Your child has to give up an entire way of looking at life. ~ Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend

I wonder how I can help him, when my explanations and solutions only instigate retaliation, yet I know leaving him alone in his three-and-a-half year old distress is not the answer either.

I'm wandering aimlessly through the next room as I recall what we've done with every other tantrum we've encountered over the years.

And I contemplate how I can give him what he might want even more than that chocolate milk.

Then I walk back over to him.

Still crying into the carpet, fists pounding, I squat next to him.

"Drew, can I hold you?"

"I want chocolate milk!" he bellows into the carpet.

(I wait a couple of seconds)

"Drew, are you ready for me to hold you?"

"I want chocolate milk!"

(I wait a couple of more seconds)

"Drew, mommy is going to pick you up now."

I lift him up and bring him in close to me.

He lets me.

Yet, he's still crying on my shoulder, "I want chocolate milk!"

I walk him over to the couch and sit with him nestled into me.

He then pulls back, looks over to the table I had set the caprisun on and cries, "I want a caprisun."

"Okay," I thankfully comply.

I set him aside and stand up to retrieve the caprisun, punch the straw into the pouch and hand it to him.

"I want you to sit with me," he whimpers.

And I do, as he slurps his caprisun down and tosses the pouch aside.

And I continue to, as he watches an episode of the Backyardigans with his little sister, who leans into the other side of me.

And everything is okay again, because more than the things our children throw fits over, as much they may seem to push us away over these matters, we are what they really want more than anything.

They don't want our reasons, excuses, or explanations.

They don't care that much about the thing they can't have, really.

They want us at the very core of their distress - our time, love and affection.

They want our acceptance, approval and affirmation.

And this, with proper, intuitive timing, could be the solution to just about any distress in a child's life.

Continuing to count gifts of gratitude with Ann today:

two lovable bodies on either side of me, pressed in
a visit from my dad
family water fights
oysters with friends
friends loving on my children
undeserved blessings
unexpected blessings
having everything I could possibly want right here in front of me
and going deeper to see more of all that is before me


  1. Beautiful and just what I needed to read before bed tonight. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Ah... such beautiful grace-filled parenting. This just makes my heart swell. It took me so many years to realize this is the way -- this is God's way. We are to reflect the character of God to our children, so they can understand, even a little, of how great the love and grace of God is.

    Even when they are 12 and 18 years old, this is still plays out the same :) Beautiful...

  3. Theresa,

    I love the way you parent with such intention and thought. I grow so weary of tantrums and crying that I often find my first instinct is to walk away, not draw the angry ones close. (This is even MORE TRUE with my teenager!). Thanks for the beautiful reminder.

  4. Thankyou for this reminder of what our children really want...what they need:) Time, love and affirmation are really what seems to be what our 4 teenagers are needing I need to really listen and love them thru whatever they're going thru. Needed the reminder today...

  5. Theresa, this is a fabulous post... As always!

  6. Learning to give and practice empathy is so powerful--not just for toddlers, but for all of us. You've given us a beautiful reminder of this truth grounded in love, Theresa! Thanks so much!

  7. After my first few years of parenting, I learned the hard way (making lots of mistakes) that my kids almost always respond better to love than to anger in correction or training. It seems so easy but it wasn't my first instinct unfortunately. Lovely story Teresa. Thanks for sharing it.

  8. Beautiful post, Theresa! yes, they want us more than anything else. What a poignant reminder!

  9. I love this. Beautiful and grace-filled words...

  10. What a great post....what a great mommy. Thank you for sharing and reminding me of a loving way to handle a are a blessing to me, my friend.

  11. Love covers..... Beautifully expressed in this interaction with your precious little one.

  12. If only we could look at everyone this way!

  13. Thank you for the reminder. That is the second time I have heard that I need to give grace to my children today. I guess God is trying to tell me something. I think I got the message Lord! Thank you for being the deliverer of the message Theresa.

  14. That is a great reminder as my tendency is to just walk away and let them work it out independently. I'm going to try to remember this next time.

    Thanks for sharing!
    Mary Beth

  15. Thank you for your comments! Marybeth, I've found our children are always ready to receive us at some point and the timing probably depends on child, age and situation. Many times I've gone to one of my children throwing the tantrum and they weren't ready, so I walked away again to come back a few minutes later. So, don't be discouraged if one pushes you away many times. They really do want our unconditional love and affection more than anything! This is training ground for winning their hearts.

  16. Yes! This is it, isn't it, Theresa? They need us so. Even though my boys are both teens now, I still remind myself of this fact on a regular basis. So sweet...


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