Stopping The Family Crazy Cycle by Emerson Eggerichs
We have all seen the movie thrillers where the time bomb is ticking away and the hero has a few seconds to cut the right wire. Just before the final second passes, he defuses the bomb and shuts down the detonating device. Whew! Catastrophe averted!
In a real sense parents face defusing situations many times a day. We must not only decode why there is craziness in the family; we must defuse it.
God wired children to need love. Unfortunately, the sin nature of our kids leads to their disrespectful reactions when feeling unloved. At these moments God calls us to try to defuse their potential wailing and shrieking.
God wired parents to need respect. Unfortunately, the sin nature of parents leads to unloving reactions when feeling disrespected. We must defuse our potential rashness and our desire to bite back.
All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. — Ephesians 2:3
There are five steps you can take.
1. Call a time-out.
2. Do not automatically assume disrespect.
3. Teach Family Crazy Cycle 101.
4. Reassure your child of your love.
5. Allow for imperfection.
Call a Time-Out When Craziness Is Escalating
Proverbs 17:14 describes defusing nicely: “Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out”. When an argument or disagreement begins to heat up, stop the conflict — now! Then, after everyone calms down, revisit the issue.
As I talk to other parents and analyze our own family situations, I am convinced that many of us experience unnecessary strife in the family because we let the craziness go from bad to worse. We all have had these moments, have we not?
I used to say to the kids, “We need to cool our jets.” We all needed to calm down and talk respectfully and lovingly so we could hear each other. In using the time-out, I tried to make it clear to the kids that in a few moments we would hear everyone’s concerns. We had one big rule: they had to speak in a respectful manner, and we had to talk to them lovingly. Fair is fair.
To use a word picture, our kids have a “love tank” and we have a “respect tank.” Our kids have an air hose leading to their love tank. When we step on their air hose (or they think we did) they may react in disrespectful ways in the heat of the moment. Taking a time-out helps them cool off and begin to talk respectfully.
Conversely, as parents we have an air hose leading to our respect tank. When our kids stomp on our air hose, we need to calm down and talk lovingly to defuse the situation and keep the Family Crazy Cycle from spinning. Pray, “Lord, help me to respond, not react.”
A parent’s “wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense,” such as a child’s failure to show respect. — Proverbs 19:11
Do Not Automatically Assume Disrespect
Suppose you have been able to call time-out, but you are still feeling pretty steamed and definitely feeling disrespected. As you cool down, you need to think the situation through. Remember: irresponsible is not the same as disrespectful.
Though our children can be stubborn and resist our instruction, they do not arise at dawn to diagram ways to get on our nerves.
We must see our kids as goodwilled though not always well behaved. Parents must continually ask themselves the question: “Is this an instance where my love should overlook the offense?”
When we read, “do not be children in your thinking… but in your thinking be mature,” we are reminded that children respond to life immaturely (1 Corinthians 14:20).
Keeping away from strife is an honor for a man, but any fool will quarrel. — Proverbs 20:3
Teach “Family Crazy Cycle 101”
Okay, but what about the times when the kids are rowdy, careless, and rude, and you feel disrespected and react negatively, causing the kids to feel hurt and unloved? Everyone may be a little dizzy from starting to get on the Family Crazy Cycle, but is there nothing positive you can do? Yes, there is. Now is a perfect time to teach your kids the basics of “Family Crazy Cycle 101.”
First, defuse the craziness by apologizing for losing your cool. Next, in whatever language works with your child, explain that without love a child reacts without respect, and without respect a parent reacts without love. The result is the Family Crazy Cycle and nobody is happy.
Begin by explaining that when they feel out of sorts and are having a bad day, it can get them upset and irritated — and feeling unloved. They can say or do things that appear rude and disrespectful, which in turn upset those around them, who then end up feeling unloved or disrespected. Sometimes you may get strict with them and sound like you do not care about how they feel, which only makes them feel worse, so they come back with more rudeness and anger, and around and around you all can go.
Then go on to say that they can team up with you to stop the craziness. They can grasp the idea that sometimes we appear to be rude, disrespectful, or unloving when we do not mean to be that way at all.
Ask the child, “How can we stop the Family Crazy Cycle once it starts spinning?” Children like to offer solutions. You will be surprised with what they come up with.
Reassure Your Child of Your Love
We know our love for our children is still strong, but in the moment they may not feel that love. Especially with young children, we can frighten them to the core and not realize it. Kids are sensitive and can interpret our negative reaction as resenting, even hating, them.
“As a mother comforts her child,” all parents must give assurance to their kids. — Isaiah 66:13
Defusing is basically a negative process that we are trying to make as positive as possible. Kids are auditory and trusting, which means they believe what they hear. It’s important when we have to reprimand them that we verbally and physically reassure them of our love. Such reassurances of love defuse the Family Crazy Cycle quite quickly, especially for younger children.
As Abba Father reassures us of His love, we must reassure our children of our love. We need to follow His example in Romans 8 when He inspired Paul to write: “If God is for us, who is against us?” (Romans 8:31); “in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37); and that nothing “will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39). God’s words to us matter; so should our words to our children.
But a question remains. When reassuring our children of our love, should we suppress our honest feelings? I believe we can communicate our frustration in a controlled manner peppered with reassuring words of love. In fact, when we declare our love, this softens us. These words affect our spirit, preventing a loss of control. For example, we can look them in the eye and say with real feeling,
“I love you, but what you did is unacceptable.”
“I love you, but I am very disappointed.”
But let’s face it. No matter how hard we try to temper negativity, our children can get offended. And sometimes we just plain blow it. At those times, an apology from parent to child can heal the offense.
When we blow it as parents, we owe an apology to two parties: our children and the Lord. We hurt the heart of our heavenly Father when we fail to parent as He calls us to parent. We can confess our inadequacies to Him and then apologize to the children.
When we provoke our children to anger or exasperate them to the point they become discouraged and lose heart (Ephesians 6:4; Colossians 3:21), we should seek their forgiveness, right on the heels of telling the Lord that we blew it — again.
Allow for Imperfection
Defusing will not always work, not only because of a child’s immaturity but also because of his uncooperative and sinful heart.
Childhood can be a tough time, which is why the psalmist prayed, “Remember not the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways” (Psalm 25:7).
We must realize this is their issue. Yes, we can try to give the benefit of the doubt and not label our children as disrespectful, but when we try to calm them down, they get more negative and in fact are disrespectful. We can try to reassure them of our love, apologize for being unloving, and ask forgiveness, but they are having none of it, preferring to remain in a disrespectful, unforgiving mode. At best there is still tension. The Family Crazy Cycle may not be spinning out of control, but the fuse still sputters.
No matter how lovingly or sincerely we seek to defuse negativity, it does not always work. We overdo it, misapply it, or just fail to see what our children really need. And they often do not quite know themselves, or they may be unprepared or unwilling to receive our sage advice. As we raised our children, I don’t think one day went by without some kind of flare-up taking place.
The sinful nature — theirs and ours — will display itself on a regular basis and turn into squabbles, disagreements, misunderstandings, or all-out Family Crazy Cycle behavior that has to be defused. We can be wired way too tightly, and our ideals are so demanding that we do not stay relaxed and calm enough when the imperfect moments arise.
Let’s face it. Paradise is lost. Having a perfect family is not in the earthly cards. This does not make us bad parents but simply underscores that every child needs the Savior who died for sin because every child has a sinful nature and acts sinfully. The good news is that God uses negative moments to speak to our children’s hearts about their rebellious and stubborn nature.
Meanwhile, the parenting process goes on, and when disrespect is clearly the problem, we must move to Plan D — meaning Discipline, which I define as a positive process, not a negative one. There is often a fine line between defusing and discipline, and you may go back and forth many times a day. You try to defuse the situation, but when your children simply will not comply with your clearly stated rules and are being deliberately disrespectful, you must confront them, correct them, and when necessary, follow up with logical, sensible consequences. And again, just as with many defusing situations, you reaffirm them with your love and reward obedience when it is applicable.
You Can Move from Defusing to Energizing
Should we despair? Should we give up? Absolutely not. We never throw in the towel… never!
Understanding the Family Crazy Cycle and how to decode and defuse will bring more peace to your home. But things can get even better than that! It is possible to move from being on the defense against the Family Crazy Cycle to the offense by energizing your family with love and respect.