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Christian Writing MInistryAt aerobics today, as the teacher was leading us she was talking about going to the doctor yesterday with her son. She said her son needed a procedure that would hurt. What she did was she bought him a bag of licorice (his favorite treat) and gave him half before the appointment and told him if he didn’t cry, he would get the other half. Now, I don’t know how old her son is, but it got me to wondering. Why do we do these things with our children? Why do we teach, especially boys not to cry? Is it discipline they’re learning or are they learning how to stuff their feelings? I know that as adults we can’t go through life crying every time we’re hurt, we have to learn to manage our feelings, but what is the healthy balance and how do we teach it to our children?

As usual, I have more questions than answers. I do know that Jesus cried and He cried in front of others. He felt and showed all His feelings (compassion, hurt, joy, grief, etc.) not just some of them or the ones that were considered “good”. I believe it’s good to feel and express feelings; however, we must not be ruled by them. We must learn to manage our emotions and feelings. There are appropriate feelings and appropriate times in which to express them.

When I was very young, I was taught to stuff feelings, the bad ones anyway. Some of the bad ones for me as a girl were: anger, hurt, disappointment, frustration, depression, sadness and grief. When I would feel any of these, the feelings were minimized and I was told “the person who hurt me didn’t mean it”, “don’t think about it”, “don’t worry about it”, all of these types of messages. I got rewarded if I didn’t cry when I got a shot at the Dr’s office when I was very young. When I was older 12 or so, I got a dollar every time I went to the Dentist when I had to have a procedure requiring several visits. When I was 13 or 14 my mom thought I was pregnant from fooling around with the boys at the farm in the hay loft. When in fact I was just smoking cigarettes with them and escaping my cousin in the house so I wouldn’t get put to work. After the Dr’s appointment that required a pelvic exam (my first!) and a pregnancy test that turned out to be negative, my mom didn’t say she was sorry, she didn’t say anything really, she just brought me to the mall and bought me a pair of moccasins (my favorite shoes) from the expensive store instead of the discount store.

As an adult those rules of “bad” feeling verses “good” feelings still linger in me. I used drugs at a very young age and I kept using them for 23 years. Now, 10 years later, I still have a very hard time naming, recognizing and expressing my feelings. I also have a hard time having conversations around uncomfortable topics or when I need to humble myself because I was wrong, those types of things. I tend to want to buy people that I’ve hurt presents and reward people for doing hard things.

My original question remains: Why do we teach these things to our children?


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