My son-in-law was praying before dinner at our home. Meanwhile, my four-year-old twin grandsons continued their conversation. So it was appropriate for me to say something.
“Guys, when we pray it is time to listen, not talk.” I spoke in a normal, conversational tone.
Immediately, one of the boys erupted into inconsolable tears—pitiful, barely-being-able-to-breathe silences followed by ear-piercing screams. Grief that came from the depths of his soul. He turned to his mother, who was sitting next to him, to seek some physical consolation, but he realized that was not going to help and fled to another part of the house.
Most of my grandchildren cried the first time I corrected them. We would talk about what happened, all would be fine, and by the next correction they had immunity to the thought that my correction was personal rejection. This grandson, however, has affection for me that goes deeper—even deeper than his desire to hoard his Halloween candy. For him, correction communicates that his grandfather is not pleased with something about him, and the perceived interruption of love is too much to bear.
I went and found him. “Buddy, we are fine.” The moment the words were out of my mouth, he was tranquil and smiling. I then spoke about the whole talking-while-someone-is-praying thing. He might have heard; I’m not sure. What he did hear was that the breach in the relationship had been mended, and things were back to normal. Nothing was more important to him than that.
Though my words at the dinner table were not spoken in anger, my grandson had not yet learned to distinguish between my correction and my rejection and he assumed the worst. Correction, rejection, anger—they felt the same to him, and he is not alone. If we think we are innocently saying, “You are wrong and I am going to correct you,” we might be heard saying, “I DO NOT LOVE YOU.” Add anger to correction and the message is unmistakable. Perhaps, when spoken to a four-year-old who loves you more than life itself, he will cry, and you will have an opportunity to bring healing. Sadly, most victims won’t say a word because this is not the first time. They have become accustomed to the rejection.
If your correction of your children is not offered with explicit words of love and encouragement or if you express your “legitimate frustrations” to those around you, then you are most likely saying “I DO NOT LOVE YOU.” Then it would be right for you to cry.