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Grace Based Parenting, Inside Out

 

I can be pretty rough as a parent. I could blame it on my childhood, learning to be tough as I played with boys older and bigger than me. I could blame it on a lack of examples of men who themselves were able to show emotions appropriately.

But I know that I am rough on my kids out of selfishness and laziness. I want them to behave in ways that make life easy for me. And let’s face it, when they are sad or angry or frightened, that calls for me to take time to comfort and encourage them.

God has been working on my heart. He’s been exposing my selfishness, and showing me that I need to be more loving and gentle with my family. I don’t know how much better I’ve been doing over the past year, but I know I’ve been more aware of my thoughts, feelings, and actions.

However, one recent experience will help me in my goal to better understand and love my family, watching the new Pixar movie, “Inside Out.”

 

All Our Emotions, All of Us

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts.”  Psalm 139:23

 

Now, I could call myself an unemotional guy, but you wouldn’t know it if you saw me walking out the theater the other week. (“I guess my sadness emotion is taking over.”) What Pixar helped me to see is how important all of my emotions are, and how important all of my kids’ emotions are.

More specifically, “Inside Out” teaches me four things about my children:

  1. All of their emotions are good.
  2. Their emotions are part of their being.
  3. Any emotion is better than no emotion.
  4. We need to honor God in our emotions.

First, all emotions are good and useful. Even the emotions I try to avoid and suppress (anger, sadness, etc) can form the basis of the more desired ones. For example, my honest frustrations can give rise to my needs getting met. Connection the need with the satisfaction elicits a greater joy.

Second, as Pixar shows, all our emotions are together a part of who we are. So when I try to push aside my child’s “negative” emotions, I am pushing aside a part of my child.

Third, any emotion is better than no emotion. Over the long haul, dealing with life’s stresses by suppressing feelings of anger or sadness is harmful. One possible effect is the tendency for this to develop into depression, which I have wrestled with. Being emotionally-unresponsive is a coping mechanism for despair and hopelessness. Instead of coping, we need to work through these emotions as we seek God. Which brings me to my final point . . . .

Fourth, we need to seek and honor God with all of ourselves, including our emotions. Even though all emotions are good, they need to be expressed in healthy ways. As parents, we are responsible to shepherd and train our children in this path. This is true for toddlers (boys, especially, need to be taught emotional self-control), and through the tumultuous teenager years.

We don’t just need to teach our children to manage their emotions. We need to teach them to take their emotions to God. I was going to write more about this, but these two authors are clearer than I could have been, and I encourage you to read their wisdom:

  • Marshall Segal (Inside Out, Right-Side Up):  “The film is a fantastic chance for you to take your child’s heart and imagination deep inside themselves and then out and upward to a real, reliable, satisfying Savior.”
  • Jeremy Pierre (Talking About “Inside Out”) gives three steps to help children trust God with their emotions and their wants.

 

If your children have seen this movie, be sure to engaged them in gospel-oriented conversation. And if you’ve seen it, go ahead and tell us how you feel.

 

 

Joey Espinosa

Joey is a husband to one patient wife, and a father to three unique children. He is learning about parenting as he goes and writes about it on \”A Different Way” {differentway4kids.blogspot.com/} More importantly, he is a follower of one loving Savior, and writes about his family’s adventure serving Him on Justice, Kindness, Humility {justkindhumble.wordpress.com/} You can connect with him on Twitter {@EspinosaJoey} and he would love to hear your thoughts and ideas on family and mission.

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