Feelings Are Like Horses
One of my dear friends recommended the book Loving the Little Years by Rachel Jankovic. I am only half way through it but really enjoying the short chapters of insight for parents of little ones (like me!). I particularly liked the chapter entitled “Spirited Riders” about teaching a little girl about her emotions (and I think it’s relevant for big girls too!). Here is a snipet from the chapter:
“When it comes to little girls and their emotions, A does not necessarily cause B. But when B is what needs to be disciplined, it can feel frustrating to have no clues as to what member of the alphabet actually caused it…
Say it is someone else’s birthday. Say your child wants a present too. Say they start fussing about it. Imagine that then you say, “Don’t do that. That is bad. Don’t be a fusser. Deal with it.” How did that help anyone? The child is taught that if the feeling comes over them, they have already failed. That is bad! But what am I supposed to do with it? It doesn’t just go away by itself. Little girls need help sorting out their emotions–not so they can wallow in them but so they can learn to control them.
We tell our girls that their feelings are like horses–beautiful, spirited horses. But they are the riders. We tell them that God gave them this horse when they were born, and they will ride it their whole life. God also set us on a path on the top of a mountain together and told us to follow it. We can see for a long way–there are beautiful flowers, lakes, trees, and rainbows. (We are little girls after all!) This is how we “walk in the light as He is in the light, and have fellowship with one another” (1 John 1:7).
When our emotions act up, it is like the horse trying to jump the fence and run down into a yucky place full of spiders to get lost in the dark. A good rider knows what to do when the horse tries to bolt–you pull on the reins! Turn the horse’s head! Get back on the path! We also tell our girls that God told us if we see one of them with her horse down in the mud puddle spitting at people who walk by, it is our job to haul them up, willing or unwilling, back to the path. The ways that this has helped me as a mother are pretty obvious, but I will share them anyway if you will bear with me.
First of all, the horses are not the problem. There is nothing wrong with the emotions. If we have a little rider who is woefully unprepared to control her horse, well them, we had better start with some pretty serious riding lessons. Talk to your daughters about how they might feel, and what you want to see when they do. Give them practical handhold; be a coach. Anticipate moments that might be hard, when the horse might bolt, and help them learn to anticipate it too. Take a little break to say, “Hey sweetie, we are going in this store, but we aren’t going to buy any toys today. If you start feeling like you want to fuss about it, what are we going to do?” Make a plan. Use code words. Wink. Encourage. Give lots of praise when you see her overcoming little emotional temptations. Be right there with her as she learns to recognize what is happening. Little girls can be scared out of their minds when their emotions charge off with them. They need the security of parents pulling them back.
The goal is not to cripple the horse, but equip the rider. A well-controlled passionate personality is a powerful thing. That is what dangerous women are made of. But a passionate personality that is unbridled can cause a world of damage. If you see a lot of passion in your little girls, don’t be discouraged. It is just wondreful raw material…”
I am so grateful and humbled to have the opportunity to teach these things to my little girl!