Sparks were flying! My twelve-year-old daughter and I were going toe-to-toe, face-to-face, and eye-to-eye. Her fiery retort to my instructions had awakened an anger in me that surprised me.
“You will NOT defy ME, young lady!” I snapped the words out, at the same time angry at her for her defiance and dismayed at myself for my rage.
She met my gaze with her own steadfast, unblinking stare. Anna was one determined, strong-willed child; I was one upset mother; and this was one “nobody’s going to win” situation.
And nobody did.
Where did the trouble begin? Here I was with a teen-aged daughter that I loved so deeply, but I felt as though I couldn’t reach her.
Anna’s heart was usually like a morning glory, opening to the warmth and light of the sun—her blond curls bouncing as she would run, her young soul open and bright, joyful and laughing.
Yet, like a morning glory that is fragile and shuts out the cold and dark, a child’s heart can be closed, protecting itself. After there have been continual instances of pain, the relationship is damaged and the heart of the child, like a flower, closes.
Here is an excerpt from my journal that year:
Journal entry: April 22, 1996
My time with Charlotte (my “older-woman-mentor-friend”) today was so helpful. We had a long discussion concerning Anna. What the Lord said to me is this: “Anna’s spirit is wounded. She has closed herself off to protect herself.”
Could it be that she senses rejection from me–an incomplete acceptance of who she is?
I understood that I had hurt Anna. I had expected her to like the same things I liked, to have the same interests, and to be wired in the same way.
The distance between us had its seed in my lack of parenting experience; my response to her had come out of the default parenting baggage of my childhood. Since she was my first child, I really didn’t have a lot of experience to go on.
When hearts have been wounded like that, how do we begin to restore the relationships? We go to God’s word for guidance:
Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with a heart of mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if someone happens to have a complaint against anyone else. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also forgive others. (Colossians 3:12-13)
Start with humility. The Bible tells us to ask forgiveness. Are there any instances that would have caused resentment to grow? We should say, “Please forgive me for the words, the attitudes, the actions that brought you pain.”
Taking responsibility for our words, actions, and attitudes paves the way for the other person to release the hurt. More discussion may be necessary to bring the healing to complete resolution. Once the process has begun, be calm and clear. Avoid words charged with impatience and anger.
The next step is intentional rebuilding. Open a wounded spirit through kindness. Be kind. Communicate love. It will take time; it may take many times.
Gary Chapman gathered five ways of intentionally communicating love. Use all five.
If we nurture the relationship, like a tender flower, the heart of a child or teen can be opened again.
The relationship can be restored.