“Get out, you little brat,” Emily screamed at her little sister. All Grace had done was crack the bathroom door to see if it was in use. She had to pee really badly. Emily continued, “Can’t I ever get just a little privacy?” Grace dissolved into tears. With compassionate active listening and a few hugs, Mom came to the rescue for Grace.
Many parents in these circumstances would have defended the younger daughter by using power and control over the older daughter. “Emily, don’t talk to Grace like that. Can’t you see that you’ve upset her?” Of course, while settling the issue, Mom’s comments would have fueled continued sibling rivalry and put a few more rows of bricks on the wall between Mom and Emily. A very powerful teachable moment would have been lost.
Thankfully, mom responded to Grace’s distress by active listening her feelings. When she saw her daughter’s emotional fever subside, Mom asked, “You know, Grace, I can tell you why Emily barked at you, if you want.” Grace was still pouting and added, “It’s because she’s just a jerk.”
After again consoling with active listening, Mom launched into The Talk with Grace. She noted that Emily was in the bathroom at that moment because she was having her menstrual period and needed to take care of it. Rather than launch fully into topics of human sexuality, Mom simply addressed the questions Grace asked. She particularly talked about the emotional side of hormones and how body changes can lead to moodiness, anger, and outbursts. While not an excuse for bad behavior, mom added that it helps explain it.
Grace calmed as she understood more. She grew quiet while thinking and then added, “I wish I was a boy so I wouldn’t have to deal with hormones.” Mom cautioned, “Oh no you don’t. You are just a beautiful little girl. Boys have hormones too, you know. They just come out in different ways, like being competitive, playing sports, boasting about how much weight they can bench press, and trash-talking others.”
The emotional side of hormones is just God’s way of getting us ready for adulthood and learning how to take care of ourselves. Mom turned what could have been a crisis into a teachable moment.