The middle finger-What happened when we encouraged it
I know most parents have gone through it. That phase where your child wants to stick their middle finger in the air and wave it around like they just don’t care. So, what do you do? Do you forbid the use of it and forever ban it from your sight? Well, if you’re anything like me, you encourage it.
I can still remember when we had to teach this lesson to each one of our kids. First I laughed. YES, I laughed, ok! Let’s not pretend that it doesn’t give you a giggle when you see a child unknowingly brandishing their middle finger. They have no idea that this little tiny finger on their hand can be twisted into such an angry statement. It’s dumb really, who’s the person that decided to shove their finger in the air in anger? And equally ridiculous, who’s that other person who took offense to it?
My daughter, once she found out that we shouldn’t use the middle finger to point with, became quite conflicted with herself. It almost seemed as if she were in pain. She desperately wanted to get that finger up in the air. she would say “which one mommy? This one, right?” As if she we’re trying to make sure she and I were on the same page, but really it was just an excuse to wave it around. So we pretty much told her to go for it, get it out of your system. Boy, the look of confusion we got!
However, once we gave them permission to stick it up, we followed up with letting them know that even though it really doesn’t make sense, this one little finger can mean anger, or hate, or some type of ill will towards another person. We had a bit of a giggle about how silly it was, but that we just don’t use those types of words toward others and so we also shouldn’t use that finger. Also, the intent behind those words can incite a back and forth of words that can sometimes escalate into violence.
Why we encouraged it
Middle fingers and curse words are forbidden. Forbidden, to a small child, makes for some serious curiosity. We wanted to take the forbidden fruit type of excitement away from the action & word. So we told them to go on and get it out of their system. However it turned out when they were given permission, it didn’t seem all that exciting anymore. We also want them to know that they have free will, that as they grow they’re going to have to learn to make their own decisions. We want to encourage them to make choices that sit well in their spirit. Not just because Mom and Dad said I’m not allowed.
What they learned from it
After realizing putting your finger in the air ain’t as much fun as they thought it would be, they no longer had a desire for it. They learned that it’s not the finger, or the words that’s the real problem. It’s the emotions behind the it. Although putting your finger in the air is quite silly, in our family it’s not an acceptable way of dealing with how we’re feeling. So for us, it’s a no-go.
While on the subject, here’s some options we gave them for when they do feel overwhelmed with anger:
- Scream – Yep! Grab the nearest pillow, suck in a deep breath, and let it out!
- Punch – So hey, while you’ve got that pillow in your hand, go on and give it a few knocks about.
- Talk – Rational or irrational. Just talk until your feel calm. Then circle back to the root of the situation and try to deal with it (preferably with someone who can help you see clear)
- Pray – OF COURSE!
The Word reminds us what anger leads to:
- Ephesians 4:26 And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry,
- Ephesians 4:31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior.
- Psalm 37:8 Stop being angry! Turn from your rage! Do not lose your temper—it only leads to harm.
The Word also reminds us what self-control leads to:
- Proverbs 14:29 People with understanding control their anger; a hot temper shows great foolishness.
- Proverbs 16:32 Better to be patient than powerful; better to have self-control than to conquer a city.
- Matthew 11:29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
- James 1:19 Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.
- James 3:17-18 But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.
OK, sharing time. Tell me your middle finger stories, and how you dealt with it, I’d love to know!