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In this life we can not always do great things. But we can do small things with great love.." :) Mother Teresa

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“I pray because I can't help myself. I pray because I'm helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time- waking and sleeping. It doesn't change God- it changes me.”
― C. S. Lewis


I believe in the sun even when it's not shining. I believe in love even when I don't feel it. And I believe in God even when He is silent. (quote found on the wall of a concentration camp)

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Thursday, August 16, 2012

When The Love Bucket Has A Hole

Have you had the experience of a child who wants, wants WANTS  EVERYTHING, yet nothing seems to satisfy their wanton desires?
Me too.....

The child who has had NOTHING, now wants EVERYTHING and SOME is just not enough,  is a child who has a whole in their love bucket.   It is a tricky task to plug up the hole in that love bucket and bring it to overflowing.

The first time I experienced this with Anna, she was just 5 years old.  I took her shopping but we didn't really find anything that she was that excited about.  I am really picky about buying things, because I don't like to buy just to buy. 
When she realized we were going to leave the store without a shirt or dress or sweater, she started to grab anything she could see and sobbed, "Can't you get me this?"  "What about this?"   She was in SHEER PANIC and then full tantrum mode. 

Of course, we left the store and I was perplexed with her behavior.   It wasn't the typical little kid wanting something she couldn't get.  It was a very insecure and love starved child wanting to fulfill a need in all the wrong places.

She didn't realize that a sweater she didn't need or even like would not calm the insecurity  she held in her heart.  She didn't understand that what she really REALLY wanted, she already had.  She was FINALLY being loved and accepted. She had the family and stability she never had before, but she didn't recognize it.   

We have had this type of attitude in 2 of our girls.  Both of them came from tragic poverty, and neglect.... into stability, NOT WEALTH, but NOT POOR.....  and then, they didn't recognize what   a valuable treasure they had been given;  a loving family that truly cared about them.

So how do you get over that hump and teach them that love is not found in things, presents, food, clothing,  etc?  

The first thing is to be very careful not to shame them.  Shame is part of the problem, and they are trying to COVER it with things.  It will not fulfill the hole in the heart.
To gently talk to a very mad child about the importance of love, above things, especially when they have had neglect, is tricky.  

"You know sweetie, I want to buy you something that is just perfect for you! When we see a sweater like that, it will be my joy to get it for you!"   But honestly,  a sweater will not bring you joy or happiness.  Those things come from inside your heart!  And it seems that your heart is very sad and empty.    Come and let mommy rock you and sing to you. We need to fill your love cup up, cuz it has a crack!"  :)  
It will take time to settle the inward struggle of trying to fulfill emotional needs with everything other than relationship.  Relationships are TOUGH..... things don't have discussions and bring immediate pleasure. 
But things wear off and relationships stand the test of time.  They have to grow and develop.
The stage when our girls were like this had more to do with not having developed a deep relationship with us yet. 
As time went on, and we didn't cave into the stuff mart demands, relationship began to take shape and the love bucket began to heal.

It IS important to note that they DO need to have some of that desire met.  We took them out for a special meal, or ice cream.  We would take them to purchase clothing when NEEDED..... but not with a demanding heart.    We can't break them of this type of need cold turkey, it would be too hard.  It is more like weaning them from stuff to relationship.   But we have to be a part of a DESIRED relationship and not a constant threat to their security.... especially with OLDER kids.

Now, can we tell a child.... "Sweetie, what you really want is US!" "AREN'T WE WONDERFUL???" LOL

I seem to remember Miss Alli saying one time, "I'd rather have a horse!" LOL
No, we can't be so blatant as that.  Even though THEY are. :) 

We have to work on that loving relationship, and even mourn with them  when they don't have something they THINK will bring them joy and happiness.  
"I'm sorry we don't have a horse."  But you know what?  I am so glad that you are here and loved, and I pray that someday you will see how much we love you.   Don't judge the desire, but present what they do have!

In a time when you are not in teaching (discipline) mode, you can make an effort to help them see what is really true about their lives.  We do this when we drive in the car..... "What are some things you are thankful for?"  If there is an "I don't know.."  Then we can say, "I'm thankful for YOU! I'm thankful for the beautiful blue sky! Aren't you? "  " How about you daddy? What are you thankful for?"
We have also done this at dinner for years!  Everybody says one thing they are thankful for and then daddy thanks the Lord for the food.
Everybody can come up with one thing; and for one of our girls  it took a while for her to say anything other than, "I'm thankful for Bob the cat".  :)

Over time, as we weave thankfulness into the fabric of our lives, it catches on, and the idea of what is important changes.    The changes are evident in the prayers. 
"I am so thankful to have parents that love me and care about me."
"I am thankful for my family."
"I am thankful that you brought me here."
(these are real prayers spoken)

And we smile at the prayers we hear, as we think  back  at the memory of a time not so long ago, when a little 5 year old clutched onto a sweater because she thought that would fill her deepest need.


Lorraine Fuller said...

One thing I found that helped my son when he went through this phase, was for one not taking him to the store much. It was overwhelming to him and because of the demands it became stressful for me. So I would shop when he was in school or home with dad. The second thing I did was I did occasionally buy him little things or bigger things he needed or wanted. We usually don't do big back to school shopping, but spread it out and buy clothes as needed. I tend to shop garage sales, and ebay a lot. He also had some trouble with being thankful properly. So what I would do when I got him something or it came in the mail is I would lay it on his bed, often with a note that said something like, "I saw this and thought you would like it" Or "I thought this was fun" or something and always ended the note with I love you. When he gets home from school, we talk about his day - good or bad, then do homework and then he will go to his room to play or put stuff away. This is when he will see the new item. Sometimes he didn't see them till after dinner. Some of the time he will have had a rough time that day and not been behaving and he would come out and ask me if I still wanted him to have the shirt in his favorite color, or the little rubber ball or new book or whatever. I would tell him that of course I did. I gave it to him because I love him and his behavior can't change that. We were able to gradually work on saying thank you. Because food was such a trigger for him and he hated being touched at first, it became a way for me to show love. (a pencil from the dollar spot at target is still a prized possession, not because it has a super hero on it, but because he still remembers finding it on his bad after he had done and said some pretty not nice stuff. Now, I am able to take him shopping more and I tend to leave notes without little gifts now. Though he still gets excited when he finds something there, even if it's underwear. LOL

Annie said...

Perhaps we all have a bit of this longing....I know I do. There are times when I just have this great sense of un-ease....and I think it is longing for God (who is LOVE)... As Augustine said, "My heart is restless until it rests in You."

Christie M said...

That is a WONDERFUL idea to implement. That reinforces that gifts are given out of love for them and they are coming from YOU... You are thinking about him....

Christie M said...

You are so right about this. I didn't go deep enough, because ultimately our longing IS to be filled with Christ. It is a spiritual condition.

Missy said...


I'm 42, and I have some special needs. Would you please adopt ME? ;)

You Are Still Holy