Teaching Children (and Adults) to Avoid Drama

I have a drama queen in my family.  Maybe you have the same.

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Now I love my daughter with this trait with all my heart.  However, as a father, I recognize that this drama queening will get her into a LOT of trouble in life, if I don't guide her through how to properly handle conflict (whether it is conflict with her own desires and wants or with others).

Give me a moment to define the term drama queen (or king).  A drama queen (or king) is someone who over-exaggerates the importance of trivial matters.  These trivial matters then become the most important thing that is happening in their lives...at that moment.  Because of this attitude, there becomes unrest in their lives and everyone else's lives around them.  Their happiness and joy is affected by these trivial matters.  Fights begin.  Pouting happens.  Slammed doors.  Loud wails.  Disconcerted complaining about how unfair life is.  Exaggerated sighs or looks.  And all because you told them "no" to watching their favorite TV show. 

Conflict seems to gravitate around them.  When they don't get their way, they are poking and prodding others (usually other siblings or possibly your spouse) seemingly getting pleasure out of causing unrest.   

Childhood fights over toys turn into the gossip corner at school and a group of friends who always have drama in their lives and are rarely happy, unless they are preying on someone else's unhappiness.  They post their lives on social media, often causing more conflict.  Their constant desire for attention makes them easy targets for those who would exploit them for their looks and need for attention...any attention and put them in the unenviable position of doing anything to receive that attention, if just for a little while.  They are always unsettled at work and are easily discontented enough to quit their jobs on a moment's notice.

It's not that they are this way all the time.  Nor is it that their emotions are always wrong or misplaced.  However, for these people, their emotions always seem heightened and they are more likely to give into them rather than thinking through their actions.  These children seem to experience the highest of highs and the lowest of lows...all the time.

As parents, it is our responsibility to lovingly guide our children through these things.  A tough task, I know.  There are some days where it is just easier to give up, give them their way, if it would earn just a few moments of solace.  The other extreme is just to ignore them because dealing with the drama is too much to handle.  However, both of these efforts do not teach our children how to recognize what is happening with them, nor does it help them identify how to deal with these emotions.  It is also equally wrong to assume that this "drama queening" is just a phase that they will grow out of. 

As hard as it is to believe, these may be the traits that God has gifted your child with.  Our job as parents isn't to try to create a carbon copy of ourselves (which is so easy for us to want to do).  Rather, our job is to recognize the uniqueness of our sons and daughters, recognize the challenges that will face them because of their personalities, pray for a LOT of guidance and allow God to use the traits that He gave them for His glory.

So how do we deal with the drama queen (or king)?

First, we have to teach our children the difference between real drama and manufactured drama.

Real drama is that which has a significant impact on the lives that are affected.  They include things like, divorced, broken families, death of a close loved one, the impending poverty of a family because of a loss of income, etc...

The best way to teach children about real drama is to give your child experiences around it.  Minister to people in these real life drama situations.  Feed the homeless.  Care for the sick and dying.  Bring children to funerals.  The more that they are around such situations, the less they will think their situation is as dire as their emotions are making them out to be.

Emotions used in this way usually bring constructive attitudes of service to those who are in need.  Often those who are very emotional people will feel very strongly about helping in these situations.  This is a place where emotions can be redemptive, rejoicing with those who are rejoicing and grieving with those who are grieving (1 Cor. 12:26).

One of the first questions I often ask those who have older children (8 and up) is:  When was the last time they served someone other than themselves (someone truly in need)?

Manufactured drama often comes into play when there is no perspective of what real drama is.

Second, we must teach our children to rule over their emotions.

The sin of Cain in Genesis 4 is fueled by emotions brought on by manufactured drama.  Cain was caught doing something wrong.  Instead of admitting his wrongdoing, he found a scapegoat for his anger caused by his wrongdoing...his own brother.  God tries to warn Cain of the destructive nature of this manufactured drama by pointing out that if he does what is right, he will be accepted.  He will receive what he truly desires, not by doing things his way, but by doing them God's way.

We must do the same for our children by reminding them (over and over again) that the very acceptance and attention they desire comes from doing what is right.  We must teach our children to have our emotions conform to the truth, even when they wish to do otherwise.

Third, as parents, we have to teach our children to take responsibility for their actions produced by the drama they have created.

This is what God did to expose Cain's wrongdoing.  However, Cain didn't get the memo that he was actually in the wrong.

As parents, we have to do our best to make sure that our children get the memo.  This can be hard to do because with our other children, we don't seem to have that problem.  The drama queen (or king) will blame others for their wrongdoings.  They will blame siblings for tattling or ratting them out for their wrongdoings.  They will fight with those who have outted them, placing the blame on their shoulders.

As parents, we must recognize that this further conflict isn't fueled by brothers and sisters calling out wrong actions and appropriately telling parents.  Rather, this further conflict arises because the drama child hasn't got the memo that they were in the wrong and have compounded the problem by doing more wrong things.

We have to take the time to, not only punish the child, but explain...biblically, why they were wrong.  We need to show them, biblically, what it means to repent and to humble oneself when wrong.  The area of sin and wrongdoing is the one area that the drama queen or king doesn't want attention, therefore we must focus on it all the more, biblically, so they will get the memo.

(This also means that we must not tell our children that they shouldn't tattle or rat out their siblings.  This sends a message that important conflicts are to be glossed over and not paid attention to.  Rather we should teach them how to appropriately handle those situations.)

Fourth, we must teach children how to handle conflict biblically.

Jesus tells us in Matthew 18:15-17 how we are supposed to handle conflict.  First, we are to go to the person who has offended us one on one and talk to them.  Then, as appropriate, bring in others to confront for the purpose of restoration, not retaliation.  Unfortunately, this rarely happens in our society.  And for one who is ruled by their emotions, the temptation to tell someone else (or everyone else) is too hard to pass up. 

Our children need to be repeatedly taught that when we break away from God's design for handling conflict...drama ensues.  Drama steals away our joy, our peace, our trust and damages our relationships.  We need to point that out from the myriad of examples that we will see in life, so they can recognize the results. 

We must model for them how to handle conflict biblically, so they can see what happens when tough situations are handled God's way.

Finally, we need to teach our children to seek good, Godly attention, rather than attention for attention's sake.

What our children really want is attention.  So as parents, we need to share with them how to get the attention that they seek without the regret and punishment that comes through sin.  As parents, when our drama children do the right thing, we should be just as eager to commend as we are to reprimand.  We should point out how obedience to those good and Godly things are a reward of itself and are missing the guilt and regret that disobedience brings.

We should have our children eager for the words that we await our Savior to say to us when we finally see Him face to face..."Well done, good and faithful servant..."  If, by the grace of God, we can train them for that, we will save them from a lot of undue drama and troubles, and hopefully give them the attention and joy they truly crave that comes from a relationship with Christ.

Pray for me, as I move toward that end with my daughter, and I promise, I will pray for the same for you.


Popular posts from this blog

When Has Justice Been Served?

What 18 Years of Ministry Has Taught Me

Why Living Together is the Opposite of Marriage