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If that introduction left you confused and you’re wondering who the Doormat, Dictator, Joker, and Judge parents are, I’d encourage encourage you to listen to the two part show called “The 5th Way to Parent.” You’ll find that study in episodes 26 and 27. They’re two of our most popular shows because they define for us the only parenting style that genuinely glorifies God.
Now, to today’s topic of emotions and parenting. Let me say again, that I really did enjoy the overall plot, humor, and general themes of Pixar’s Inside Out. From a psychological standpoint, the movie is filled with as many hilarious elements as Finding Nemo was.
However, there is far too rich a collection of truths here to let dissipate into the mist of forgotten entertainment. Last time on Part I we discussed the nature of emotions. Their real purpose and practice is very different than with what our modern culture has indoctrinated us. If you haven’t heard that episode yet, I suggest you listen to it first.
But for those of you returning, my desire for Part 2 is to systematically explain how one of the scenes from the movie all too accurately depicts the modern American family, observe just how much more deadly the reality is than the movie, and discover God’s plan for similar family conflicts.
But more on that in a minute.
Thank you for Listening and Learning with us today. That’s fantastic, but I hope you’ll take the next step and Subscribe on iTunes and Share this podcast with your friends. And if you’re really invested and thankful for Truth.Love.Parent., I’d invite you to Rate and Review us on iTunes. Every opportunity you have to interact can help you be a more intentional, premeditated parent, and it can help other Christian parents be the same.
Okay, let’s meet the players in this scene, and then take a listen to their dinner conversation.
In the movie, we’re introduced to a painfully typical three-member family. I don’t look down on families with only one child. To be honest, I’m more surprised the parents are still together and this scene didn’t occur with a single mom and daughter. However, since having children has become a cultural accident (one generally worthy of eradication) it’s not shocking to see families produce as few accidents – excuse me – offspring as they can.
So, we have Mother, Daughter, and Father. But there’s another set of cast members hiding in the wings or, better yet, at the helm. If you’ve seen the movie, you know what I’m talking about. Each of the family members is controlled by five emotions living in their minds. Sadness, Disgust, Joy, Anger, and Fear are not only along for the ride, but are the ones choosing how the family communicates and relates.
We’re going to listen to the scene, and you’ll recognize it if you’ve seen the movie or even seen the trailers for it. The daughter, Riley has just had a terrible first day at a new school, and everyone is sitting around the dinner table. It will be hard to gather from the audio, but I’ll fill you in about the parts you can’t see as we go. For example, the scene starts with mom trying to find out how Riley’s day was. Riley doesn’t respond well, and mom tries to silently encourage Dad to get involved. But he was too distracted by a sports re-run in his head to catch what was happening.
Let’s take a listen. Even if you’ve seen it, it will be very important for the the incident to be fresh in your mind.
Meet The Stereotypes
I don’t want to sound like a pretentious snob when I say that watching this didn’t make me laugh one bit. It broke my heart. You have to realize that I’ve been working with hurting families for years now. And though the foibles of this animated family are meant to make us laugh, the reality is that many scarier and sadder behaviors grow out of so “tiny” a seed.
Looking at it from a strictly literary eye, the premise of the entire trailer rested firmly on a seething heap of cultural stereotypes. For example:
•Mom’s engaged in important childhood milestones while Dad’s priorities have him watching re-runs of sporting events.
•The prepubescent daughter exhibits high-school sized angst beyond her years when Mom shows interest in school.
•Mom’s the only adult intelligent enough to realize there’s a problem, and since Dad’s a present/absentee father, Mom’s lapping him in parental skills.
•Mom’s motivating Emotion is Sadness, Dad’s is Anger, and Daughter’s is Disgust/Anger. There’s no Joy around the dinner table? (Of course, in the movie this makes perfect sense, but in real life this seems to be all too accurate.)
•Daughter’s every response is über-emotional because she seems to hate the fact that people care to know what’s going on in her life, and Dad loses his cool to a child and feels the need to “make a show” to gain back the respect he thinks he’s due.
•Dad responds with consequences (and no love), finds success in having meted out punishment with no admonishment, and completely misses the fact that nothing good just happened. It’s interesting to note that Fear and Disgust were the emotions that “put the foot down” on an order from Anger.
•Mom is saddened/disgusted by the whole scenario, and not only does she validate her romantic fantasizing in light of his inability as a father, but the audience is supposed to think it’s funny.
•And just to prove my point that all of this is acceptable because our society’s says it is, imagine if Dad were the tuned-in parent, Mom was in left field, and Dad were the one fantasizing because his wife was inept. Not so funny anymore is it?
Mom is a Doormat/Dictator Parent, Dad’s a Joker/Judge Parent and at the end of this unfortunate parenting debacle, the daughter has been sent to her room to formulate her own conclusions about life . . . which eventually result in her running away.
Take away the fuzzy Emotions and slap some real skin of these people and the picture isn’t quite so enjoyable. In fact, likely this is an all too familiar scene in some of our homes.
So, what’s the harm of a little family dysfunction? We all have it. Right?
Have you ever witnessed a tragedy? I mean, a life-altering tragedy? Have you ever asked yourself, “How did that happen?” You saw the whole thing take place, but you’re just not sure how everything spiraled downward so fast.
As a family counselor and professional parent in a boy’s home, I not only get to witness the fair share of destruction in my own family, but I also get box tickets to the reality-bending choices of my professional family. There are few destructive scenarios I haven’t witnessed in the past ten years.
And every time I sit down to analyze the cause of the explosion, I always find these three things:
- Hurtful Words & Behaviors
- Dominating Emotions
- and Self-Worship
Let’s look at the first one.
1. Hurtful Words & Behaviors
What happens when a seaside town gets in the way of a tsunami – pretty much the same thing that happens when a child gets in the way of a parent’s desires.
Whether it’s a second grade classroom, a high school locker room, the dinner table, or a bedroom, James 4 tells us that conflict arises due to unfulfilled desires. We want something. We don’t get it. We lash out emotionally. And the conflict escalates the more I don’t get what I want.
The reason we yell or use unedifying words or use the silent treatment, or passive aggressive comments, or physical positioning, or we withhold shows of affection is we’ve given our emotions the control of our responses.
2. Dominating Emotions
You may not have noticed because you couldn’t see it, but all of our human players’ actions were eventually controlled by Anger.
The Dad had Anger sitting at the helm from the get-go.
The Daughter’s Anger wouldn’t even listen to her Fear of reprisal.
Even Mom succumbed. You couldn’t see this either, but it was Mom’s Anger that replayed the Brazilian helicopter fantasy.
What started as a simple family meal became a hot-house of Anger. Why?
Because in the end, our negative behavior grew out of some very ugly roots. And out negative emotions which ruled our poor choices also found their source in the tangled roots of our belief system – the ultimate answer to every uncontrolled emotional outbreak is this:
3. Self-Worship – the belief that what I want is more important that what God wants.
Every single one of the negative behaviors and stereotypes listed above is the result of believing that my way is the best: Dad’s not mentally present because he has something better to do. Daughter doesn’t want to be bothered because she believes she doesn’t need her parents input in her life. Mother gets to fantasize about a lost love because she believes her desires are more important than the stability of her marriage.
Self-worship is the sole cause of every hurt relationship!
If I find more pleasure in fulfilling my own desires, then the desires of others will inevitably be trampled on my way to perceived satisfaction.
Of course, this Failure Philosophy never works. If we all lived that way, our silent treatment will get in the way of our children and spouse’s dreams . . . and they won’t like that any more than we do.
And when no one seems to realize that I deserve my way, and I’ve run out of “respectable” forms of aggression, and I refuse to acknowledge God’s opinion on the matter, there’s no other recourse than to shame or scare someone into submission.
Of course, my reasoning for why you need to cater to me will never convince you to abandon your reasoning for why I need to cater to you! All we’re left with is emotion-soaked slandering, accusing, yelling, crying, threatening, name-calling, throwing, hitting and killing.
Almost every time behaviors like this occur in an otherwise normal family, you can be certain that at least one person has lost control of their emotions because they’re basically calling God a liar.
And that’s what you’d expect in a world where everyone’s emotions are Inside Out.
So, in reverse, when my expectations are grounded in who I am instead of who God is, I will not be happy when people don’t meet my expectations. And then my inappropriate feelings will embolden my sinful behavior which grows out of my belief that I should get what I want.
Failure Parenting at its best.
But when our families are engaged with the Word of God, we see that Dad, Mom, Brother, and Sister all need to seek God’s kingdom first.
We need to love each other by working toward the best interest of the others. This biblical worldview accomplishes three things in me:
I don’t allow my desires to usurp yours.
I don’t hurt you to get my way because my way is at the bottom of my priority list.
I’m not be ruled by my emotions. They will be ruled by God’s Truth.
But in this scenario, I’m not a pushover. Dad mustn’t allow his daughter to be disrespectful, not because it offends him, but because as an Ambassador Parent, it offends God. Dad will use God’s Truth with God’s love to address the problems in God’s way. When we worship God and take our God-given role of the 5th Parent, we passionately work for His ends in His power for His reasons. That leaves no room for selfishness and pride, and that type of world-view never loses its temper.
Let’s rewrite this scene from a biblical perspective. Mom, Dad, and Daughter are all engaged in the family, not day dreaming at the table. in the course of conversation, in the unlikely chance Daughter hasn’t already brought it up, Mom asks how her first day of school was. Regardless of whether it went well or not, Daughter responds honestly and openly. Dad and Mom then help her interpret her day in the light of God’s Word. Relationships are strengthened, potential pitfalls are avoided, no one’s mad at each other – in fact, Daughter loves her parents even more for always being there for her, and Mom and Dad are both practically turned on by how sexy it is when the other genuinely and selflessly parents their Daughter as an Ambassador of God. There’s no conflict, there’re no negative consequences. No one’s putting the foot down or fantasizing about lost romance.
Now those’re the kind of people I’d like to have dinner with.
How about you?
Feel free to leave your comments below. We’d love to hear your additions to this study.
And, don’t forget the Episode Notes linked in the description.
As we come to the end of our love, and sex, and emotions study for February, I want to discuss just one more emotion-centered concept. If you’ve ever heard or you’ve never heard the phrase “Emotion Coaching,” you’ll want to join us next time to discover if this practice has any place in the life of a Christian parent.
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Our emotions are terrible decision makers. Isn’t great that God gives us everything we need to parent for life and godliness?
I look forward to meeting with you again and pray that you parent in Truth, not emotion.