Not Allowing Children to Own Their Emotions is Godly?

Not Allowing Children to Own Their Emotions is Godly? November 11, 2018

Ken Alexander, husband of Lori Alexander of The Transformed Wife sounds off this morning on how to raise kids with a post about his grandchildren. He claims that he and Lori raise them with joy, not allowing any emotions but joy. He even goes so far as to claim that they put any grumpy kids in the ‘Grumpy’ chair and that the kids go to it with joyousness. In the Alexander household not allowing children to own their emotions is Godly?

Here’s what Ken had to say:

Ken seems to completely miss that ‘Grumpy’ can also be code for ‘Unmet Needs’ more than a demonic lack of joy. Joy, geniune joy that is, cannot be manufactured upon demand. In many households in QF where parents insist on joy or else the children learn to quickly and effectively fake expressions of joy. Much like retail workers or customer service reps faking concern while effectively doing their jobs. Is that really a lesson you want your children to pick up?

Back to unmet needs. How many times have we seen children whine, cry or be just particularly unpleasant because they were tired, or hungry, or any one of a hundred other needs. Imagine trying to turn off meeting a genuine need by insisting that the child sit in what is essentially a ‘Time Out’ chair?

It’s a much better parenting mode to determine what’s going on and to deal in reality with the situation. Is the child crying because they’re exhausted, or perhaps coming down with a cold, or hungry? Putting a falling down tired kid down for a nap is kind, merciful and good parenting. Putting them in the time out chair for having needs is cruel.

Parenting in Evangelical Quiverfull seems to believe children are mini adults, having the  same expectations you would have with a genuine grownup instead. Kids aren’t always effective in expressing why they are out of sorts, and assuming it’s some sort of grumpy demonic rebellion is thoughtless, needlessly cruel and abusive parenting.

I guess we should be grateful that Ken Alexander is not advocating Debi and Michael Pearl’s advice about enforcing attitude with a 1/4 inch piece of plastic plumbing pipe applied liberally to the bare buttocks.

Heck, even adults can benefit from looking at what needs are being unmet when their attitudes shift negatively. I know now that if I get suddenly unreasonably angry that I have a bad asthma attack on deck within 30 minutes. I have learned that I must stop, medicate and go lay down for a few minutes until it passes to keep from being an enormous jerk to others and ended up in asthmatic distress.

Many of my friends have learned that they must do self-care when their moods shift or to prevent a situation. One might have to do certain things before spending time with problematic people. Another I know well knows that if she starts feeling certain emotions that it’s not a sin, that she stops and does her self care ritual to shut it down.

When my youngest had her health struggles with her immune system issues it didn’t take much to make her fearful, or dealing with the emotions of being sick, or the treatments. I remember so many times when she acted in a way contrary to what an Evangelical would deem acceptable. I’d usually get her to lay down in my big bed, on top of the comfy feather mattress topper to watch a favorite video. I’d bring her cocoa and a snack. Usually that little break, a time out from the crisis was enough to have a smiling and calm little girl emerge after the rest and snacks.

I have precious memories of that time cuddling with her in my bed while she watched ‘Anastasia’ or ‘Charlotte’s Web.’

Plus this is not at all how you should use a time out, not to force joy. You’re better off using it as a time of reflection the child, which is an important tool in the arsenal of self-regulation tools taught at places like childrens residential treatment centers. Teaching children ways to deal with their emotions is much better than any amount of punishment.

I’m sure the Pearls and the Alexanders would view this as ‘spoiling’ a child instead of showing kindness and mercy in the midst of pain and worry.

If adults struggle with emotions and moods it makes sense that children with their imperfect control, growing selves and inexperience with life would also struggle. Be kind, gentle, merciful with them. Meet their needs. Teach them self regulation in a non-blaming way. Don’t put them in time out for having emotions.

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NLQ Recommended Reading …

Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement by Kathryn Joyce

I Fired God by Jcoelyn Zichtermann

13:24 A Dark Thriller by M Dolon Hickmon

About Suzanne Titkemeyer
Suzanne Titkemeyer went from a childhood in Louisiana to a life lived in the shadow of Washington D.C. For many years she worked in the field of social work, from national licensure to working hands on in a children's residential treatment center. Suzanne has been involved with helping ithe plights of women and children' in religious bondage. She is a ordained Stephen's Minister with many years of counseling experience. Now she's retired to be a full time beach bum in Tamarindo, Costa Rica with the monkeys and iguanas. She is also a thalassophile. She also left behind years in a Quiverfull church and loves to chronicle the worst abuses of that particular theology. She has been happily married to her best friend for the last 32 years. You can read more about the author here.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Iain Lovejoy

    “All my kids are so joyful. I only ever see them smiling!”
    “Really, how did you manage that?”
    “I punish them severely if I ever see them not smiling.”
    How stupid are these people?

  • Jennny

    One of the things I didn’t learn much about when doing child psychology as part of my teacher training course in the 1960s, was that every human being has basic needs, mental, physical, emotional and psychological. As I got more experienced teaching in a rough area with, sadly, many hap-hazard, feckless parents, I saw how even their 4-5yos exhibited behaviours showing their basic needs hadn’t been met and that was already warping their personalities – like manipulating the adults around them to show them some affection or to give them food if their druggie parents hadn’t fed them and much more. Then, through being involved in my friend’s adoption of a baby from China, I learned more about how absolutely vital it is to have these needs met from birth, spontaneously and naturally, with love….so I am sickened by the likes of Ken and his stupid, dangerous, ignorant theories of child-rearing.

  • Trellia

    As someone with depression and anxiety, this terrifies me for the poor kids. What if they have undiagnosed mental illness? How would they be able to get help, instead of being punished for it? Even with mine being treated, working in retail for so long in the past and having to put on a happy, smiling face while in pain and having rough mental health days, well… there are ramifications to that I’m still working on. How much worse to be punished and being told that something you can’t help is ‘sinful’…. grrrrrr….

  • Mark in Ohio

    Do Ken and Lori even acknowledge that mental illness exists? As I believe I’ve heard that they avoid medical doctors, I can’t imagine they would condone any interaction with mental health professionals.

  • Mark in Ohio

    You have to remember, Christians have a very narrow view of what emotions are legal. For women and children, they are allowed “Joy”. Men are allowed two emotions, “Rage” and “Suppressed Rage”. I shudder at the thought of what this viewpoint does to the emotional wiring and development of children.

  • Gretchen Beam

    no they do not…You just need more prayer and if you are a women, more submission of course.

  • heleninedinburgh

    Being depressed is sinful, and trying to have it treated is even more sinful. Usual victim-blaming shit.

  • SAO

    I’m not sure if the CPM cares about children’s or women’s emotions. All that matters is that any inconvenient emotions not bother the man of the family. Thus, there’s no difference between training your children to be joyous and training them to show no emotion other than joy.

    And then, surprise, surprise, at some time in adolescence or adulthood, they turn against dear old Dad, expressing a decade or two of pent-up emotion, and he is totally bewildered and has no clue where it came from. Obviously Satan.

  • nmgirl

    Sunday morning trigger! As children, my brother and I were never allowed to be angry and grew up not knowing how to handle the feelings. My mother used to brag that she and Dad never fought in front of us. When I told her she did us no favors, of course she denied the reality of my feelings. I have spent the last 40 years trying to deal with my anger. I’ve made a lot of progress but it is still a problem.

  • AFo

    They still haven’t figured out the contradiction between claiming to live lives of truth and forcing everyone to hide their true emotions. Image is all they care about.

  • Samantha Vimes

    One of their unmet needs is the need to be seen as a real person.

  • persephone

    Off topic: Leah Remini’s Scientology is doing a two-hour special this week on Jehovah’s Witnesses. I will be tuned in.

  • Rosa

    Yes, the children in the Alexander house has always to show JOY.
    And they can´t complain or whine. How you stop them from doing that? Well here´s a video from the loving, godly grandmother Lori Alexander.

  • Suzanne Harper Titkemeyer

    I think she’s going to be doing other cult like organizations. Heard from a friend of mine that she’s lined up a few of the more bizarre Christian ones.

  • persephone

    Good! The more light shone the better.

  • persephone

    I’m old. I’m also suffering from multiple immune disorders. I have been dealing with my first major flare from my vasculitis. I’m having serious edema and muscle spasms everywhere, including my digestive system. Of course, both my rheumatologist and her assistant have been on vacation. Last Monday, I went to urgent care because I really needed to know just how bad it is, if I needed immediate treatment, and, really, some reassurance that I wasn’t going to drop dead. I was sent to the ER for tests. The PA was wonderful. He was kind and honest and helpful, and I’m tearing up just remembering him. He dug up some soda and ice, and some peanut butter after I told him I hadn’t eaten in 8 hours.

    Nothing else was done for me that night. The PA was apologetic; basically, none of the doctors felt there was anything urgent, and since I’m already under treatment by a rheumatologist they didn’t see any point in getting involved.

    That will probably be the most expensive peanut butter I’ve ever eaten, but the visit, especially the PA was mentally good for me. Needs met.

    The next day, I’m at work, dealing with a new hire that I want fired (she’s a liar and refuses to do training work), and I’m this close to exploding in anger, all the calm from the night before gone. Needs unmet.

    So this has been a really long way of saying* that it doesn’t matter how old you are, emotions exist, they exist for good reasons, denying them will destroy you.

    * And a chance to whine in a safe place.

  • persephone

    I’m thinking about all the abused children who were told that they were liars and/or to never tell to keep the happy family appearance up.

  • Delilah Hart

    I shudder to think of the long-term damage they would do to a child on the autism spectrum who’s having a meltdown.

  • otrame

    That’s not whining. That’s venting. Venting is very important. Without venting, things explode, causing damage. The difference is whining demands a change, venting merely expresses how you feel about it.

  • Plain English

    I am assuming that by ‘stupid’ you mean damaged. Christianity has lots of smart, damaged people and the evangelical models are pretty much designed to hook into that harm and manage it in a similar fashion that methadone manages a heroin addiction. Sometimes, if you believe what is testified, extremist, hardened criminals become ‘saved’ from that life by pouring themselves into another garbage can of human denial. But when their delusional lives harm children by imposing abusive punishments for simply having human emotions, then I go a bit wrangy and ‘hate’ that Christianity allows and supports abusers. To be denied by a loved one, a parent caregiver, to be abandoned by them ritualistally with verses makes kids sick. Anxiety, depression, life-long imbalances: Thank-you Jesus!

  • Jim Jones
  • Iain Lovejoy

    In this context I meant stupid in the sense of incapable of clear thought (or possibly wilful blindness) in the sense that it ought to be immediately obvious that (a) in these circumstances “joy” is indistinguishable from “terrified compliance” and (b) no-one outside the whacko subculture is going to believe it’s joy.
    But then I can be a bit polyannaish at times. The grimmer possibility is that they all individually know perfectly well that they are lying to everyone else, and that their own kids are slapping on a fake smile to avoid a beating, but don’t care because they are determined to put on a show that their kids can be just as joyful as (they think) their rivals’ neighbours’ kids are.

  • MaraT

    There is a glaring error in his first paragraph. He quotes Proverbs 22 and then calls it a promise of God. He is incorrect. A proverb is not a promise. A proverb is a proverb. The Book of Proverbs are the words of King Solomon. The remainder of the post is just self-congratulatory nonsense. Hey, if you want to brag about what a great job you did as a parent, go ahead; but don’t try to couch it as “advice”

  • Saraquill

    So much of my adolescence involved unmet emotional needs. Including one night where I tried to (data expunged) and I was considered unreasonable for not keeping up appearances.

  • AFo

    I think you may be onto something. These people are experts at ignoring or snuffing out anything that threatens to damage their “image,” all while convincing themselves that this is the “godly” thing to do.

  • Emersonian

    Has he forgotten that even Jesus blasted the shit out of an innocent fig tree just because he lost his temper?

  • lekusa

    That video is horrifying.

  • Plain English

    Thanks for explaining a bit more for me, Iain. I suspect that the harm these people live out in their daily comings and goings becomes more and more denied in the conscious mind. There is something very sick about a parental who inflicts such abuse and then smiles and enjoys it openly. The more likely scenario is that the reality of the crime is put-away in the mind by the criminal, set aside as ‘this hurts me more than it hurts you’.

  • Plain English

    Lori Alexander sounds unhinged to me: Each statement is followed by a more ludicrous comment until I find myself wishing I had a tranquilizer gun. What a scary creep she is and I cannot imagine why her progeny would expose their own kids to her! Oh wait. I do understand. Lori broke their spirits so well that they sacrifice their own children to her. And sweet Jesus just watches in silence.

  • IM

    I’m glad you’re working through your anger issues. I’ve always had a different viewpoint. I saw my mom date a string of men, and when finally married they screamed and slammed doors.

    So when I hear the word, “argument.” That often comes to mind. I still relive a lot of that trauma.

    But yeah, I do think it is healthy for parents to disagree with each other in a healthy way.

  • IM

    I don’t think God hates complaining all that much. The Israelites asked for food and mana rained from the heavens. They complained again and meat rained from the heavens.

    Closed mouths don’t get fed.

    This goes for emotional and physical needs. (if you’re an adult and can voice them of course. Most children can’t in a productive way.) Often times, “complaining” to an adult is the child’s way to stating how they feel.

    It’s dangerous teaching a child to stay silent. I would always be worried if I were a parent: Is my child depressed? Have they gotten enough to eat? Is someone bothering them? Or worse, could someone be abusing them?

    I would gladly welcome “complaining” in such cases.