Profile of an Eggshell Walker
The scenario: A mom or dad loses their temper with their child in public.
The crime: A child is walking too slowly and is not keeping pace with their parent’s double-their-size stride.
The punishment: The parent loses their temper and berates the child for being so slow.
We’ve all witnessed a similar situation at one time or another. Many of us have turned our eyes when it happened, not wanting to embarrass the child anymore than he/she must already feel. And some of us may have offered a pointed glare or two at the offending parent. It’s an uncomfortable situation for the onlooker, but it can be downright dreadful for the child.
Did the child really commit a crime worthy of such temperamental upheaval? Probably not. And while there are books and articles on how to minster to the angry parent, there’s not much instruction on how to help the child of the angry parent.
Anger can show many different faces, and for the intention of this article, we’re not addressing anger that is physically abusive in nature. As children’s workers, we always need to be ready to report any kind of abuse we’re aware of. Of course, anger can also be verbally and emotionally abusive. Thankfully, there are new strides toward revealing this within the family unit; however, verbal and emotional abuse are still fine lines for educators to deal with. The intent here is to help you reach and focus on the child who has an angry parent.
Anger is not always explosive. In fact, anger can show itself as “the silent treatment.” Both extremes can produce life-changing effects in any child’s life. Depending on the child’s temperament, he/she will react differently. The strong-willed child may explode right back at the parent. The overly-sensitive child may cocoon even farther into their own safe little world they have constructed, losing all hope of connection with their parent. And then there’s the child who just keeps trying harder and harder not to make Mom or Dad angry. This is the child who must be perfect at all costs so as not to rock the boat. This is the child whose feet become very familiar with eggshells.
“Walking on eggshells” is an idiom used to describe a person who has to be very careful around another individual. A child who must deal with an angry parent typically learns to be very careful, very quickly.
What does an eggshell walker tend to look like?
They are usually very fearful and this fear becomes a driving force in their lives. As little children, they might be especially afraid of the dark. As they get older, they’re afraid of doing anything wrong. Hence …
- They are often high achievers. Nothing less than straight As are the norm. Getting
a B or a C might show that something is wrong in their life.
- They are often the teacher’s pet and will work very hard for their praise.
- They don’t want to color outside of the lines, because that would be breaking the
- Friendships are often difficult, because what if the friend finds out they’re not
perfect after all.
- They learn at a young age that it’s not IF Mom or Dad will blow up, it’s only a
matter of WHEN.
- Though they may appear socially adept, they can often have poor connection skills
in deeper relationships.
- It’s difficult for them to trust people. They have become gun-shy, if you will. For a
child, dodging an angry person in their family can be likened to navigating a
minefield. They just don’t know what will set the parent off.
- Finally, an eggshell walker loses the ability to know how he/she is feeling. All their
attention is on the parent and how they are feeling. If Mom or Dad is happy, then
the child can be happy. If Mom or Dad is angry, the child’s feelings are wrapped
up in the parent’s emotions. They slowly lose their identity.
How can you minister to an eggshell walker?
As Christian teachers, be assured that at one point or another you will come across kids who are eggshell walkers. The above profile may help you spot these hurting children, but the best way of knowing your students and their situations is by spending time with them. Whether you are an educator in a school or at a church, investing time in relationships with your kids will always be the best way to reach them with the love and healing of Jesus. But what are some practical ways to help these kids once you’ve spotted an eggshell walker?
Pray for the child’s family. As stated before, be careful and prayerful of how you actually deal with the parents of the child. God may just be calling you to focus your attention on the child.
When you see this child make a mistake, shower them with encouragement. This child will often berate himself for not getting something right. He thinks he has to be perfect. This is a great opportunity for you to share how you yourself make mistakes. Share how you deal with your own weaknesses. Do you try to laugh them off? Do you ask the Lord to help you? Maybe you remind yourself that only God is perfect and that He loves you no matter what. These can be great points of encouragement for the child.
Praise them apart from any achievement they made. These children typically think they have to earn love and praise. Look for moments to tell them that you think they are awesome just because that’s how God has made them. Remind them that they do not have to earn God’s love.
Give them opportunities to trust you. For example, you might promise to give them a call during the week. Be sure and carry that promise through.
Pray for opportunities to share on a deeper level what is going on in their lives. Eggshell walkers tend to hide in their shells like a turtle. Look for ways to bring them out and provide opportunities for them to share their feelings.
Ask them what they’re feeling about different situations. Do they like this or that? Do they want A or B? Often these kids have great difficulty in discerning what they like and want apart from their parent’s desires.
Finally, pray for God’s healing in their lives. Ask God to help them not be afraid and try to empower them with healthy boundaries they can set within their own lives, if not within their own homes. Repeatedly assure them that they can trust God and that He wants to be their very best friend. And finally, help them understand that He also wants them to surround themselves with other people who will love and encourage them.
Kathy Vincent (aka The Scripture Lady) travels around to churches and schools sharing God’s amazing Word in creative ways. Her passion is to help kids fall in love with the Bible and to train teachers to do the same! ScriptureLady.com