What to do when kids swear or say OMG…

Swearing and OMG (1)

“S#*t,” “Oh My God.” …or “What the _____?” We’ve heard from numerous parents that this kind of language hurts their ears as well as their hearts. If this is a struggle in your family, here’s how you might respond through the Discipline that Connects framework.

“You are SAFE with me!”

To communicate emotional safety while addressing your kids’ word choices means coming alongside them as their understanding helper instead of their judge (can they ever tell the difference!). Are your kids worried they won’t fit in? Do they even know what the words mean?

In the same way, it’s helpful to understand what might be behind your angst when your kids say offensive words. Consider these questions:

  • Do I feel hurt when my requests for respectful language are ignored?
  • Am I worried people might think less of my kids (and me) because of how they talk?
  • Am I worried about my child’s level of faith and possible future choices?

Separating out anxiety or embarrassment from the conversation is an important aspect of being safe. With this insight, parents can then prepare for the discussion with a quick prayer, “Lord, help me be gentle in my effort to teach and train my child.” This helps parents stay inquisitive and relaxed rather than judging and demanding.

You are LOVED – no matter what you say.”

Once calm and curious, parents are more able to think clearly and can decide to approach the conversation in light-hearted,empathetic ways, like, “Wow! You have some strong feelings about this.” Or, “That’s an interesting word choice. Tell me what’s behind that.” When my kids used to frequently say, “I HATE….so and so or such and such,” I would say in a rather Yoda-like way, “Hmmm, Hate. A strong and dangerous emotion. Other words have you?” Over time as our kids felt joined and understood, they learned to use more constructive words.

If your kids are feeling pressured by peer culture to use crass or irreverent words, you can have a relaxed conversation – What are your kids worried about? Empathize and share the ups and downs of your experiences feeling pressure to fit in with others.   

[To learn how to strengthen your child’s resilience to rejection from others, read Helping Kids Thrive Despite Rejection From a Teacher or Students.]

Sometimes it’s entirely appropriate to be passionate and firm when talking about word choices with your kids, but it’s essential to discern: “How can I be sure to make my unconditional love land on my child’s heart, even though I feel strongly about this?”

“You are CALLED and CAPABLE.”

Communicating to our kids, “You are safe and loved” makes it easy to say things like, “You have a strong opinion and I’m wondering how you could express it in more honoring ways?” Or, “Heyo, are you meaning to start praying now? Want me to join? Or maybe you were meaning to say something else.” Keep it fun and light as you guide your child toward making better choices. When you do, it lays the groundwork for a more serious conversation about taking responsibility for more honoring language.

Many times, children don’t yet value our wonderful calling to use words to be a blessing. Ephesians 4:29 says, “Let no unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building up the one in need and bringing grace to those who listen.” How can you give more effort to teaching this concept and noticing the impact when your kids use respectful words?

[To help your kids value words of blessing, read the post My Kids Made Me Late – And It Was Totally Worth It.]

“You are RESPONSIBLE for your actions and your words.”

When kids use God’s name in vain or coarse language, there are natural impacts in play. Words either build others up or hurt or offend them. I learned how to teach natural impacts with grace one day when leading a wilderness trip for a group of high-risk teens. Rough language was part of every conversation for them, particularly the misuse of the Lord’s name. I kept telling them to stop using that language, and they’d stop for a bit, but then forget. Our guide, Kathleen finally chimed in confidently. “Hey, my friends,” gently smiling, “I’ve been listening to you use God’s name and I thought you’d want to know how that impacts me.” She waited. The teens got quiet. “I know it’s probably normal for you to talk that way, but I just want you to know that hearing God’s name used in an uncaring way hurts my heart because I love God very much. I just thought you’d want to know.”

I hardly heard those words used again for the next five days – because they were internally motivated to respect Kathleen. They took real responsibility because they understood the natural impact.

Coarse language provides a great opportunity to teach kids awareness of who you are with and their needs. (Know your audience). Share a time you said something coarse or critical you regretted, that was heard by an unintended person, and what impact that had. Kids are far more open to hear about what we learned when we messed up than they are about how they should get it perfect just like us! Then you can ask,  “What different kinds of people are within earshot when you say those words?” If you lead with humility, you can usually have an open conversation about how it might affect those listening to your kids.

Matthew 12:34 says, “…the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” You can also share what your verbal slip revealed about your heart, and how you dealt with that. (Know yourself.) This helps kids be thoughtful when you ask, “What’s going on under the surface that sparks the words you are using? I care more about your heart than your words.”

Despite our best efforts to communicate these four important messages, our children can choose to use words of which we don’t approve. Making this issue a battleground is often more destructive than helpful. Parents can instead choose to be peaceful, model honoring word choices, and focus on the Yeses – what we do as Christ-followers instead of the “No’s”/don’ts. Kids who understand God’s wonderful grace and their calling to a life of significance begin to make more honoring word choices.

Daniel was in middle school when the word “gay” was used flippantly to mean either homosexual or weird/odd. He used the term frequently with the latter meaning in an attempt to fit in with his peers. It grated on our ears and we addressed it numerous times, encouraging him to be honoring of all people. This habit continued for quite some time, but we kept our focus on God’s love and Daniel’s calling to be a blessing to others. As this identity took root, he grew to have an incredibly deep compassion for people, be very careful to make honoring word choices, and live his life to be an agent of God’s blessing.

My Response:

  1. How can I help my children gain wisdom about the natural impacts of their choices, and the factors that may be causing them to use offensive words?
  2. How can I keep my focus on the “Yeses” of God’s grace and my kids’ calling to be a blessing in all that they do?

To learn more practical tips just like this, download the ebook Four Consequences That Actually Work.

3 Steps for Success in Holiday Chaos!

3 Steps for Success in Holiday Chaos

Holidays and other gatherings can be a lot of fun — but they can also be chaotic and overstimulating for kids! Rather than punish your children for misbehavior, be thoughtful ahead of time about how to prepare them for success.

Whether your child loudly proclaims Gramma’s sweet potatoes are YUCKY!, gets out of control when opening presents, or shuts down and withdraws when talking with adults, make a thoughtful plan and weave in plenty of encouragement.

[To ease holiday mealtime stress, read 7 Practical Tips for Picky Eaters.]

With the three simple steps below, you can set your child up for success and create a truly enjoyable holiday gathering!  

Helping Kids Thrive Despite Rejection from a Teacher or Students

Helping Kids Respond to Rejection from a Teacher or Students

It’s tempting when kids experience rejection, to want to protect them and be a buffer to keep their feelings from being hurt. Our blood boils, our God-given Mama or Papa Bear instincts kick in, and we may well go after the offending teacher or student. Sometimes this is a wise course of action, especially if a child is experiencing abuse or extreme rejection. But many times the best strategy is to be thoughtful about strengthening the child instead of protecting them. This prepares them for other inevitable situations in life when rejection threatens to redefine their sense of identity.

Cara’s kids had different classes with the same teacher. Mr. Benson may have been a well-intentioned guy, but the methods he used in his class were laden with shaming, critical messages.

In Jaden’s class, Mr. Benson decided to prepare the kids for the teasing they were sure to get next year in middle school. He projected each student’s picture from school photo day, one at a time, for the class to laugh at. Jaden’s anxious, deer-in-the-headlights mugshot brought a chorus of laughter and comments from his classmates. He ran off the bus sobbing that day, traumatized by the humiliation.

Why safety is crucial to adoptive families – and how it applies to all of us

In honor of November being Adoption Awareness Month, we’ve asked Anna Braasch, our Executive Director and adoptive momma to two, to share practical ways to have safe, connected relationships with your kids – regardless of how they joined your family.

Why Safety is Crucial to Adoptive Families

The foundational principles of Connected Families breathe life into families formed through adoption. I’ve seen it in my own family. In fact, creating an environment of safety is vital for any family who has experienced stress. Isn’t that all of us? 4 messages framework_Aug2016

In the Connected Families Framework, the starting place for our relationship with our kids is the crucial concept “You are safe with me.” The other framework messages -You are loved, You are called and capable, and You are responsible – are all built on this foundation of safety.

Kids who were adopted must know “You are safe with me.” They must experience this safety in their families.  Safety builds the confidence and security to trust and attach to their adoptive parents. At some level, trauma is a part of the history of kids who were adopted, and magnifies their need to experience the safety that all of us need in our families.  These kids aren’t broken. Not to be pitied. They might, however, view the world differently and need extra safety reinforcement and reminders in order to actually feel safe. Their developing, and sometimes tenuous attachment requires the extra reassurance to believe that their parents, and therefore their world, are safe.

Every  parent benefits from the message so powerfully evident in adoption: before children are able to hear and accept they are loved, capable, and responsible – they must first believe they are SAFE.

True enough, but what does this look like when I’m trying to get my kids fed and out the door?

Recovering from one particularly  difficult and tension-filled encounter with my then 9-year-old son, I collapsed into prayer asking God to reveal to me what he needed. I scratched a list during prayer, laid next to him in bed, and read it aloud to him. This list remains. It is a reminder. A reference. A centering-point. A promise.

How to prevent misbehavior – in 30 seconds or less!

Three Secret Ingredients (1)

“My child is determined to push my buttons.”
“She just acts out to get attention.”
“I get so tired of his misbehavior, I just don’t enjoy my son any more.”

Misbehaving kids are often discouraged and looking for a strong emotional response from their parents. They want to know they matter to their parents!  But in the blur of family life, they often get that energized response when… they misbehave. “Carson James Smith! Stop that right now!” delivered with intense eye contact and furrowed brow.

Ah, zing. Reward. Connection made. Cycle reinforced.

Carson just got lots of attention for misbehavior, strengthened his identity as a pain-in-the-neck, and is even more likely to repeat the behavior. Soon. Parents often resent this repeated misbehavior and connect even less with their child.

Changing this pattern starts with realizing: My kids have a God-given need for my intense attention! It’s an important part of bonding. This is especially true of more challenging kids. They are looking for an “intensity match” to their big emotions.

Anxiety and Control: Partners in Parenting Crime

Will my kids choose good friends? Will they do well academically? Will they make wise choices when I’m not around to guide them? It’s normal to consider questions like these. However, if the answer is “no” to any of those reflective questions, anxiety can begin to rise and often a parent’s effort to control their child rises right along with it. It’s the brain’s natural coping response – when feeling internally out of control, we try to take charge of the situation to feel less anxious. This kind of reaction can become problematic, because we are not wise or helpful parents when we’re anxious and controlling. (Imagine how it would feel to have a boss at work engaging with a dip in your performance by anxiously reading your emails and checking every report!)

Anxiety and Control
The Anxiety and Control Cycle

Anxiety and Control are partners in crime. They rob us of joy, contentment and peace. They rob our kids of encouragement and independence. In my parenting, and as I’ve coached parents over the years, I’ve noticed the spiraling impact of anxiety and control:

The more anxious I am about my child, the more likely I am to project a negative future for them, and the more likely they are to begin living out that projection. This makes it easy it is for me to rationalize doing things for them that they ought to be responsible for themselves, which builds their resentment and resistance towards me, which feeds my anxiety… and the beat goes on.

Meet A Connected Families Parent Coach:

Chad Hayenga

Chad Hayenga

Connected Families provides coaching for parents all over the world.  Meet Chad Hayenga, one of the Parent Coaches and our director of Coaching who makes a difference in the lives of the people he serves.

 When did you become a Parenting Coach for Connected Families?

I began coaching with Connected Families in 2012. Previously, I had worked as a marriage and family therapist for Connected Families. After a number of years providing therapy, often times to teenagers, I became frustrated that I was mostly teaching coping skills to teens rather than changing the family dynamic. It was at that point, I shifted to working almost exclusively with parents. Parents have such an enormous impact on their kids and when parents change, kids usually change as well.

Can you tell us a little about your background?

I’ve been married 23 years and have three daughters (22, 19, 15). I have a masters degree in counseling psychology and a certification in life coaching. I spent 10 years working with a ministry to at-risk teens before coming to CF.

What is your role as a coach for Connected Families?

I am the director of the coaching program at Connected Families. I am actively coaching a number of parents at any given time, but I’m also working to train other coaches who believe in our parenting model so they too, can become parent coaches using our life-changing framework.

What is your greatest passion when it comes to coaching families?

I absolutely love the time in a coaching session when a light bulb turns on for the parents. Often times it is the Holy Spirit showing them something about how God sees them as a parent or how God sees their children. When the parents’ perspective changes and they begin to focus on things they can control, amazing things happen.

What is the best part about coaching?

The best part about coaching is seeing parents develop a plan for becoming the parents they want to be and hearing how that plan has changed the direction of their family. It’s just awesome!

Learn more about Connected Families parent coaching. 

How I made huge parenting progress with less effort

Often, there are “lightbulb moments” that occur when parents come to us for coaching. Here is a great story shared by one client, Jerry, about his own epiphany regarding what it meant for him to be a father. You’ll be challenged and encouraged by the surprising turnaround that happened from one simple but deep insight that occured during coaching. He realized what changes he needed to make in his parenting to experience the relationships he longed for with his kids.

How I made huge parenting progress with less effort.

Jerry explains:

My wife and I were in the midst of a Skype session with our coach Chad. We were discussing issues regarding the way I have responded to my children’s misbehavior. As we were talking, I reflected on my own father and the relationship that he and I had when I was growing up.

Biblical Discipline

An Out of the Box Perspective (Connected Families Post from DesiringGod.org)

Biblical Discipline (1)

Disciplining our kids is usually the most frustrating, confusing part of parenting. The stakes are high, because what kids learn when they are disciplined will last a lifetime. In our work with parents, we have seen that well-intentioned efforts often miss kids’ hearts as parents struggle to figure out, “What is ‘biblical discipline,’ and how do I do it?”

As parents tackle this issue, we have found it extremely valuable to shift our focus from a few controversial proof texts to consider a broader view of biblical instruction on this matter. We’ve found it helpful to ask two questions in particular:

How did God the Father discipline key Old Testament saints that clearly had a “father-child” relationship with him?

What do we learn from Jesus’s response to struggling sinners?

What Transformed this Pastor’s Parenting

How do we begin to be set free from life-long patterns of rigidity and control that affect lots of areas in our parenting lives? I remember when the kids would make endless A photo by Ben White. unsplash.com/photos/9O1oQ9SzQZQmesses or bicker repeatedly – it would drive me nuts! I just wanted it to stop. So I would engage with angst and negativity, and wonder why it wasn’t helping. Jim would ask me the question, “What are you going to do to be ok if they don’t change?” I hated the question. It made me even madder. But it was a good question. As I learned to look first at myself and my let go of my need for control, I could let God’s peace begin to infuse our challenges. I was able to engage with much more wisdom, insight, and even creativity, and became more effective in my parenting. I had to change my perspective about what was happening to me spiritually as a parent.  It changed the way I disciplined. I began working toward long-term lifechange in my kids by starting with change in my own heart.

David Mathis, executive editor at DesiringGod.org, an online Christian website, and pastor at Cities Church in Minneapolis, shared how he made a small change in the way he viewed his role as a parent after taking the online Discipline That Connects course, and he shares below about how a shift in his thinking led to some big changes in the way he thought of himself as a parent…as well as how he thought of his children.