Changing Your Parenting When Change is Hard

Three research based tips when you feel stuck

Changing Your Parenting When Change is Hard (1)We still remember our early days of feeling stuck in our parenting challenges, unhealthy dynamics, and hurtful habits. So we’re passionate to help all parents who feel that same way! As you think about making for a better future, we want to help you with three principles adapted from a research based book, Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard, by brothers Chip and Dan Heath.

1. Launch from your successes!
Trying to “fix” your failures can cause discouragement that makes change difficult. Focusing on what goes well in your home is a great way to start positive change because you are building on a skill you already know. Looking back on the past, ask yourself these questions:

  • When did I thoroughly enjoy my child(ren)?
  • When was I peaceful and wise while disciplining?
  • When did I teach a value or skill in a way that my child(ren) enjoyed learning?

Then ask yourself, ‘How did I do this?” Be as specific as you can be about what you did. Your answer is very important because it tells you what you already know how to do. Once you know what you’ve done before, you can be intentional about doing it more.

2. Think small, specific and practical.
Lofty, general goals tend to get lost over time. “Connect more with my kids” will likely disappear from your radar within a few weeks. But scheduling one Saturday morning a month into your new calendar for a date with any one of your children will be doable and easy to remember. A resolution to “stay calm when disciplining” is intangible and vague. But a goal to tell your kids that you’re going to work to 1) notice when your voice starts to raise, and 2) say, “I’m going to think about this and we’ll talk in a few minutes,” is small, specific, and practical. It’s a goal you can invite your family to help you achieve. As a side benefit, this kind of vulnerable invitation models humility and commitment for your children, and they will be more likely to gradually learn from your example to monitor their own raised voices.

3. Make the new path easy to follow.
Effectively forming new habits begins by doing concrete, even visible things in your environment to prompt the change. For example: If your goal is to have that monthly date, and one of your children loves smoothies, you could buy a coffee shop card right now and set it on your child’s dresser or window sill as a reminder. An example of working towards calm discipline: One mom carried a small lotion bottle in her pocket. She resolved to rub lotion into her hands while she prayed for insight about how to wisely respond to a child’s misbehavior.

To review, remember these three questions to help you make parenting changes you can keep: 

  • How could I do more of whatever parenting success I’ve noted?
  • What is a specific, doable parenting goal I could share with my family?
  • What could be a helpful (even visible) prompt to jump start the new habit?

Take a minute to put your feet up. Take a breath. Ask the Lord right now how He wants to stretch, free and bless you in your parenting this year.

As you pursue lasting growth in your parenting, seek the Lord for his powerful, never-give-up-on-you grace — grace for you when you struggle, and grace for your kids when they struggle. Change can be difficult. But God is always faithful.

We’d love to hear your thoughts and goals, so comment below or email us and we will pray for you as you embark on improving your parenting by forming new habits.

Jim and Lynne Jackson
Co-Founders of Connected Families

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