Parenting is tough these days. And parents seem to be trying harder than ever to get it right.
You read books as time allows. You stay up, sometimes for hours, researching articles on the internet. You give it everything you’ve got. You see glimpses of progress, but you continue seeing the same issues, the same misbehavior, the same fights repeat themselves over and over again — maybe even growing slowly more troublesome. And you know your family is capable of so much more.
You just can’t seem to get there.
John was fed up. Like many parents, he came to me looking for a quick fix. No matter what consequences or logic John put in place, his 6th grade son Ben just wouldn’t take responsibility for getting himself up and moving, and out the door on time for school.
He told me that everything he’d tried had failed.
Rather than talking about the behavior, I asked him, “Does Ben know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you love him?”
As a young dad, I was taught that “delayed obedience is disobedience,” and that kids should be required to immediately obey all parental requests. I disciplined accordingly, knowing that having obedient kids was a good goal. And, if I’m honest with myself, I liked the feeling of control and validation that came with having obedient kids.
When our kids disobeyed, I was quick to respond with a rebuke and a consequence. Our oldest son Daniel was particularly strong-willed and defiant, and I was particularly hard on him. But my approach didn’t have the desired effect. As he grew from toddler to preschooler, Daniel grew more irritated by my discipline, and his general demeanor started becoming more angry and testy. I intensified efforts to “nip this in the bud” by using the commonly recommended practices for requiring obedience. The firmly delivered phrase, “Daniel, delayed obedience is disobedience, and you’ll be disciplined if you don’t obey immediately,” was commonplace. Sometimes he complied, and sometimes he did not, but we were both generally discouraged by the process.
When kids become teens, they start acting like they don’t need us. If we don’t understand why they’re doing this, and figure out ways to respond gracefully, we risk building resentment in the relationship.
It helps to understand that teens who push us away may be merely expressing a normal developmental stage in the best way they know how. After all, it’s their job to become their own person, and become more responsible for their lives. When parents find ways to keep love alive, even during this sometimes tense stage of life, they have their best shot at helping their kids launch confidently in just a few years.
Check out this video (made in partnership with Family Life Canada) to learn more.
Research has shown that being bored is not such a bad thing for kids. Boredom can foster creativity and patience. Yet, when a parent hears that tired phrase, “I’m bored!” again and again, we may feel the need to fix the boredom problem, and keep our kids happy and busy. Does this work? Possibly. But, only if you are trying to fix the problem in the short term. Once the activity or event is over, the familiar whine resurfaces. How do we beat boredom once and for all with kids, while at the same time teach them some important life skills? Read the story below about my interaction with a seven-year-old family friend, and consider these four tips to beat boredom in your own family.
Josie looked at me (the “fun guy” at the table) as she announced with conviction, “I’m bored!”
We were at an outdoor restaurant, and she had finished eating before the rest of us.
I’ve been thinking a lot about you lately. You see, Lynne and I have this amazing opportunity to speak to groups of parents all over the country. Most of these workshops, however, are filled with a majority of moms. We love connecting and encouraging moms!
To be honest, though, I’m often nervous about the conversation that happens after these events. I can just imagine the dad on the receiving end feeling like he is being dumped on with new-found parenting wisdom. I also know that sometimes things get lost in translation. I find myself wishing that I could be talking to the dad too.
With that in mind, I sat down to record an overview of our parenting framework, thinking specifically of dads. These are ideas that Lynne and I developed over decades of working with families, and ideas I wish I knew better when I was a young dad.
“I want it! Can I have it? I want it NOW!”
Regardless of how articulate your teen or toddler may be, most parents are familiar with variations of this demand. When we hear this from our kids we’re inclined to quickly pronounce, “No!” and the fight or flight game is on. The two options we’ve given our kids are to 1) give in or 2) dig in and fight. When our kids give in, it’s not because they understand our logic or reasoning, it’s because they know they can’t win the fight. More often, however, they dig in and the power struggle intensifies.
The truth is, whether kids give in or not, simply pronouncing “No!” misses a great opportunity to help a child learn responsibility and wisdom, and our quick, firm refusal may also provoke an even stronger compulsion to get stuff as a way of feeling significant.
So consider this approach instead:
Many discouraged parents have asked us this question: How should we respond to our child who doubts the reality of God?
When children suggest “there is no God” it’s natural for parents to immediately try to convince them otherwise. It’s a good intention, but one that often deepens the chasm between kids’ doubts and their movement toward God. If this is your reality, understand that there is probably little you can say, (because they’ve probably heard all the arguments before) but much that you can DO to make it safe for your kids to struggle back toward Jesus when they have doubts.
“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:
Over the years, Lynne and I have worked with many families who struggle with the same issues. Time and again, we see how a change in perspective can transform a parent-child relationship from one of tension to one filled with grace. When it comes to school, grades and performance, there is often a minefield of conflict over expectations. Parents often believe that they need to create change in their child to see improvement in work ethic and performance when it comes to grades. The truth is, change best starts with the parent.
Read on to learn how one mother and daughter set aside conflict and embraced grace for homework success without nagging:
Misty anxiously told me about her seventh grade daughter, Greta.
“Her grades are tanking! She’s sassy and defiant most of the time! I know she is capable of so much more, but she won’t dig in and live up to her potential. I check her grades every day. I’ve withheld privileges, created charts, offered rewards, and constantly reminded her. But it keeps getting worse. Our fights get louder by the day!”
When you’re constantly fighting with kids who don’t live up to their potential, we suggest a new approach, a new fight: the fight of faith to walk in the “fruit of the spirit.”