Parents love giving their kids good gifts. And kids love receiving them! As we explain in our Entitlement Fix Online Course, the gift-giving experience can be an exciting dopamine burst (our body’s reward/pleasure chemical) for everyone! It can be fun at first, but over time the joy can quickly give way to a sense of entitlement.
Add to the mix a highly sophisticated advertising industry aimed at shaping the values of kids in order to influence their buying habits. One study reported that children under 14 influenced as much as 47% of American household spending. It is estimated that advertisers spend more than $12 billion per year to reach the youth market and that children view more than 40,000 commercials each year. These figures represent dramatic increases over those from the 1970s. They communicate a subtle and troubling message: “You need this toy (or food) to be happy.” These advertisers gauge not only how to shape your kids’ buying habits, but their identity: “You’re the coolest when you have our product!”
Large family holiday gatherings can be tough for lots of reasons. Over-stimulated, over-sugared, over-excited and under-slept kids are simply going to struggle. But there may also be some relational dynamics that complicate things when you all get together. See if you relate to this pattern:
- You feel anxious around the watchful, possibly critical eye of parents or other relatives.
- You work harder to keep kids in line and are tougher on them than usual.
- Your kids (who are already extra stressed) sense your angst and act up more.
- Gramma or Grampa (or others) intervene to keep youngsters in line, with good intentions but unhelpful strategies.
- You feel embarrassed, undermined, and maybe frustrated or resentful.
- Kids watch the power struggle between the adults and are left feeling more stressed and insecure than ever.
Is the holiday stew smelling rotten yet? If so, this post is for you.
“So, kids, what are you thankful for this Thanksgiving?” you ask.
“My family, my house, my friends, my dog and Jesus.” (Same answers as last year….)
If you think your kids might be open to some deeper thinking this year, we’ve provided a handful of conversation starters about gratitude. We invite you try any or all of them and put a little bigger dose of gratitude in your Thanksgiving season:
When our child gets teased, battered and bullied by another child’s hurtful words, we parents are inclined to step in and fix it by saying things like, “Oh honey, that’s not true.” Or, “You don’t deserve that.” Or maybe we’ll criticize the aggressor (especially if that aggressor is an older sibling). Quick fix responses like this may settle things down in the short-term, but keep parents in the role of managing all the difficult emotions instead of empowering their kids. This article will teach you how to equip your kids to filter through what others say to them and respond wisely instead of cover their hurt feelings with anger.
We’ve coached many parents how to equip their kids with wisdom to assess the value of what others say to them. You too can help your children learn to place the things others say to them in one of three categories: Trash, Truth and Treasure.
If you are reading this, you probably want your kids to know how much you love them. And you probably tell them often that you do. But effectively communicating love is not always so simple. How can we be sure that what we mean as love is received as love? It can take insight, determination and creativity to communicate love messages in ways children can’t miss them.
I’d HAD it! I was sick of this aggravating behavior, day after day. I stopped in my tracks, glared at the little one who was driving me crazy, and yelled at the top of my lungs, STOP IT!!
Do you relate to this? Has this happened in your home? It happened in ours.
But this wasn’t an incident from my early parenting of three crazy kids, it was this spring, and the little offender was a red winged black bird.
Seriously. I screamed at… a BIRD.
“I’m bored. No one wants to play with me. I hate my classes and that teacher. I’m no good at anything! Everything is just dumb!”
Kids can be pretty good at complaining and crabbing their way to get parents’ attention. And to make matters worse (if you’re anything like I was as a young parent), parents’ well-intended responses often upset kids more, and the snowball of negativity keeps on growing. Like this:
When kids (and adults) experience tangled and confusing emotions that are difficult to express, what often comes out is anger. It feels vulnerable to be anxious, ashamed, sad, embarrassed, disappointed, discouraged, overwhelmed, confused, hurt or rejected. A typical response is to self-protect by avoiding or hiding those emotions under a layer of anger. We may not even be aware of those emotions. Unfortunately, when what we show is our anger, that’s usually what we get back from others, and it escalates the conflict instead of solving it.
Helping kids understand this emotional dynamic can be a challenge. We’ve designed a fun activity for you, adaptable for different ages or learning styles to equip your kids with the insight they’ll need for less meltdowns now, and healthy relationships in the future.
If you have an intense child (or know someone who does), watch this short video, produced in partnership with FamilyLife Canada. You’ll learn what might be going on with your intense child that is driving his/her difficulty. And then make sure to read the story below about a family who put these insights into practice.
An Intense Child from FamilyLife Canada on Vimeo.
Rich and Paige* came for coaching because they were very concerned and frustrated by one of their kids who was particularly intense. In their first session, most parents want to immediately brainstorm responses to try to stop the behavior. It’s typical in our coaching process, however, to start with the essential first step: looking below the surface to discover what was going on in parents’ hearts. We discovered that when their son Leo had one of his meltdowns, or expressed big dramatic emotions, his parents’ thoughts revealed their frustration and judgments. As we talked, they were grieved that through both their verbal and non-verbal communication, Leo was most surely feeling the message, ‘Leo is a problem.’ As we talked, we pinpointed thought processes such as:
- Seriously, where does this come from? I shouldn’t have to deal with this, he’s just being ridiculous.
- When he acts like that, it drains my desire to be affectionate with him.
- He’s so different from me. I don’t relate to this kind of behavior at all.
- He’s just trying to get our attention.
We began to talk about general reasons why intense kids have big reactions, which are covered in the video above, as well as specific reasons that Leo might be struggling. We looked thoroughly at Rich and Paige’s beliefs about their son, and their level of heart connection with him.
In their second coaching session, Rich and Paige were much more peaceful. They talked about their growing compassion for their son, their increased joy and connection with him, and how much better he was doing. Their beliefs were now:
- My son needs my help to learn to handle his difficult emotions.
- I really want to do what I can to guide him away from his “black sheep of the family” identity.
- I so value the increased connection and joy in our relationship as I’ve prioritized that, and I think it’s really meeting a deep need for him.
- It’s wonderful to see him more encouraged about himself.
The next time your intense child has big emotions, ask the Holy Spirit for insight into your thoughts, beliefs and possible judgments. Rather than trying to figure out what to do in these situations to stop the behavior, consider what’s really going on in your child, and how you can meet their deeper needs.
Take 10 to 15 minutes to find out your strengths and challenges with our free parenting assessment.
You’ve likely heard the wise advice to give two choices to help empower kids and significantly decrease power struggles. What you may not have heard is how kids often feel “trapped” by the choices parents present to them.
In partnership with Family Life Canada, we produced a number of short videos. Watch to learn how the choices you give your kids might empower them….or make them feel trapped.