Valentine’s Day and anniversaries are often viewed as a barometer for our romantic relationship. But it’s NOT roses and romance a couple days a year that define a relationship — it’s the deep commitment to fight for connection no matter what.
— ROUND 1 —
Jim’s and my 25th anniversary evening was an adventure to say the least. Jim planned a boat outing on a nearby lake, and packed sumptuous hors’ d’oeuvres. I had composed a song about the joy of our journey and would surprise him when the mood was right. As we hit the lake the wind kicked up and was soon blowing 40 MPH! This hampered our ability to freely cruise the shoreline, so we headed for the protected side of an island and made a wonderful campfire.
Almost every parent yells. Some more than others. Regrettably, I (Jim) was probably on the side of more than average yelling. It went something like this:
My child did or said something I didn’t like and I felt irritated. In my irritation I said in a firm voice, “Stop it!” It wasn’t technically yelling, but may as well have been. My child felt my negative energy and matched or maybe exceeded my volume. Repeat. Then, as the volume increased, since I was the biggest, scariest yeller, I usually ended up defeating my child. I eventually got what I wanted and figured I’d won.
Until it kept happening and the kids grew colder toward me.
As a parent coach for the last decade, I (Lynne) have never met one parent that feels good about habitually yelling at their kids. One client named Dave* summarized what I often hear: “I came from a long line of yellers, and I’m doing the same thing. I’d really like to stop, but it’s harder than I thought.” Like so many parents, Dave’s good intentions weren’t enough. The triggers kept triggering and Dave kept yelling, until he learned a few new ideas to help break the cycle.
Yelling. Screaming. Hurtful words. Sometimes even aggression. How did we get here?!
Not what you envisioned when you decided to have kids!
Many of the parents we coach are desperate to change the frequency and intensity of anger in their home, but they just don’t know how. We haven’t met a parent or child yet who says, “I just love getting angry. It makes me feel great.” Of course not. It’s stressful, discouraging, wreaks havoc in relationships… So WHY do people keep exploding?
Four “payoffs” that make anger really addictive!
Anger researcher Leon F. Seltzer Ph.D. identifies four addictive “payoffs,” (benefits), that build habitual, angry reactions.
1. Anger protects us from disclosing vulnerable emotions.
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.
“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” – Jeremiah 29:13
I remember the sign on the men’s dorm wall during my freshman year at a Christian college.
A spiritual disciplines checklist was posted for us to keep track of our “progress” (monitored by a well-meaning resident assistant). I am wired for variety, not daily routines, and I felt ashamed every time I missed checking off the boxes in the “Jim J.” section: daily devotional time, prayer, fellowship, witnessing, tithing. (At least I got tithing – 10% of 0 income.)
I felt ashamed that I wasn’t measuring up, even to the point of checking boxes just so no one would know that I wasn’t making very good Christian progress. Good thing there was no box to check about honesty.
You know you shouldn’t have lost your temper in a recent conflict with a loved one. But you did. To resolve the aftermath, you prayed for forgiveness and reconciled thoroughly with the one you wronged. Then why do you feel like your soul is weighed down under a heap of rocks as you replay the interaction over and over?
What you might be feeling is shame, which is vastly different than guilt. Read about the differences below and how you might talk about this with your kids.
I plopped down on the couch with a friend and lamented about my latest parenting challenge. “I just need to learn to calmly follow through with a clear consequence. I keep getting in this nagging cycle. I need to stop it!”
My statement was similar to a hundred others I’d made or have heard other parents make about parenting such as…
- “I need to be more patient.”
- “I need to learn to stand my ground when my kids start whining.”
- “I need to not let them push my buttons so much!”
My friend looked at me with a sly grin. “You need to learn that? Or do you want to learn that?”
“Huh? I dunno. I guess I want to,” dutifully picking the apparent right answer from her little multiple choice question. She relieved my obvious confusion by explaining that when we tell ourselves we need to change, it is rooted in anxiety and a shame-based belief: “I’m not okay as I am, so if I don’t change, I’ve failed.” This kind of thinking is a burden on our souls, weighed down by every new instance of failure that proves our defects.
Every day, the staff of Connected Families goes to work, seeking the wisdom of God, and shaping our resources to fit what we think our readers, parents like you, need most. We spend hours writing, editing, and discussing our content, making sure we do our best to communicate God’s grace and truth for families. At the end of the day, we hear from you through comments on our social media feeds, or through email responses, but we don’t know for sure what lands most until the end of the year when we take a look at our stats.
What did parents of 2017 find most relevant for their family? What parenting resources were they frequently seeking out on the internet? The algorithms have been crunched, and below are the top five blog posts clicked most often in 2017 in descending order. Which one resonates most for you? We’d love to hear!
And then, share your favorite article with your friends or parenting groups you are part of! Our marketing dollars are limited, and word of mouth is simply the best!
5. Six Practical Tips to Tame Your Temper
4. Intense Kids: The Essential First Step in Responding to Big Emotions
3. Helping Kids with their Anger: A creative activity to reduce outbursts and prepare kids for healthy relationships
2. Should We Demand Immediate Obedience?
1. Are You An Emotionally Safe Parent?
Messes. You’re likely surrounded by a bunch of them. Piles of dishes in the kitchen. Wrapping paper on the floor. Tired and over-sugared children. Stressed relationships. Just like parenting, Christmas is both messy, and beautiful.
Today we celebrate Jesus coming into our messy, beautiful world. To meet us exactly where we are and to draw us into a relationship with God, our heavenly Father.
At Connected Families, we strive every day to meet parents exactly where they are in their parenting journey. To meet them in the mess. To encourage, to challenge. To celebrate and see the beauty in even the smallest parenting successes.
Our deepest heart’s desire is for parents to embrace God’s grace so they can pass that grace onto their children in the messiest of messes. And then, prayerfully, kids will be attracted to a relationship with Christ as they see their parents living out their faith in the messes and the beauty of daily life.
Whether you’ve been following Connected Families for years or are new to our mailing list (welcome!) we are honored to join you in your parenting journey. We wish you and your loved ones a beautiful Christmas celebration.
Jim and Lynne Jackson
You’re in the game aisle at the store, visualizing the wonderful memories you’ll create with your family during Game Night. You bring the game home and reality hits:
“I hate this game!”
“It’s not fair!”
“I’m not playing anymore!” Swish, and the game goes flying.
Hard to believe, but board games have great learning potential for kids. Depending on the game, kids can develop valuable skills: sequencing, planning, problem-solving, direction following, waiting/turn-taking/delay of gratification, teamwork, and resilience when things don’t go their way.
Do you have a bunch of rules for your kids? No hitting. No whining. No screens before homework is done. No messes in the living room. Having rules provides structure, and some basic ones are essential.
When your kids struggle with obeying the rules, do you ever try to regain control by making more rules or making the penalties for breaking them harsher? And even though your intentions may be good, do your kids get more resentful and rebellious? We’ve often heard parents say things like, “It doesn’t matter what I take away; this kid is just defiant!”