Have you ever wondered what your family is “all about”? I asked this of coaching clients Ted and Dawn recently. They had come seeking help because their kids seemed ever more defiant, selfish, and irresponsible.
Eager to understand their family I asked them, “What would your kids say are the driving values you want to be sure they learn in your home? You know, how would they answer the question, ‘What is our family all about?’” Ted and Dawn weren’t sure. So I invited them to role play it with me. I played them and they played their kids. It went something like this:
Have you ever directed an angry child to go punch a pillow, hoping that would provide some release of their frustration? Parents have even bought their angry kids punching bags in hopes it will help. Good idea. Bad plan. It turns out this usually backfires.
Here’s why: Punching a pillow or yelling loudly to let off steam does nothing to constructively direct the anger. It gets a kid all worked up, adrenaline flowing, with no real resolution to their anger. After the punching and yelling are done, the problem is still there, and the child has learned to aggressively vent their anger at something they’re not really angry at. This usually teaches kids to be passive aggressive.
So if your idea is to truly help your kids constructively express their anger, help them make a plan that involves expressing it at the object of their anger. Help them learn new skills for constructively expressing anger.
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 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 case study below and consider these four tips to beat boredom in your own family.
“I’m bored!” young Josie announced with conviction.
We were at an outdoor restaurant and she had finished eating before me.
My “keep people happy” value kicked in, and right away I felt an urgency to “fix” her boredom. I immediately started looking for something she could do. There were no crayons at the table, no booklets to page through and no playground near, and there was no way I was going to let her play with my phone. Josie sat impatiently, waiting for me to somehow magically solve her problem. And then it dawned on me.
This was Josie’s problem, not mine.
But I was doing all the brain work to solve it. Realizing that simple fact helped me choose a different course.
Did you know that one of the most critical times for a parent to affirm a child’s talents is when they misbehave? It’s true. We are all born with giftedness–but even good gifts can get twisted by sin (Romans 7:21 reminds us, “When I want to do good, evil is right there with me.”). The challenge for parents is identifying the “gifts” within the misbehavior; what we call “Gifts Gone Awry.”
Gifts That Have Gone Awry
All talents or gifts can be used for God’s purposes, but they can also be distorted by selfishness and sin and used to serve misbehavior. When this happens, the gift is still present, but it’s gone awry. To punish the misbehavior without affirming the talent behind it may both reinforce the child’s identification with the sin (I’m bad!) and stifle or weaken the talent’s use in honorable ways. It is therefore critical when correcting a child’s misbehavior to also affirm and find a positive use of the gift that fueled it.
Need help identifying the gift behind your child’s stubborness or stealing? It can be tough, but here are some examples of common misbehaviors and some gifts/talents that tend to drive them.
Does your child sometimes unexpectedly meltdown at the drop of a hat? Does unexpected change or inflexibility lead to frequent tantrums? If so, you’re not alone! As a parent helping kids sort out their frustrations can be a challenge, especially when they have a tantrum that ramps up quickly. Practical tools that help a child understand how their behavior affects others can be simple, like the following example from Jen and her son Jonah.
Despite Jen’s best efforts, her goal of trying to stop her son’s meltdowns just seemed to make them worse. After realizing that she needed to be more proactive instead of waiting for those inevitable outbursts, Jen worked with Lynne during a parent coaching session on a new plan. Here is her story:
The Key to Avoiding Entitlement:
Are you unknowingly too child-centered?
We wrote recently about the problem of entitlement among children — about how many well-meaning parents, without thinking about it much, have become too child-centered. The article struck a nerve. Some felt offended or were defensive, while most strongly agreed but asked for more ideas about how to keep their kids from feeling entitled.
Do everything…so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe. Philippians 2:14-15.
The kids jumped up from their chairs, held hands and bounced with anticipation, a scene right off the finals of American Idol, X-Factor, or a beauty pageant. But this was not a TV competition; it was the audition and selection process for the children’s musical at our church.
The fifth and sixth graders had spontaneously jumped out of their chairs when we started to announce the cast assignments. It never dawned on me that kids in my church would behave as if we were awarding a million dollar prize to the one chosen to play the lead in the Christmas play.
I was shocked. I was angry. I was naive.
Doing chores is an important part of growing up, according to researchers. Doing everyday jobs promotes community and a sense of well-being. But, we are asking our kids to do less and less to help. Sometimes, we just do a chore ourselves, because it is easier. Or, because our kids are so busy with outside activities and school work, we hesitate to ask them to pitch in. Remember, the Connected Families framework? A parent’s job after showing their kids they are safe and loved is to raise capable children who will grow into responsible adults. Kids’ chores are an important part of family life. Here are some ideas for getting your kids involved around home.
Any aged kid can do chores.
We’ve seen two-year-olds taught to do chores. In fact – here’s a picture of our former housemate’s son Eli at age two years and two months, posing for a picture of the table he set by himself.
How did it work?
Early Job Training Produces More Than Money.
Former CF staff member Brian Houts shared this story of teaching responsibility through mowing lawns with us.
It’s ugly. It’s a gray lawnmower with a 5 horsepower Tecumseh engine and a 20 inch deck. The perfect balance of size and power for a… 10 year old?
Buy a lawnmower for a 10 year old? Why not? My son Jacob continually asks me for money (sound familiar?) and continually aspires to buy things from new baseball equipment to new video games. So, what do you do? I could give him a big allowance, but that would just teach him that money grows on trees. I figured it was high time he learn some real-life responsibility.