Most of us agree that respect is an important skill to build in children which will empower them for their entire life. Whether it is for future work or family relationships, having the ability to set aside frustrations and grievances out of respect for one another is a life skill that will serve our children well. But, teaching respect and teamwork is a “ground up” operation. When kids are young they struggle to find ways to compromise and get along. It can be frustrating as parents, to know how to guide our children in respectful interactions with us as well as with each other.
One couple I (Lynne) recently coached, Don and Layna, were discouraged about the disrespectful language between the children in their home. They worried that things were not trending well and, with four kids, they had a lot of challenges! Their intense daughter, Alicia, especially seemed to struggle with respect, and often fired hurtful verbal zingers at her siblings and parents.
Kids make messes. Parents ask and ask (and it really sounds like nagging) their kids to take responsibility for their things and it seems like it is hard to come up with a strategy that works. At Connected Families, we believe that there is a gift behind every misbehavior. It’s true! It might be hard to see how your kids’ messiness could be a gift, but with intentionality, and a change in perspective, both parent and child can often come to a solution that eliminates the nagging and encourages the child in her gifts.
I worked with a family recently that came up with a very practical suggestion for helping kids manage their messes, and it seemed to work. Read the following to spur your own ideas for helping your children through a particularly challenging behavior. Whether it is a messy bedroom, messy entryway, missed or lost homework, forgotten chores– consider how you might adapt this family’s solution to your own special circumstances.
Emma is one of those sunny, lively kids that spreads joy and laughter wherever she goes, along with a trail of mess–a testimony to her creativity (the gift she has). Since Emma has a sister who shares the art supplies, it was difficult to enforce consequences like putting the mess/supplies into a timeout for a few days. Each of the girls were perpetually waiting for the other one to clean up after the supplies had been used. The old adage, “If everyone’s responsible, no one’s responsible” applied well to this situation.
One of the best times to show love to your kids is when they are misbehaving. Anger, frustration and lecturing are standard reactions to a kid who does something wrong, but do they work to change behavior? I worked with many troubled kids before I co-founded Connected Families with Lynne and learned quite a few things about the messages kids receive (and don’t receive) when they are getting a consequence. Many kids who did something wrong, already defined themselves as “bad.” Undeserving of love. Yet, this is not how God responds to our sin, even when we are at our worst. (See Romans 3:23-24.)
Kids fight. Sibling conflict is a reality in just about every family. It is hard to know how to parent with wisdom and confidence in the middle of a battle over who has the most space in the backseat or who got the bigger piece of cake. These kinds of fights seem to happen every day and wear parents out the most because they seem to ramp up so quickly. Suddenly, the fight is no longer about the seat space or the cake but about bigger issues–like selfishness or your child’s character. Things can get out of hand pretty quickly and it is hard to know how to respond to conflict in a way that promotes growth and peace instead of hurt and anger. Many parents feel stuck in defeating patterns when their kids are fighting. Perhaps it is time to think about new ways to help with sibling conflict.
Connected Families developed this 4-level framework to help parents rethink about sibling conflict from a place of wisdom and confidence.
Take a look at this 5-minute video which teaches about a helpful approach to look at the ways that conflict can be an opportunity to build wisdom.
Some highlights from the video:
Attempts at solving sibling conflict by implementing a formula of “Apologize, go to your room, and don’t come out until you are ready to be nice,” often are counterproductive.
We learned to change our perspective about misbehavior and began to think of things like conflict as an opportunity to build long-term skills and wisdom in our kids.
We began to realize that our homes and our families needed to have connectionin order to thrive.
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We are a big deal. Our kids look up to us in a unique way. They need our affirmation and approval. Statistics show that kids who get a father’s love tend to soar well into the world, and those who don’t tend to struggle. Consider that. Perhaps this is why the Bible speaks so specifically to fathers. (see Col. 3:21, Ephesians 6:4, Prov. 20:7)
My own dad had no idea what a big deal he was. He thought our mom was the cat’s pajamas when it came to parenting (and she was pretty awesome), so he left her to take care of most of the affirmation and approval stuff. He did typical dad things: we fished, golfed, watched football and laughed together some. Yet, Dad wasn’t one to put constructive words to his feelings. His silence left me wondering. Even though he loved and cared for me deeply, I came to believe that in Dad’s eyes I was a disappointment; that he didn’t love me. I made a lot of destructive choices in my teen years perhaps because I was looking for a reassurance of my father’s love.
Are you feeling a little fear and trepidation about your kids’ free time this summer and the issues it brings?Summertime means long stretches of downtime. It also means that computer, television, and smartphone screens are an appealing way to fill that time for most children. Maybe you are a little worried about the seemingly inevitable clashes over technology and screen use. It can be hard to know how to pull little (and big) eyes away from the draw of the flickering screen and how to create some memories that will last and be more meaningful than anything an online experience can offer. Managing screen time is a challenge for many families.
Brenda is a mom of three who follows our teaching closely. She shared this great story about how she dealt with technology obsession with the kids in her home.
Two summers ago we had such conflicts over screen time in our home it drove me crazy. My kids were determined to get their hands on some manner of glowing device – no matter what. I was equally determined they not rot their young brains with it, and the battle was on. So last summer I tried something bold. I told the kids there were no specific technology time limits for the summer. (Could that really work?!) You may even have a knot in your stomach reading about such a reckless plan. But it did indeed work incredibly well, and it’s our plan again this summer!
What were the secrets that made for such an amazing turn-around in this family’s screen time power-struggles using such a counter-intuitive approach? They are listed here in order of increasing importance:
It’s summer again, and you know what that means: a totally different rhythm to schedules and family time, with lots of time for connection… and conflict.
There are long, glorious days ahead: sunshine, free time and the slower pace of summer means that you can create lasting family memories. It also means more time for tempers to flare–yours and your kids’–when expectations for a great memory-worthy summer don’t happen the way we imagined. We don’t want you to feel like you are just biding your time until school returns. You can make the most of your family time this summer, and make it the best summer yet with grace and connection.
We thought we’d help you kick off your summer by re-sharing one of our favorite summer posts — 4 tips to help you retain your parenting sanity this summer.
Developing empathy for others is one of the greatest gifts we can give our kids. It’s a “must have” if we want to equip them for healthy intimate relationships in life.
Every child is capable of learning empathy, but it can be quite difficult to learn (especially if your child is experiencing a lot of anxiety and stress in life).
In fact, often we expect our kids to just “know” how to be empathetic, even when things are stressful. In the heat of conflict, I may ask, “Do you know how [your sibling] feels right now!?” and expect my child to be able to give an insightful answer.
If our kids really could respond insightfully at that point, they might say something like this: “Regretfully, I don’t know how my sibling feels. My brain is in a fight/flight state, and my amygdala has shut down what little there is of my still quite immature frontal lobe, including the section* where I can process empathy. So my sister might as well be speaking Wookie.”
Clearly, the starting point for teaching kids empathy is not in the heat of the moment.
We learned this pretty quickly with our kids. Our oldest son, Daniel, was dealing with the stress of an extremely gifted brain and intense emotions. He didn’t easily “step into another person’s shoes” or perspective, especially when upset. Bethany generally understood others’ feelings but had difficulty verbalizing her own during conflict resolution. Our youngest, Noah, was a happy-go-lucky guy who simply didn’t think about feelings a lot. We had our work cut out for us.
We learned some practical ways to help all our kids develop the rich emotional insight that has equipped them for wonderful relationships in life – with each other and others. The framework that guided us in our early years was particularly helpful in this challenge of developing empathy.
Let’s take a look at how each level of the Framework informs our approach to developing empathy in our kids.