Coaching parents has been the greatest joy in my professional life! I’ve seen countless kids’ lives change for good while witnessing greater parent confidence and satisfaction. Those results are why I stopped providing therapeutic services to teens and began coaching parents.*
In my experience, the power and influence of a parent with a plan can alter even the most dire family struggles.
Ten years of working with teens labeled as EBD, ODD, ADHD, OCD, or just plain “at-risk”, brought me to a place of seeking my master’s degree in Counseling Psychology and my license in Marriage and Family Therapy. I wanted to help families, not just teens, because behind hurting teens are hurting parents.
As a parent coach, primarily working with parents of teens, I’ve found commonality in the issues parents want to address – especially wanting their kids to obey. NOW!
For the past 20 years, I’ve been doing some form of helping parents and I really enjoy it. I love the unique stories and challenges, and equipping families to find new insights and practical tools. I thought I’d heard everything – but one particular coaching session surprised even me!
When coaching with intense parents Heather and Steve*, the conversation turned to Steve’s tendency to get easily angered and frequently swear when challenged by his son Zach. It’s what Steve had learned in his home growing up. As soon as Zach’s behavior began to feel out of control, Steve would dominate, intimidate, and swear until Zach complied. Now that his little boy was equal height, close to equal weight and learning the same pattern, their relationship was deteriorating rapidly.
As a recovering perfectionist and now a parent coach, I am all too familiar with how perfectionism chokes out the joy and connection in families. Perfectionism is like a measuring stick that grows taller the closer we stand to it. The taller it gets, the higher the standards. This leads to increasing discouragement and shame.
If this is our norm, then the morphing measuring stick multiplies into a measuring stick for each of our children. And, perhaps, even our spouse! A parent who feels they can never measure up almost always raises children who feel like they themselves can never measure up.
Perfectionism isn’t just an emotional issue, it’s a deeply spiritual issue. The Apostle Paul patiently corrected messed up, even immoral, believers. His angriest words, however, were to those in Galatia who were hooked on “getting it right” – attaining righteousness by perfectly following rules.
During our 30+ years of marriage we had occasionally heard of couples ending their marriage due to infidelity. But, for whatever reason, in 2015 Lynne and I heard story after story of marriages falling apart caused by affairs. It broke our hearts. And we knew it could have been us. So we talked and prayed and talked some more – and we decided to share our story.
It’s a story of how God’s grace intercepted what could have been much worse than it was, and the choices we both made to walk in grace towards each other. Our purpose in resharing this is twofold: to plant seeds that could prevent an affair, and to encourage you in your own marriage if you are currently in the midst of this struggle.
For the one confessing: How I avoided a full blown affair
For the one receiving the news: How I responded when my spouse confessed attraction for someone else.
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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.
“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.
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
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.