6 Practical Tips to Tame Your Temper

6 Practical Tips to Tame Your TemperDisciplining misbehaving kids is often a difficult and emotion-laden task. Our oldest son Daniel, sometimes said to Lynne, “Mom, you just bursted all over us!” And he was painfully right. Jim had his share of quick, harsh reactions as well. Those were discouraging times for all of us, and we wished we knew how to get unstuck from that negative pattern.

We began applying our professional knowledge to develop practical strategies that helped us become calmer and more effective when disciplining. As we “field-tested” these ideas in our own family, we were equipped to help thousands of parents defuse their explosive reactions as well.

Parents who learn to calm themselves before disciplining usually find they are much more effective as they access their wisdom and good intentions for their kids. We suggest that parents stop, breathe, and get perspective. But what does that look like? Here are six practical ways to “get perspective” as you calm your heart for discipline that connects with your child’s heart.

Are You An Emotionally Safe Parent?

Are You an Emotionally Safe Parent-A friend of ours said, “I am so competent at work and with friends. I’m on my game almost all the time. But when my kids act up, it’s like I lose the ‘real me!’ I become someone I don’t know or like.” Virtually every parent we’ve talked with in any depth admits, “I don’t like the ‘me’ that comes out when I discipline my kids.”

The tough truth to swallow is that whatever comes out of us IS the “real me.” Kids provoke us. And when we’re provoked, we tend to reveal what’s really inside us – especially when the provocateurs are our very own little children. What’s revealed is often not a pretty picture as stressed parents feel desperate, and use intimidation, manipulation and anger to regain a sense of control in the situation. Although this may work temporarily, it does so at the expense of the parent-child relationship.

When anger, anxiety and a need to control drive our discipline, we unintentionally communicate to our children that we are not emotionally safe. They will self-protect by closing their hearts to us.

Changing Your Parenting When Change is Hard

Three research based tips when you feel stuck

Changing Your Parenting When Change is Hard (1)Happy New Year! Whether you’ve just found us or we’re old friends, we are excited to journey with you through 2017.

We still remember our early days of feeling stuck in our parenting challenges, unhealthy dynamics, and hurtful habits. So we’re passionate to help all parents who feel that same way! As you think about the year ahead, and plans or resolutions you’re making for a better future, we want to help you with three principles adapted from a research based book, Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard, by brothers Chip and Dan Heath.

1. Launch from your successes!
Trying to “fix” your failures can cause discouragement that makes change difficult. Focusing on what goes well in your home is a great way to start positive change because you are building on a skill you already know. Looking back on the past year, ask yourself these questions:

Christmas… “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year”?

7 Simple Ideas to Protect the Joy of the Season

Christmas…Like the song says, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” While we cherish meaningful time with those dearest to us, these highly charged celebrations often stress parents, over-stimulate children, and incline both to volatile behavior. Seven simple ideas will protect the Joy of the Season, and minimize the likelihood of holiday meltdowns and conflicts. These ideas are anchored in the principle that we all behave better when we feel better! After reading through, choose one or two options that fit your family and focus on them this year.

Copy of Three Secret Ingredients

Anchor the season in perspective.
Christmas is about God’s greatest gift to humans – his son Jesus Christ. This gets all too easily lost in our cultural expression of the holiday. Of all the Christmas preparation, what might not really need to be done? What would it take to build a few extra minutes into each day for rest, prayer, or meditation to delight in the eternal Savior who came to earth to reveal God to us? What’s one simple thing you could do to help your kids enter into this with you? Write your ideas in the comments section to inspire and connect with others!

Why safety is crucial to adoptive families – and how it applies to all of us

In honor of November being Adoption Awareness Month, we’ve asked Anna Braasch, our Executive Director and adoptive momma to two, to share practical ways to have safe, connected relationships with your kids – regardless of how they joined your family.

Why Safety is Crucial to Adoptive Families

The foundational principles of Connected Families breathe life into families formed through adoption. I’ve seen it in my own family. In fact, creating an environment of safety is vital for any family who has experienced stress. Isn’t that all of us? 4 messages framework_Aug2016

In the Connected Families Framework, the starting place for our relationship with our kids is the crucial concept “You are safe with me.” The other framework messages -You are loved, You are called and capable, and You are responsible – are all built on this foundation of safety.

Kids who were adopted must know “You are safe with me.” They must experience this safety in their families.  Safety builds the confidence and security to trust and attach to their adoptive parents. At some level, trauma is a part of the history of kids who were adopted, and magnifies their need to experience the safety that all of us need in our families.  These kids aren’t broken. Not to be pitied. They might, however, view the world differently and need extra safety reinforcement and reminders in order to actually feel safe. Their developing, and sometimes tenuous attachment requires the extra reassurance to believe that their parents, and therefore their world, are safe.

Every  parent benefits from the message so powerfully evident in adoption: before children are able to hear and accept they are loved, capable, and responsible – they must first believe they are SAFE.

True enough, but what does this look like when I’m trying to get my kids fed and out the door?

Recovering from one particularly  difficult and tension-filled encounter with my then 9-year-old son, I collapsed into prayer asking God to reveal to me what he needed. I scratched a list during prayer, laid next to him in bed, and read it aloud to him. This list remains. It is a reminder. A reference. A centering-point. A promise.

Anxiety and Control: Partners in Parenting Crime

Will my kids choose good friends? Will they do well academically? Will they make wise choices when I’m not around to guide them? It’s normal to consider questions like these. However, if the answer is “no” to any of those reflective questions, anxiety can begin to rise and often a parent’s effort to control their child rises right along with it. It’s the brain’s natural coping response – when feeling internally out of control, we try to take charge of the situation to feel less anxious. This kind of reaction can become problematic, because we are not wise or helpful parents when we’re anxious and controlling. (Imagine how it would feel to have a boss at work engaging with a dip in your performance by anxiously reading your emails and checking every report!)

Anxiety and Control
The Anxiety and Control Cycle

Anxiety and Control are partners in crime. They rob us of joy, contentment and peace. They rob our kids of encouragement and independence. In my parenting, and as I’ve coached parents over the years, I’ve noticed the spiraling impact of anxiety and control:

The more anxious I am about my child, the more likely I am to project a negative future for them, and the more likely they are to begin living out that projection. This makes it easy it is for me to rationalize doing things for them that they ought to be responsible for themselves, which builds their resentment and resistance towards me, which feeds my anxiety… and the beat goes on.

Helping Your Highly Sensitive Child

Helping Your Highly Sensitive Child
There are challenging kids, and there are “over-the-top” challenging kids. Research suggests that around 15% of all children are considered highly sensitive. What does this mean for parents of kids who exhibit these characteristics? More importantly, what kinds of behaviors classify as highly sensitive? Knowing that your child may be more sensitive than most need not be overly burdensome, there are many strategies for helping highly sensitive children thrive. Are any of the following comments true about your child?  If so, read on to discover positive ways to help your child celebrate their uniqueness and succeed.

Does this sound like your child?

  • Dressing is always an ordeal for my daughter. No tags, and sometimes no socks, because the seams drive her crazy.”

  • My teen has never been a touchy kid. It used to be tough to get him to slow down for a hug, but now he even pulls away and acts like I’ve violated his space.”

  • My child is such a picky eater. I feel like I’m always special order cooking from the ‘brown and white’ food group.”

  • My son just can’t sit still – he’s always squirming and wiggling. It’s almost impossible to get him to slow down, look me in the eye and really listen.”

  • My daughter’s mood swings are extreme and sometimes very sudden. The littlest things can set her off. Talk about intense! Her meltdowns wear me out.”

  • My child is easily over-stimulated. Large groups of kids, crowded places or busy stores are usually a prescription for trouble.”

These comments are from parents who have one thing in common: highly sensitive children! These kids are easily overwhelmed by intense or aversive sensations from their body or their surroundings. They are almost always kids with highly sensitive nervous systems, and their challenging behavior is about much more than defiance or disobedience.

Would Jesus say, “Black lives matter?”

I believe that if Jesus came to us today, he would in some way say to all of us, “Black lives matter!* Be humble, listen, and love with my love.”

My heart is troubled.

As I look at the various viewpoints about the racial tension and highly publicized killings, my biggest takeaway is deep sadness. Wives have lost their husbands. Children have lost their fathers. Mothers have lost their children. We all have lost brothers and sisters.

Many parents today are wondering “what am I called to do in response?”

Our encouragement today – talk with your kids about how Jesus responded to marginalized groups of people during his life. HE is our model!

At a time in history when children were dismissed and largely considered irrelevant, Jesus said, “Let the children come to me! For they are like the kingdom.” It turns out that children matter! Do they matter more than anyone else? No, but this was a great opportunity to elevate the unique way in which children matter. Jesus similarly highlighted Gentiles, women, orphans, lepers, and the poor. He also did this with Samaritans, the closest equivalent in the Jewish world to the racial tension of today. In essence, by telling the story of the Good Samaritan (see Luke 10), and by ministering to the Samaritan woman at the well (see John 4), Jesus proclaimed, “Samaritan lives matter!” Jesus consistently sent the message, “The people you think of as less important are equally important!”

Respond to Sibling Conflict with Wisdom and Confidence (Video link)

Connected Families' Four-Level Framework

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 connection in order to thrive.
  • In order successfully create peace and connection at home we needed to spend some time thinking about how we could build skills and wisdom in our own lives as the parents.

Sibling Conflict Online Course is now in session. Register today! (Registration closes August 22, 2016)


How to Develop Empathy in Kids (Part 2)

empathy kids hold hands part 2When kids feel safe with us and truly understood, they usually will open their hearts. This allows us to walk alongside them in the vulnerable journey of learning about emotions and empathy for others.

As we embark on this journey with them, the more creative and non-judgmental we are, the more they can learn.

Today we’ll look at how to approach teaching kids empathy from the last two principles in our Framework: Coach and Correct.

Connected Families Framework - 4 actions, 4 messages