“So, kids, what are you thankful for this Thanksgiving?” you ask.
“My family, my house, my friends, my dog and Jesus.” (Same answers as last year….)
If you think your kids might be open to some deeper thinking this year, we’ve provided a handful of conversation starters about gratitude. We invite you try any or all of them and put a little bigger dose of gratitude in your Thanksgiving season:
Did you find this blog because you Googled, “How do I get my baby to sleep through the night?” Well then, my friend, soak in this moment of knowing…this is NOT your magic bullet to deep nourishing sleep. At Connected Families, we don’t believe in quick fixes. We believe in lasting change. We believe in seeking the Holy Spirit, and the hard work that brings rich connection between parent and child.
If you have been following our work for a while, you are familiar with the Connected Families Framework. Over the last two years, while working behind the scenes I couldn’t help but memorize and internalize these four levels of parent/child connection. I assumed it would come in handy in my parenting journey, but I was not expecting to apply it so early!
I’d HAD it! I was sick of this aggravating behavior, day after day. I stopped in my tracks, glared at the little one who was driving me crazy, and yelled at the top of my lungs, STOP IT!!
Do you relate to this? Has this happened in your home? It happened in ours.
But this wasn’t an incident from my early parenting of three crazy kids, it was this spring, and the little offender was a red winged black bird.
Seriously. I screamed at… a BIRD.
In our work coaching hundreds of parents of tweens and teens over the years, we’ve uncovered six common themes that leave teens feeling a little more encouraged and willing to respect their parents. (And, if you’re a parent of a tween or teen, we’ll be featured Saturday, Sep 23 on the FREE online Parenting Teens Summit!)
1. When your teen challenges you, don’t fight them. LISTEN!
This is NOT about giving in or being a doormat. It is more about incorporating listening and affirming as part of your process in guiding them. To do this requires stopping, taking a breath, maybe even uttering a short prayer when challenged: “Lord, help me reflect your grace and truth here.” You’ll gain far more respect and authority in your child’s eyes by this approach than by forcing your agenda on them. Kids that really feel listened to gradually learn to listen to others.
As a young dad, I was taught that “delayed obedience is disobedience,” and that kids should be required to immediately obey all parental requests. I disciplined accordingly, knowing that having obedient kids was a good goal. And, if I’m honest with myself, I liked the feeling of control and validation that came with having obedient kids.
When our kids disobeyed, I was quick to respond with a rebuke and a consequence. Our oldest son Daniel was particularly strong-willed and defiant, and I was particularly hard on him. But my approach didn’t have the desired effect. As he grew from toddler to preschooler, Daniel grew more irritated by my discipline, and his general demeanor started becoming more angry and testy. I intensified efforts to “nip this in the bud” by using the commonly recommended practices for requiring obedience. The firmly delivered phrase, “Daniel, delayed obedience is disobedience, and you’ll be disciplined if you don’t obey immediately,” was commonplace. Sometimes he complied, and sometimes he did not, but we were both generally discouraged by the process.
If you have an intense child (or know someone who does), watch this short video, produced in partnership with FamilyLife Canada. You’ll learn what might be going on with your intense child that is driving his/her difficulty. And then make sure to read the story below about a family who put these insights into practice.
An Intense Child from FamilyLife Canada on Vimeo.
Rich and Paige* came for coaching because they were very concerned and frustrated by one of their kids who was particularly intense. In their first session, most parents want to immediately brainstorm responses to try to stop the behavior. It’s typical in our coaching process, however, to start with the essential first step: looking below the surface to discover what was going on in parents’ hearts. We discovered that when their son Leo had one of his meltdowns, or expressed big dramatic emotions, his parents’ thoughts revealed their frustration and judgments. As we talked, they were grieved that through both their verbal and non-verbal communication, Leo was most surely feeling the message, ‘Leo is a problem.’ As we talked, we pinpointed thought processes such as:
- Seriously, where does this come from? I shouldn’t have to deal with this, he’s just being ridiculous.
- When he acts like that, it drains my desire to be affectionate with him.
- He’s so different from me. I don’t relate to this kind of behavior at all.
- He’s just trying to get our attention.
We began to talk about general reasons why intense kids have big reactions, which are covered in the video above, as well as specific reasons that Leo might be struggling. We looked thoroughly at Rich and Paige’s beliefs about their son, and their level of heart connection with him.
In their second coaching session, Rich and Paige were much more peaceful. They talked about their growing compassion for their son, their increased joy and connection with him, and how much better he was doing. Their beliefs were now:
- My son needs my help to learn to handle his difficult emotions.
- I really want to do what I can to guide him away from his “black sheep of the family” identity.
- I so value the increased connection and joy in our relationship as I’ve prioritized that, and I think it’s really meeting a deep need for him.
- It’s wonderful to see him more encouraged about himself.
The next time your intense child has big emotions, ask the Holy Spirit for insight into your thoughts, beliefs and possible judgments. Rather than trying to figure out what to do in these situations to stop the behavior, consider what’s really going on in your child, and how you can meet their deeper needs.
Take 10 to 15 minutes to find out your strengths and challenges with our free parenting assessment.
When kids become teens, they start acting like they don’t need us. If we don’t understand why they’re doing this, and figure out ways to respond gracefully, we risk building resentment in the relationship.
It helps to understand that teens who push us away may be merely expressing a normal developmental stage in the best way they know how. After all, it’s their job to become their own person, and become more responsible for their lives. When parents find ways to keep love alive, even during this sometimes tense stage of life, they have their best shot at helping their kids launch confidently in just a few years.
Check out this video (made in partnership with Family Life Canada) to learn more.
I’ve been thinking a lot about you lately. You see, Lynne and I have this amazing opportunity to speak to groups of parents all over the country. Most of these workshops, however, are filled with a majority of moms. We love connecting and encouraging moms!
To be honest, though, I’m often nervous about the conversation that happens after these events. I can just imagine the dad on the receiving end feeling like he is being dumped on with new-found parenting wisdom. I also know that sometimes things get lost in translation. I find myself wishing that I could be talking to the dad too.
With that in mind, I sat down to record an overview of our parenting framework, thinking specifically of dads. These are ideas that Lynne and I developed over decades of working with families, and ideas I wish I knew better when I was a young dad.
Making Easter real to your kids can happen when you’re NOT at your scrubbed and shiny Sunday best!
“Stop arguing and get moving – NOW!”
“NO!!!!” my strong-will son responded with steely determination.
I had frequent conflicts with Daniel, our oldest child. I often ended up feeling discouraged and ashamed after our conflicts, even if we apologized to each other.