The “Gift Gone Awry”: Jim’s Favorite Idea from the Online Course

Jim here. I’m really excited about our Discipline That Connects Online Course! There’s one idea in it that we’ve developed over the years that we just love to share because it has helped so many parents. So here it is!

If you want to learn more about the “gift gone awry” as it relates to discipline, sign up below for our newsletter to be notified the next time the course is offered. Each weekly email will also give you a dose of encouragement!

Here are some additional blog posts about a few of the topics I mentioned:


Turn Name-Calling into Connection

“You’re dumb!”
“No, YOU’RE dumb!”
“Well you’re a loser!”
“I know you are, but what am I?”
“You’re a butthead!”

Name-calling between children is a challenge in many families. Once kids get on a roll of slinging names back and forth it can seem like an express train to a sibling meltdown. But it doesn’t have to be that way! You can help your kids turn their angry words into an opportunity to connect and rebuild even stronger relationships.

It is said that it takes four kind statements to “undo” one unkind statement. With this in mind, our family implemented a “four kind and true things” policy. Each time one of the kids said something unkind and/or untrue (“You’re STUPID!”), they completed a “make it right” consequence of four kind and true statements before resuming privileges.

Not wanting to make anything a parent-enforced drill, we encouraged the kids to take the calming time they needed to be sincere. The first “kind and true” was about directly correcting the hurtful, untrue statement. At least two had to be fresh and not used before. (“You’re NOT stupid, you’re really good at reading, I’m glad you shared your Legos with me, you’re fun to play Uno with.”) Occasionally if the “name-caller” got stuck, the “name-called” child would help out by suggesting a few creative ideas of his or her own personal strengths.

This practice set a wonderful tone of reconciliation in our family. Adding a discussion of Ephesians 4:15, about speaking the truth in love, helped cement the biblical nature of this activity.

This approach flows from a constructive perspective: it is much more helpful to train than to punish. It is interesting to note that the child in our family who most often needed to complete “four kind and trues” has become the strongest affirmer of others. One morning we found a note our eldest, Daniel, wrote spontaneously to his little brother. “Dear Noah, Thanks for being a neat, fun, little guy who defuses conflicts wisely and says funny things all the time, and is smart like crazy, who makes me a proud big brother.” (Wow, even more than four!)

With the intense personalities in our family, conflict will never be eliminated, but the blessing of this approach is that we easily return to a place of connection and joy.

Apply It Now:

  • Read Ephesians 4:15 with your kids and talk about what it means to “speak the truth in love.”
  • The next time someone (even a parent!) says something unkind, encourage them to take a break to write down “four kind and true things” about the person they hurt. Make sure your tone communicates – “I’m for you. I believe the best in you.”
  • Celebrate the contrast between the feelings of name-calling, and how it feels to speak the truth in love to one another. This is how God designed our hearts! 🙂

Take 15 minutes to learn how to give consequences that teach, rather than simply punish, by downloading our free ebook Consequences That Actually Work.

Growing Maturity in Your Child

Joslyn and Mike’s sensitive 4-year-old Tyler had perfected the art of out-of-control meltdowns, sassiness, and occasional aggression. When they came for coaching, they were exhausted from trying to manage this difficult behavior when it occurred. Through the coaching process Joslyn and Mike were learning to carefully teach, encourage and affirm wise behavior, even when it manifested in small ways. In general, Tyler was doing much better at home, but he was still easily over-stimulated in public places and could get out of control quickly. Joslyn shared her story:

Compliments that Nourish Kids’ Character

We do it all the time. “Nice work! Great job! You’re so awesome!”

It’s nice to take notice and give energy to the good things our kids do. But throwing kids compliments like this without any substance is akin to throwing them popcorn when they’re hungry. It tastes good and kids want more, but it doesn’t really nourish.

If you really want a compliment to improve a child’s sense of significance and grow wisdom at the same time, give that same energy some substance. Like this:

How to Tell Your Kids They’re Awesome without Spoiling Them

proud mom and daughter

Some parents worry that giving too many compliments might puff their kids up. Others thoughtlessly dole out praise without thought for the deeper impact. What kind of praise will communicate love to your kids without spoiling them?

“You’re the best!” feels good to hear. It also means that others are less great than me. Kids who hear it often might be inclined to compare themselves to others – their skills to other people’s skills. In that realm there’s almost always someone more skilled, so the striving to live up to the description can take on a fairly egotistical bent. Indeed, this sort of affirmation tends to puff up heads. But if your goal is to encourage a child — that is, fill them with courage to do what God created them to do — there is a better way to affirm.

Why Do My Kids Misbehave to Get My Attention? [video]

Recently, Connected Families Co-Founder Lynne Jackson sat down with CF Family Therapist Chad Hayenga to get his thoughts on why kids misbehave to get our attention and how we can help them to get our attention in healthy ways instead.

Click above (or click here if you can’t see the image) to watch the whole video, or you can download a written transcript here.

We highly recommend watching the whole five minutes, because Lynne and Chad cover some important reasons for kids’ misbehavior as well as three helpful, practical tips to help kids get attention in healthy ways. Here is a snippet from their interview:

An Often Overlooked Motivator of Good Behavior…

Many parents think that some sort of painful punishment is the best motivator for kids to improve their behavior. Other parents “focus on the positive” and offer rewards when kids do well.

Research about what motivates workers to do well reveals that extrinsic rewards are less important than intrinsic motivation, and that a key element of intrinsic motivation includes a sense of progress – that you are on track and moving in the right direction.

Could it be that progress motivates children also? Consider Shelly’s grace-filled story.

12 Misbehaviors and the God-Given Gifts Behind Them

Seeing Strengths Even in Struggles

12 Misbehaviors

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.

The Awesome Thing about Your Kid’s Misbehavior…

teen misbehavior

This is part of a series on “Discipline That Connects®: Four Powerful Messages All Kids Long to Hear”.

DTC blog title slide“No one has ever said anything like that to me!”

The rough-looking teen’s tough veneer had softened. I detected tears in his eyes.

Just minutes before this I’d asked Jared what he was good at. “Are you kidding?” He seemed angry. “Look at me.” Violent tattoos, tattered dark clothes, a defiant countenance and multiple piercings on his ears, nose, eyebrows and lips were suggestive of a hard life.

I asked if he was good at lying. “I’m great at it,” was his curt response, as if he wished the conversation would end.

“So you’re creative, and have a good memory,” I said with a little smile.

“What d’ya mean?” he was quick to ask. I had his interest.

I continued my questioning. “So you’re good at that — how about skipping school?”

He smirked a little. “Yeah!”

“How do you get away with it?” I continued.

Jared grew perhaps a little excited. “Well, me and my buddies distract the door monitor lady for each other and then take turns about who gets to leave that day.” He was proud.

“So you’re a good planner, you treat your friends fairly, and you’re all willing to sacrifice for each other. Add to that list your creativity and good memory and I’d say you’re a pretty talented guy. Imagine what might happen if you used some of those talents in ways that were more helpful to you and others, and less trouble!” My words were heartfelt.

So were Jared’s, as evidenced by his tears and soft tone. “No one has ever said anything like that to me!”