We were excited to see our frequently-used concept of “the do over” appear on the blog of business and leadership guru Seth Godin, and we think his insights apply just as much to parents as to businesspeople. Here’s what he had to say:
Painting pictures in my mind has been very helpful in my parenting journey. For example, when I’m upset and feel like my head is going to explode I imagine a balloon in my lungs filling and releasing air. When my kids are upset and I remain calm, I visualize myself “loaning” my calm to them as a blanket to cover them during their emotional storm.
A word-picture God gave me recently is appropriate for the spring weather we’ve been having: when my kids are upset, tense, frustrated, angry — really any negative emotion — I picture a tiny rototiller tilling up the soil of their hearts.
When kids make a mistake, especially when they hurt others, most parents would agree that it’s important to learn repentance — for kids to feel sorry for what they’ve done.
But in our pursuit of this goal, many parents settle for the appearance of repentance — a quick and skin-deep “Sorry.” This approach does NOT teach kids to repent. It only teaches them that conflict can be “resolved” by going through empty motions, or saying the magic words even when their hearts are not in it. This actually hardens hearts to true repentance.
It was a Sunday evening. I was emotionally and physically done for the day and looking forward to a quiet house. Suddenly I overheard squabbling about who was the rightful owner of a large stuffed panda bear.
My engagement with sibling conflict has often aggravated my son’s anger: he feels criticized by my effort to protect his younger sister. I should have known better than to get involved in this panda bear affair, especially when I was already a little bit cranky! But I was tired and I just wanted them to go to bed so I could have a little peace and quiet to start my week.
Last week we wrote about what to do when we blow it. We suggested that overcoming parenting mistakes isn’t so much about not making them (which is good because we made TONS of them), but about being intentional to develop three specific things that will help you recover when you inevitably do blow it:
- Skills for reconciling well when you’ve blown it.
- Humility for admitting when you don’t live up to your vision.
- A vision that can sustain your family through tough times.
These components are like the legs on a three-legged stool. Without all three in place the stool just doesn’t stand up. Over the next few weeks we’re going to share a few practical things parents can do to strengthen each leg. We’ll start with Skills. The following four skills have helped many a parent grow well, in spite of all their mistakes.
Sometimes it takes a while for parents to change in ways that lead to deeper respect from their kids. Sometimes it can happen fast. When Dan attended our weekend workshop he saw an immediate change by practicing what we call a “do-over.” Here’s his report:
An hour before we left for your seminar I was getting ready to go. Our 12-year-old son Will was sitting on the steps. He asked why we needed to go to the seminar. I explained that his mom and I were going so we could learn to control some of the chaos in our household. His reply was, “If you think that’s going to work, you’re retarded!”
When kids trust they feel safe; they know they’re loved. Trust leads to respect and true obedience. Kids who trust look to their parents for wisdom and follow their parents’ examples in desirable ways.
Where trust fails, relationships fail too, even in those where love is high. So earning kids’ trust is perhaps the most important thing a parent can do to express love to their children, and “train them in the way they should go”.
Every parent fails to deal perfectly with every parenting situation.
In other words, we all screw up sometimes!
Along the way we’ve discovered that what’s far more important than handling every parenting situation perfectly is to regroup, and resolve well. For it’s in resolving well that parents and children best learn and grow from their mistakes. Here’s a true story of resolving:
Sometimes parents get too angry. Other times they don’t get angry enough – or at least they don’t stand firm to keep kids growing in responsibility for their own lives.
In the name of keeping the peace parents sometimes keep kids from learning to do what they’re capable of doing. This keeps the kids less responsible — and parents too responsible — for their lives. We pick up their messes, let them stay glued to the screen for hours, feed Fido when they don’t, or give them multiple chances when we’ve already given them their “last chance”. The battle to follow through just doesn’t seem worth it.
Pretty soon kids figure out the kinds of conflicts you want to avoid and they start taking advantage. They learn to keep parents more responsible and themselves less. We resist getting angry because we don’t want to hurt our kids. But the Bible does not tell us to not be angry. It tells us to be angry and don’t sin.