This week we’re excited to share with you the story of Kyle*, a child who has struggled with perfectionism and explosive anger, and his mom, Brenda. After reading our the 1st edition of Discipline That Connects, and considering how she might approach Kyle’s behavioral challenges differently than in the past, Brenda decided to make a change in her discipline. Brenda was able to more effectively teach about grace and good behavior by looking at Kyle’s strengths–in the midst of his weaknesses. We were blessed to hear her amazing solution — and we know you will be, too!
Our son Kyle was an intense perfectionist – hard on himself and others. His big emotions would erupt in strong, hurtful, or colorful words. After such an explosion Kyle would be engulfed by a tsunami of remorse and shame. “I’m a bad kid! Nobody will ever like me. I’m going to hell because that’s where bad people go!” If we tried to console him by contradicting this terrible self-hatred he would yell “Shut up!!” and run to his room.
When God decided which of his children would be key leaders he avoided the step-in-line, shiny-looking ones. In fact, when we look in scripture at some well-known “Bible heroes,” we see that God chose some serious screwups to guide his precious people:
- Moses – Impulsively murdered an Egyptian man. Went on the lam for 40 years.
- Saul/Paul – Determined to destroy the church at all costs. Orchestrated the arrest, persecution, and even murder of Christians.
- Peter – A short-fused poster child for impulsivity. Biggest disciple screw-up. Told Jesus five times that he was wrong.
Two murderers and an ADHD poster child. Not exactly a crew that we would expect to give spiritual leadership seminars or impress the religious elite.
Why did God choose them? Because all the intensity and passion behind their “misbehavior” could be re-directed for Kingdom purposes.
It was every parent’s nightmare – over two hours at the allergist’s office with three young children. The kids and I all took turns alternately getting poked for blood draws, scratched all over our backs and arms for allergy testing, and puffing to check breath levels for asthma. The results? A bountiful diagnosis of asthma and allergies for everyone, with many allergies rated 4+ on the 0-4 scale.
The markers and paper I had brought along lost their appeal about 20 minutes into the two hour process, as my stress level rose to about a 6 on the 0-4 scale!
Scene: I pace the entry at our house, arms crossed, brow furrowed, occasionally glancing at the clock on the wall. After what seems like an eternity, my daughter walks in the house. I aggressively say, “Where were you?” (Not that it matters.) “You’re late, and now we’re all going to be late, too. Wash up for dinner and let’s get going.” My tone tells her she’s an annoyance and someone who deserves my harshness and belittling words. Then I put the cherry on top: “You’re grounded from going to your friend’s house for the next two days!”
With a flurry of stomps, my daughter marches toward her room. There’s a two-second pause, followed by the ever-maddening door slam. That door slam is enough to send me over the edge! I sit and stew. And she sits and stews. Our relationship is damaged and both of us are now upset — not because of the initial issue, but because of how we’ve treated each other. We are stuck. I am stuck. And I don’t know what to do.
It seemed like this was the consistent cycle in our house. Every time my daughter was late, things just went poorly.
As I glanced at my watch and noticed that she was late AGAIN, I felt mad — but also resigned. Were we really going to ride this merry-go-round again? All five people in our family needed to get out of the house, ON TIME! And now it wasn’t going to happen, AGAIN.
Somewhere, deep inside, I began to long for this interaction with my daughter to go better than I knew it would if I did what I always did. But how?
We meet or talk nearly every day with parents. Most of them contact us because they need help. After hearing bits of their story, we usually ask, “What are your goals as parents?” In their answers we learn much about what we think is the big problem with parenting. While every story and response is unique, a common theme shows up in the answer. It can be summed up this way: “Our goal is well-behaved kids.”
There is nothing wrong with wanting well behaved kids. But as a first priority it pits parents against kids in power struggles of all sorts. Or — and we think this is even worse — it produces compliant kids who do right things, but have empty hearts.
When people steal, disobey, defy, cheat, lash out, or otherwise sin, in their hearts they leave. They leave the safety of trustworthy relationships. They leave the purposes for which God created them.
The way people are treated when they sin determines whether or not they’ll feel safe to return.
At the teen outreach where I served for 12 years, the teens’ participation was voluntary. If these kids didn’t like how they were treated they would literally leave, never to be heard from again. Our own kids may not physically leave, but they leave relationally when they don’t feel safe.
Father-daughter dances bring delight as little skirts and tall suits whirl around the dance floor. A mother-daughter brunch is bright with “girly chatter.” Adventurous camaraderie abounds at father-son outings. But how many of us have even been to or even heard of a mother-son event?
There seems to be an assumption in our culture that mothers and sons inherently don’t relate well to each other or enjoy spending time together. It’s to be expected. Just like people believe that the teenage years will be difficult. Starting with those kind of beliefs can be a self-fulfilling prophecy.
So let’s bust the myth. Mothers and sons are not doomed to disconnection and opposition. So let’s explore what it takes to build joy-filled, connected relationships. After getting input from a number of sons — including my own — some common themes surfaced.
Frozen has taken the country by storm with its sensational music. But it also has embedded in its lively action some food-for-thought nuggets about relationships and emotional health. Here are a few key takeaways for parents:
[NOTE: SPOILERS AHEAD!]
Have you ever wondered what your family is “all about”? I asked this of coaching clients Ted and Dawn recently. They had come seeking help because their kids seemed ever more defiant, selfish, and irresponsible.
Eager to understand their family I asked them, “What would your kids say are the driving values you want to be sure they learn in your home? You know, how would they answer the question, ‘What is our family all about?’” Ted and Dawn weren’t sure. So I invited them to role play it with me. I played them and they played their kids. It went something like this:
The Search Institute has done years of research on how kids turn out to be healthy, contributing members of society. They are probably most well-known for their list of 40 developmental assets that kids need to be successful as adults. Number 40 has always intrigued me: Positive View of Personal Future.
In essence, when kids feel good about their future they are more likely to make wise choices, set goals and move toward them. You can help set the stage for success for your kids, by cultivating skill and joy in serving others.