At Connected Families we teach that focusing on getting right behavior as your primary goal is a setup for power struggles and frustrations of all kinds. We teach instead to focus primarily on the messages your kids get from you about who they are.
The following video shows how the greatest basketball coaches think similarly. To build traditionally winning basketball programs, these coaches do not focus on winning (right behavior), but on the process of getting there.
In short, when you focus on the end desired result, you measure everything you do against that result and you end up getting discouraged. But when you focus on the process…
Apply It Now:
Pick one process you’d like to focus on (i.e. room cleaning, or chores, or homework) and give some positive focus on effort instead of outcomes. What did you learn?
“Knock it off! Stop it! Get over here, NOW!” These are familiar phrases for most parents. When kids act up we get frustrated. We get demanding and even disrespectful. Kids may comply with our demands in the short run but over the long run they learn from our example to be frustrated, demanding, and disrespectful when they’re not getting their way.
Dustin was becoming this kind of parent. He saw where it was leading and knew he wanted to walk a different road. He looked at numerous resources and when he discovered Connected Families he knew he had found what he was looking for. For the past 14 months he has immersed himself in Connected Families resources and support. Where once his primary goal was quick fixes and parental control, his primary goal is now to come alongside his kids as a model of God’s grace and guidance. It’s been hard work and it’s far from finished. But this recent report from Dustin shows the results:
Lynne and I blew it a lot. We had a lot of great moments as a young family, but we also had a lot of bad moments – the kind of stuff that over time can lead to growing disconnection between parents and kids. We yelled. We said and did ugly things. We exerted our power in order to control. Did we mention condescension, micro-managing, and nagging? Much of this we did in the name of “being the parents” or “tough love.” We learned to be quite effective at disguising our selfish, sinful motives behind masks of authority, logic and even “spiritual” guidance. We found that in spite of the most wonderful of intentions, sin still does easily entangle.
As a result, on numerous occasions we simply did not obey the first part of the instructions to parents found in Colossians 3:21 and Ephesians 6:4a. In the name of “being the parent,” we provoked our kids to anger, embittered them, and downright exasperated them.
In spite of our fairly common displays of ugly parenting, we got past all this and found our way into rich connection and influence with our children. You can too. How?
Parents usually have good desires for their kids. They want kids to be respectful, responsible, faithful, obedient, and so on. But when parents make these behaviors their primary goals for parenting, their kids tend to resist. Why? Kids tend to resist because no one likes to be controlled – and parents’ good goals are usually mingled with a little selfish motivation of “wanting life to go smoothly for my benefit” that kids pick up on. So when parents’ varied efforts to meet these goals are met with children’s resistance, parents and kids alike feel frustrated.
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.
Recently we got an email from a mom asking what to do when her 10-year-old son refused to help with the dishes after dinner, even when punished with spanking or loss of electronics. Conflicts around chores are something that many parents and kids struggle with, so we thought we’d share our response.
When kids say “No,” parents’ first instinct is often to go right to threats or punishment to gain obedience. Spanking or yelling usually happens from a place of demanding obedience as a first goal. But if a parent’s first goal is to tap into God’s holiness and the fruit of the Spirit on the way to helping the child learn to value obedience, the scene usually goes much differently.
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:
I’ve read a ton of Connected Families content over the past couple years and, now that I’m on staff, I’m reading even more. By now, you could say that the Connected Families Framework has become ingrained in my psyche.
I want to be a safe person for my kids.
I want to connect well with my kids.
I know that discipline is about helping my kids grow in wisdom rather than obey the first time, every time.
And I know that behavior change isn’t why I try to implement these principles. But even though I know all this, I still want so desperately to fix my kids’ behavior.
Sometimes technology feels out of control. I am chief offender in our home. Two hours can pass and, if I’m completely honest, I don’t really remember much of what I did, saw, or believed was so important.
I recently came to realize that I was spending hours with various screens (computer, e-reader, phone, etc), as were my kids, simply because I was… BORED! Not that there weren’t other things to do, but somehow my life and the life of my kids was being sucked out of us with nothing to show for it.
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.