Large family holiday gatherings can be tough for lots of reasons. Over-stimulated, over-sugared, over-excited and under-slept kids are simply going to struggle. But there may also be some relational dynamics that complicate things when you all get together. See if you relate to this pattern:
- You feel anxious around the watchful, possibly critical eye of parents or other relatives.
- You work harder to keep kids in line and are tougher on them than usual.
- Your kids (who are already extra stressed) sense your angst and act up more.
- Gramma or Grampa (or others) intervene to keep youngsters in line, with good intentions but unhelpful strategies.
- You feel embarrassed, undermined, and maybe frustrated or resentful.
- Kids watch the power struggle between the adults and are left feeling more stressed and insecure than ever.
Is the holiday stew smelling rotten yet? If so, this post is for you.
The rough-looking teen’s tough veneer had softened. I detected tears in his eyes.
“No one has ever said anything like that to me.”
Just minutes before, I met this teen in a line at our local amusement park. After a brief conversation, I dug a little deeper and 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.
There’s a parenting pitfall that nearly all parents get stuck in at some point: “If my child behaves well, I am a good parent. If my child misbehaves, I am a bad parent.” Stated so bluntly, it’s obviously not true, but it is still a powerful and subtle belief for nearly all parents.
This belief can cause parents to change their perspective (and therefore their mood) quickly based on their children’s behavior. That inevitable wild outburst in a store becomes a great embarrassment because it’s about the parent’s failure. This drives the parent to overreact in order to get the child under control. The overreaction then leads the parent to make further conclusions about being a bad parent. Defining parenting by a child’s behavior puts tremendous pressure on the child to “get it right.” This usually has very negative results for the child and for the parent as they both ride an emotional roller coaster together, overreacting to the normal ups and downs of children’s behavior.
I had a good opportunity to test this in myself the day our youngest son Noah got caught lighting matches in the church.
For I am convinced that
neither arguing nor defiance,
neither sibling conflict nor disrespect,
neither bad grades nor failure,
neither whining nor lying,
neither forgetfulness nor messes,
nor any other misbehavior
will be able to separate you from
my love or from God’s amazing Love.
as adapted by Connected Families
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Sometimes, especially when we’re stressed and our tank is on empty, it’s easy to approach kids with our needs instead of a full heart.
We demand the good behavior that “fills our tank” instead of filling them with our love. (I certainly remember doing that!) It can look like paper-thin tolerance or hair-trigger frustration as our expectations aren’t met… like this…
Ever roll your eyes and and internally judge a child as a “drama queen” or “king”?
Time to stop judging and start guiding that drama talent to empower kids to turn their misbehavior around! And here’s why:
If you ask most parents, they would say it’s important to love children unconditionally. But in practice, sometimes that’s harder than it sounds!
What exactly is unconditional love? What does it look like?
One thing’s for sure — unconditional love is not praise for positive behavior. When I express love in any context where children can possibly interpret my affection as conditional (based on their behavior), it loses its power as an expression of love!
We have been trained to think in black and white terms about a lot of things. Kids’ misbehavior is one of them.When kids misbehave we say to ourselves and to our kids, “That was bad! It needs to stop!” The opposite of bad is good. So we usually tell our kids to stop doing the bad and “be good.” This was done to us and it’s natural to do it with our kids.
But is it really true? Is what kids do either all good or all bad? The answer is no! Even in the worst of behaviors, the image of God does not vacate humans. Even in the best of behaviors, sin still easily entangles.
Parents often find themselves at a loss when kids are particularly discouraged or struggling.
It can begin to feel hopeless when everything you’ve tried to motivate them past the challenge has failed. You may start to feel more and more disconnected from the child as you know less and less what to do when they struggle.
This is when we get particularly strong about a principle that almost always helps parents find new hope.