Over the years, Lynne and I have worked with many families who struggle with the same issues. Time and again, we see how a change in perspective can transform a parent-child relationship from one of tension to one filled with grace. When it comes to school, grades and performance, there is often a minefield of conflict over expectations. Parents often believe that they need to create change in their child to see improvement in work ethic and performance when it comes to grades. The truth is, change best starts with the parent.
Read on to learn how one mother and daughter set aside conflict and embraced grace for homework success without nagging:
Misty anxiously told me about her seventh grade daughter, Greta.
“Her grades are tanking! She’s sassy and defiant most of the time! I know she is capable of so much more, but she won’t dig in and live up to her potential. I check her grades every day. I’ve withheld privileges, created charts, offered rewards, and constantly reminded her. But it keeps getting worse. Our fights get louder by the day!”
When you’re constantly fighting with kids who don’t live up to their potential, we suggest a new approach, a new fight: the fight of faith to walk in the “fruit of the spirit.”
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!”
We often see a common parenting cycle when kids are prone to anxiety. In short, it goes like this:
- Child feels anxious
- Worried, but well-meaning parent “encourages” the child toward to overcome the anxiety by pushing the child
- The child gets more anxious and withdraws, or has a meltdown in order to feel in control
- The child feels more ashamed and anxiety builds
- Parents feel scared about the future and the anxious (and usually very emotionally sensitive) child picks up on this and grows even more anxious
- Repeat at increasingly higher intensity
This cycle might be about homework, new experiences, social situations, or any number of challenges.
Recently we received this story from “Shelly”, who was able to communicate love in misbehavior and saw it bear fruit with her 8 year-old-son…
This morning my son Garrett was getting into his grumpy, yelling, the-world-is-against-me mode. I asked him, “It seems like you’re not feeling very loved right now. Is that what you are trying to communicate to me?” He yelled, “YES!”
I said, “I am messing up if I’m communicating I don’t love you – because what I want to say is that I love both you AND your brother in the midst of your hard time. Can you tell me how I could better communicate love to you?” He said he’d think about it. He returned later in a better frame of mind, and told me that it was just his own discouragement and nothing I was doing.
Photo Credit: KatarzynaBialasiewicz iStockphoto.com
If Shelly had tried to get Garrett to see that his attitude was the problem, he probably would have resisted and accused her back. It was her “kindness that lead him toward repentance” (Romans 2:4). No longer was he unfairly venting his discouragement by yelling at his family, but he was insightful and honest about his feelings (something many adults don’t accomplish).
So the next time your child is struggling, how could you connect in a way that expresses unconditional love, or ask what your child needs in order to to be reminded of your love?
Asking sincere questions, even with small kids, is a great way to build wisdom. Here’s a story a mom emailed to us that shows the difference between making demands and asking questions.
We were getting ready to leave the house, and I told Matthew it was time to go potty before we head out the door. He began to protest, whine big-time, and even throw himself on the floor. I told him again that it was time to go potty, and the same thing happened. Clearly this wasn’t going anywhere, so I stepped back to assess what was happening. I knew there must be a better way to handle this. I remembered the Connected Families principle about how important it is to teach wisdom rather than just give commands. So I tried again. Our conversation went something like this:
Micah stood at the door, looking forlorn. “Mommy, You forgot to ask me who I am!”
Every day for a long time, Micah’s mom Therese was sure to remind him of perhaps the most important fact of his young life. Today, in the hubbub of activities, time had gotten away and in the rush to get him out the door to school Therese forgot. But Micah didn’t.
In the everyday transitions of life, we have perhaps our most potent opportunities to make eternal impressions on our kids, with acts or words that they might even remember for a life time. But we miss it because we’re caught up in the stuff of life.
Not Therese. Not usually anyway.
Julia was a spitfire. When she was a tyke, she was ready to take the world by storm. All who knew her mom, Maggie, knew of this little one’s intensity. Creativity, exuberance, a ferocious snuggle instinct, and excellent vocabulary were sometimes difficult to enjoy amidst defiance, meltdowns, sleep issues, and definitely a plan for how she wanted to run the family, even as a pre-schooler.
Maggie wrote, “Julia, you are a little firecracker. You know what you want and how you want it done, and have always been able to communicate that.” Maggie, also a horse trainer, carefully navigated how to train this feisty “filly” in a way that captured her heart and didn’t break her spirit. It wasn’t always easy, to be sure.
Any parent reading this loves their children. And most every parent tells their child so frequently. But effectively communicating love is not always so simple. Doing it well means reading your child, and learning to see the expression through the child’s eyes. Some parents even ask, “What do I do or say that makes you feel most loved?” It often takes insight, determination and creativity to package love messages in ways the children can’t miss it.
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Anna Braasch, Connected Families Executive Director has brought a much needed perspective of parenting adopted kids to our team. Formulaic parenting sounds good, but as Anna discovered, didn’t work with her kids.
We adopted our first child from Ethiopia when he was 4 months old. It was pure love.
When he was just over two we adopted again, this time a sweet little 9-month-old girl. We didn’t realize our son’s attachment to us was so fragile. As the arrival of another family member rocked his world, he began fighting for his life and for his place in our family.
For several years we continued to implement many traditional parenting and discipline techniques. We like formulas. You follow the steps — one, two, three — and you get the desired result. Many of these formulas promised if we followed these certain steps, we would have a transformed child and a transformed family.
They didn’t work. In fact, they backfired.