Whose Problem Is It?

whose problem messy hair girl

© 2009 anthony kelly, Flickr

Deep inside most parents is a strong urge to control their children. It may seem beneficial or even “work” for a few years, but there are diminishing returns if the goal of control is not given up significantly by the teen years (probably earlier than that).

When we take control of our kids’ lives we often end up making decisions for them that they are capable of making on their own. But maybe even worse, when we take control away from our kids we deprive them of learning that they are capable of making choices and living with the consequences whether positive, negative, or neutral. When we micromanage our kids’ lives they learn that we are responsible for their life, not them.

Make the Homework Battle a Win for Everyone!

homework responsibility child

We frequently have parents contact us about struggles with kids’ homework and grades and we coach parents through the challenge regularly. We’ve also written a fair bit about this in our book Discipline that Connects, and on our blog. So we’re quite encouraged when we hear of parents who empower their kids to take charge of their own homework. Two families with kids of different ages shared their schoolwork stories in the last few weeks, with a common approach that we’ve seen help hundreds of parents. Bottom line – quit nagging!

10 Best on the Connected Families Blog 2014

We can hardly believe it’s 2015 already! Before we dive into a year of new blog posts, we thought we’d dwell for just a moment on some of your favorites from 2014. Here are the ten most-clicked parenting tips of 2014.

P.S. If you know a friend or relative who might benefit from some Connected Families insights, this would be a GREAT post to share with them!

An unconventional solution to a child’s resistance

father son whisper

We often see a common parenting cycle when kids are prone to anxiety. In short, it goes like this:

  1. Child feels anxious
  2. Worried, but well-meaning parent “encourages” the child toward to overcome the anxiety by pushing the child
  3. The child gets more anxious and withdraws, or has a meltdown in order to feel in control
  4. The child feels more ashamed and anxiety builds
  5. Parents feel scared about the future and the anxious (and usually very emotionally sensitive) child picks up on this and grows even more anxious
  6. Repeat at increasingly higher intensity

This cycle might be about homework, new experiences, social situations, or any number of challenges.

When Kids Stay Irresponsible

irresponsible child

Brian and Jana were very concerned about how much work it was to get their 8-year-old son, Brady, to do much of anything – look up from his book when they talked, get ready for school in the morning, get dressed for baseball, take a shower… Just to get the kid to tie his shoes was an aggravating power struggle.

Brian observed, “I need to out-think him to get him to do something. And it has to be creative, or it doesn’t work.”

To help Brian understand and feel the impact of the “outfoxing game” on his son, I asked Brian how it would feel if his boss needed to outmaneuver him or threaten to dock his pay to “get him to perform” at work. Brian answered, “Pretty unmotivating.”

Want a Responsible Teen? Start Now!

I just watched a video from a youth ministry leader. He intentionally stated one reason it’s so hard to relate to teens, and unintentionally stated the real reason.

child growing up to teenHis intended explanation is that teens are hard to relate to because of the big relational changes that happen as kids move toward independence. The authoritative style of parenting — “you say no and the child doesn’t argue”– used with young kids no longer works, so a new form of relational influence must be learned. More listening and negotiation is needed to empower teens toward independence.

He’s right to say that the authoritative parenting used with young kids contributes to the problem. But he’s wrong to brush over it as if it’s expected to be this sort of parent with young kids.

He’s right about the importance of relational influence. But he’s wrong to say that we should wait until kids are teens to learn to have relational influence.

The Big Problem with Parenting…

mother communicating daughter

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.

Scared to Launch Your Teen? This Is for You.

parent teen argueFor parents of older teens, the thought of releasing our kids into the world can be frightening, particularly if they have shown very few signs that they will be able to handle “real life” once they leave our care. If this is the case, you are probably scared and hurt from the conflicts with your child.

When feeling this way, parents often respond one of two ways: either they throw their hands up in exasperation and leave the child to her own devices, or they anxiously go “all in” with lectures and consequences intended to motivate their child. I have found that both ends of the spectrum are unhelpful and create large relational craters.

Simply stated, it’s tough to parent effectively if managing our hurt or fear is our main goal.