Parenting is tough these days. And parents seem to be trying harder than ever to get it right.
You read books as time allows. You stay up, sometimes for hours, researching articles on the internet. You give it everything you’ve got. You see glimpses of progress, but you continue seeing the same issues, the same misbehavior, the same fights repeat themselves over and over again — maybe even growing slowly more troublesome. And you know your family is capable of so much more.
You just can’t seem to get there.
John was fed up. Like many parents, he came to me looking for a quick fix. No matter what consequences or logic John put in place, his 6th grade son Ben just wouldn’t take responsibility for getting himself up and moving, and out the door on time for school.
He told me that everything he’d tried had failed.
Rather than talking about the behavior, I asked him, “Does Ben know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you love him?”
When it comes to raising your kids, we know how frustrating it can be to put your whole heart into it over the years and continue seeing the same issues, the same misbehavior, the same fights, repeat themselves over and over again.
You read as many parenting books as you can get your hands on. You stay up sometimes for hours researching articles on the internet. You give it everything you’ve got.
You see glimpses of progress with your kids. But you know your family is capable of so much more.
You just can’t seem to get there. We get it – we’ve been there ourselves and with thousands of parents over the past two decades.
“I’m bored. No one wants to play with me. I hate my classes and that teacher. I’m no good at anything! Everything is just dumb!”
Kids can be pretty good at complaining and crabbing their way to get parents’ attention. And to make matters worse (if you’re anything like I was as a young parent), parents’ well-intended responses often upset kids more, and the snowball of negativity keeps on growing. Like this:
In our work coaching hundreds of parents of tweens and teens over the years, we’ve uncovered six common themes that leave teens feeling a little more encouraged and willing to respect their parents. (And, if you’re a parent of a tween or teen, we’ll be featured Saturday, Sep 23 on the FREE online Parenting Teens Summit!)
1. When your teen challenges you, don’t fight them. LISTEN!
This is NOT about giving in or being a doormat. It is more about incorporating listening and affirming as part of your process in guiding them. To do this requires stopping, taking a breath, maybe even uttering a short prayer when challenged: “Lord, help me reflect your grace and truth here.” You’ll gain far more respect and authority in your child’s eyes by this approach than by forcing your agenda on them. Kids that really feel listened to gradually learn to listen to others.
As a young dad, I was taught that “delayed obedience is disobedience,” and that kids should be required to immediately obey all parental requests. I disciplined accordingly, knowing that having obedient kids was a good goal. And, if I’m honest with myself, I liked the feeling of control and validation that came with having obedient kids.
When our kids disobeyed, I was quick to respond with a rebuke and a consequence. Our oldest son Daniel was particularly strong-willed and defiant, and I was particularly hard on him. But my approach didn’t have the desired effect. As he grew from toddler to preschooler, Daniel grew more irritated by my discipline, and his general demeanor started becoming more angry and testy. I intensified efforts to “nip this in the bud” by using the commonly recommended practices for requiring obedience. The firmly delivered phrase, “Daniel, delayed obedience is disobedience, and you’ll be disciplined if you don’t obey immediately,” was commonplace. Sometimes he complied, and sometimes he did not, but we were both generally discouraged by the process.
When kids (and adults) experience tangled and confusing emotions that are difficult to express, what often comes out is anger. It feels vulnerable to be anxious, ashamed, sad, embarrassed, disappointed, discouraged, overwhelmed, confused, hurt or rejected. A typical response is to self-protect by avoiding or hiding those emotions under a layer of anger. We may not even be aware of those emotions. Unfortunately, when what we show is our anger, that’s usually what we get back from others, and it escalates the conflict instead of solving it.
Helping kids understand this emotional dynamic can be a challenge. We’ve designed a fun activity for you, adaptable for different ages or learning styles to equip your kids with the insight they’ll need for less meltdowns now, and healthy relationships in the future.
No matter the type of school – preschool, public, private, home-school, or alternative school – the transition from summer activities to educational studies generally has a few bumps in the road for both parents and kids. Because of feedback from parents just like you, we know the following four articles are worth the read to equip your family for a great school year!
Prep Your Kids for a Responsible School Year
6 Ways to Combat Back to School Anxiety
How to Get Kids to Care About School and Grades – Without Nagging
Make the Homework Battle a Win for Everyone!
From all of us at Connected Families, we wish you a school year full of growth, joy and connection!
If you have an intense child (or know someone who does), watch this short video, produced in partnership with FamilyLife Canada. You’ll learn what might be going on with your intense child that is driving his/her difficulty. And then make sure to read the story below about a family who put these insights into practice.
An Intense Child from FamilyLife Canada on Vimeo.
Rich and Paige* came for coaching because they were very concerned and frustrated by one of their kids who was particularly intense. In their first session, most parents want to immediately brainstorm responses to try to stop the behavior. It’s typical in our coaching process, however, to start with the essential first step: looking below the surface to discover what was going on in parents’ hearts. We discovered that when their son Leo had one of his meltdowns, or expressed big dramatic emotions, his parents’ thoughts revealed their frustration and judgments. As we talked, they were grieved that through both their verbal and non-verbal communication, Leo was most surely feeling the message, ‘Leo is a problem.’ As we talked, we pinpointed thought processes such as:
- Seriously, where does this come from? I shouldn’t have to deal with this, he’s just being ridiculous.
- When he acts like that, it drains my desire to be affectionate with him.
- He’s so different from me. I don’t relate to this kind of behavior at all.
- He’s just trying to get our attention.
We began to talk about general reasons why intense kids have big reactions, which are covered in the video above, as well as specific reasons that Leo might be struggling. We looked thoroughly at Rich and Paige’s beliefs about their son, and their level of heart connection with him.
In their second coaching session, Rich and Paige were much more peaceful. They talked about their growing compassion for their son, their increased joy and connection with him, and how much better he was doing. Their beliefs were now:
- My son needs my help to learn to handle his difficult emotions.
- I really want to do what I can to guide him away from his “black sheep of the family” identity.
- I so value the increased connection and joy in our relationship as I’ve prioritized that, and I think it’s really meeting a deep need for him.
- It’s wonderful to see him more encouraged about himself.
The next time your intense child has big emotions, ask the Holy Spirit for insight into your thoughts, beliefs and possible judgments. Rather than trying to figure out what to do in these situations to stop the behavior, consider what’s really going on in your child, and how you can meet their deeper needs.
Take 10 to 15 minutes to find out your strengths and challenges with our free parenting assessment.
Kids are bound to lie and parents are bound to catch them, and then punish or lecture them. Unfortunately, this can spiral into a contentious cat-and-mouse game, as kids become more crafty and parents become more angry. In our work with parents, we have seen that treating lying with grace and placing a high value on truth-telling, powerfully opens children’s hearts to the Holy Spirit’s conviction about lying and honesty. Here are four ways to make that practical: