Often, there are “lightbulb moments” that occur when parents come to us for coaching. Here is a great story shared by one client, Jerry, about his own epiphany regarding what it meant for him to be a father. You’ll be challenged and encouraged by the surprising turnaround that happened from one simple but deep insight that occurred during coaching. He realized what changes he needed to make in his parenting to experience the relationships he longed for with his kids.
“My wife and I were in the midst of a Skype session with our coach Chad. We were discussing issues regarding the way I have responded to my children’s misbehavior. As we were talking, I reflected on my own father and the relationship that he and I had when I was growing up.
My dad owned his own company and was extremely busy. I wouldn’t say we had a bad relationship, but my father’s role with me was that of an enforcer. When he would come home from work, he felt as if his interaction with his children was mostly as a rule enforcer. Because my dad primarily played this role, I didn’t have a close relationship with him.
My “Lightbulb Moment” as a Father
My discussion with Chad got me thinking and I realized that I was doing the exact same thing my father had done. I was just acting out the role that was modeled to me. I realized that I was behaving as only an enforcer of discipline–demanding the correct behavior.
In that moment, as this realization sank in, I felt I needed to give myself permission to have a real relationship with my children. I could treat them like people, talk with them and listen to them, and yet still be the adult parent that loves them. I could even make them feel safe and still bring discipline when needed.
It took about a five minute window for those thoughts to come together, but it was a total turn around in the way I had unconsciously thought about what it meant to be father. At the end of the coaching session, I knew something big had changed within my heart. Chad, my wife and I were able to pray and I was able to repent to the Lord for viewing my role as primarily the enforcer of the rules.
This is still a work in progress for me. I repeatedly have to confront the patterns of my past and they aren’t so easily shed. But, overall, I am pleased to report, it has significantly impacted the way I relate to my kids.
My View of Fatherhood Changed
I have realized, and hope other parents can realize the same thing: My role is really to connect with my children, have a relationship with them and provide discipline as needed, not just to hound them about whether or not they are following the rules or living up to expectations. What was meant to help them be successful was actually hindering them.
With this insight I became aware of how much my relationship with my oldest child was becoming strained. I had become so focused on his behavior, and not about him as a young man. I wanted to have a relationship with him, and encourage him in his faith, his goals and his character.
Actually, I’ve also learned that when you connect well with your kids and are intentional about your relationship with them, discipline often becomes less of an issue.
Putting Newly Learned Principles to Work: At Olive Garden!
For example, early in our Connected Families journey I experienced a wonderful example of applying their principles. Earlier in the day we had a parent coaching session. The newly received principles of Connected Families were raw in my heart and mind. Wanting to grow in this area, I felt that for supper that evening our family should go out to a nice restaurant and just spend time eating, connecting and enjoying one another. We chose to eat at the Olive Garden. The eating experience was fantastic. My oldest son noticed the difference from our normal restaurant interactions, which usually revolved around me being frustrated and angry with my children.
While waiting for our food, he looked at me and said, “What is going on with you Dad?”
I replied, “I’m just enjoying having an evening of connecting with my children.” He was taken aback by my calm attitude and priority of connection.
To top it all off, after our meal was over we were in the process of getting up to leave and our server came over to comment, “I just wanted to say that your kids were so well-behaved and pleasant. It was a real pleasure serving you tonight.”
Letting Go of the Past
I was blown away. For years I had secretly longed to hear just those words from someone about my family. It happened the day I stopped trying! I was amazed at the impact of letting go of my anxious managing of my kids and simply practicing the Connected Families principles.
It has been a humbling reality for me, but I am seeing how my past (I’ve forgiven my dad and we now have a good relationship) shaped the way in which I interacted with my kids. It is freeing to get to know my children as individuals and see them as gifted and loved.”
My Response to Jerry’s Story:
- What did I relate to in this story?
- How do I view my role as a parent?
- How does my family of origin impact this role?
- How might I want to shift my view of what it means to be a parent?
You can experience the kind of changes Jerry did. Connected Families offers coaching sessions both in person and via Skype for families that need clarity, direction and encouragement in their parenting journey. Coaching sessions are led by experienced parent-coaches who listen and consider together with parents how families can experience peace, connectedness and become “unstuck” from unhealthy habits. Is coaching for you? Check out Connected Families coaching page for more information and answers to your questions.
- Meet Chad Hayenga, one of our parent coaches.
- Learn how one of the families we coached came up with an activity for building respectful behavior in Building Respect and Teamwork in Families.