“No, YOU’RE dumb!”
“Well, you’re a loser!”
“I know you are, but what am I?”
“You’re a butthead!”
Name-calling between children is a challenge for many families. Once kids get on a roll of slinging names back and forth it can seem like an express train to a sibling meltdown. But it doesn’t have to be that way! You can help your kids turn their angry words into an opportunity to connect and build even stronger relationships.
It’s halfway through the summer, and you’re finding yourself in power struggles over screen time with your kids. “Why can’t they simply obey me and get off those stupid screens without whining, complaining, and negotiating? It drives me crazy!” A reasonable question, but there are a couple of key complicating factors:
- You’re up against a giant. Your “foe” is a whole industry with incredibly brilliant researchers, designers, programmers, and marketers with billions of dollars competing in a contest to “capture the eyeballs” of youth. In a famous statement at the height of MTV’s popularity, Bob Pittman said, “We don’t shoot for the 14-year-olds, we own them.”
- Your anxiety and anger are contagious. Because of how powerless parents feel against their children’s screen obsessions, they often engage full of anxiety about it (“Will my kid ever get a life, or will he just live in my basement playing video games forever?”) and anger (“I’m soooo sick of this fight!”). When kids sense these emotions and judgments, the conflict escalates.
Knowing this, how can you overcome those factors to effectively guide your child?
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.
We are a big deal. Our kids look up to us in a unique way. They need our affirmation and approval. Statistics show that kids who get a father’s love tend to soar well into the world, and those who don’t tend to struggle. Consider that. Perhaps this is why the Bible speaks so specifically to fathers. (see Col. 3:21, Ephesians 6:4, Prov. 20:7)
My own dad had no idea what a big deal he was. He thought our mom was the cat’s pajamas when it came to parenting (and she was pretty awesome), so he left her to take care of most of the affirmation and approval stuff. He did typical dad things: we fished, golfed, watched football and laughed together some. Yet, Dad wasn’t one to put constructive words to his feelings. His silence left me wondering. Even though he loved and cared for me deeply, I came to believe that in Dad’s eyes I was a disappointment; that he didn’t love me. I made a lot of destructive choices in my teen years perhaps because I was looking for a reassurance of my father’s love.
A young mom queried me intently after our talk on Entitlement in kids. “What do you do about the culture around us that guarantees that every child is a “winner” at participating and receives a trophy, even for last place?”
We commiserated about how rampant this attitude is, that dispenses trophies and stickers and stars and ribbons ad nauseum to make sure no one feels bad, and puts caps and gowns on kindergarteners for conquering a rigorous academic year.
So practically, how can you respond to this widespread attitude of trophy entitlement? Here’s what I told Jill.
We all want to parent our kids well, and especially to feel confident as we discipline our children. But many parents, in their efforts to discipline their children, miss what we think is a key ingredient.
The secret? Connection.
From our years parenting our three intense kids and working with hundreds of parents, we know that one of the keys to effective discipline is connecting right in the middle of it all — making sure our kids know that they are safe, loved, and valued no matter what, even when they misbehave!
Check out these three videos where we dig into some of the ways that connection can make all the difference with our kids — even in the middle of discipline situations!
“…whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute – if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise – let your mind dwell on these things” (Philippians 4: 8, NASB).
Ricky had just been suspended from school for threatening his teachers – an unusual thing for a fourth grader. I was enlisted to help him and his parents learn new skills for coping with his anger. During our first meeting I asked Ricky, “What are some things you’re good at?” He shrugged, unable to give an answer. I probed further, “What are some good things the adults in your life might say about you?” Ricky about hit the roof!
One former NFL player, James Harrison, sent out an Instagram message regarding his two sons receiving “participation trophies” even though they didn’t win anything.
Harrison, the youngest of 14 kids and a two-time Super Bowl winner himself, struck a chord with many who believe that trophies should be given to those who “earned” them and not simply to those who “tried their best”.
Kids need encouragement. But not all affirmation is created equal!
Some affirmation is empty — like popcorn or cotton candy — but nourishing affirmation builds kids up by helping them see how their actions benefit others or build their character.
So, what does nourishing affirmation look like?
“Stay positive.” It’s almost a cliche at this point. But the parenting truth behind this oft-spoken statement is that kids need constructive affirmation and encouragement from their parents.
This might sound simple — but sometimes, affirming our kids can be really hard!