Your kids are watching you. Constantly. All the subtle messages from the way you live life are being absorbed by their active little minds, even if neither you nor your child are aware of it. During the summer months, there are more chances for together time, as well as opportunities for you to show your kids the kinds of values you hope they will embrace. How you do vacations is no exception. Family vacations can be memorable and deepen relationships with one another. They can also be a wonderful opportunity to teach principles that will help your kids grow in wisdom. Before you plan your summer trip consider being thoughtful about the messages you are sending your child regarding how you vacation.
What is the purpose of your vacation?
In our hectic society, it is easy to either skip vacations because we can’t carve out the time, or collapse in an over-priced luxurious spot just to have rest and ready-made entertainment. But…
Rick was feeling impatient with the way his wife was dealing with their children’s misbehavior.
He shared his thoughts with me during a recent conversation: “I’ve always been the kind of dad that likes to get things done efficiently. When I’d come home and see my wife in seemingly endless conversations with the kids about cleaning up messes or how to treat each other, I’d step in and take over because I figured sometimes these kids just need to know what’s what and who the parent is. The kids would comply and we’d get on with life. At the time I thought my wife was taking way too much time to do what should be quick and pretty easy.”
Since Rick was talking as if that was the way it once was, I asked him what had changed. Here’s what Rick said:
I love baseball. Before I ever even thought about marriage, I dreamt about the day I would teach my own children to play baseball.
The first time I went into the backyard with three-year-old Daniel to teach him the game, I was ecstatic.
I vividly remember that first wildly swinging “fat-bat” hit that connected with my well-timed pitch, sending the ball over the garage and into the alley beyond. His first home run gave way to a wild celebration as he ran randomly around the yard and then jumped on the Frisbee placed as home plate – just the way I’d taught him. My dream was coming true!
The only problem is that as the years went by, in spite of my encouragement, it became clear that Daniel didn’t have the patience for baseball. “This is dumb! I stood in the outfield for four innings and never touched the ball!”
When connecting with our kids is a struggle, sometimes it can feel like we have to “just try harder.” But if we’re really stuck, “just trying harder” doesn’t cut it.
What “just trying harder” can miss is that at the root of a struggle to connect can be a host of other issues.
Pretending that all is well will only perpetuate these troubles. In order to make real progress, we need to stop “trying harder” and look under the surface to address the real roadblocks — whether discouragement, exhaustion, awkwardness, disappointment and resentment, or even my own feelings of disconnection.
We’ve written about some of these issues, but the important thing to remember is that whatever barriers to connection you’re wrestling with, the starting place is honesty with God and with a few trusted people who will encourage and pray for you.
Once I’ve been “brutally honest” about the situation, there are practical ways that I can build my Foundation for the joy of Connection with my children. Here are a few.
In our kitchen, there is a huge dent in the floor. I see it every day. It is a reminder to me of the day in which I learned something important about myself when it comes to discipline. It was a day when I saw myself in my son’s eyes and saw what I was communicating to him in a very tense moment. When I look at that big gouge, I can feel my emotions rising, and I feel… love? Yes, love. Here’s the story.
Parenting is a beautiful gift. It can also be some of the toughest work you’ll ever do.
As we work to “train up our children in the way they should go,” sometimes it’s hard to keep focused on the big picture. We get angry. We get tired. We get frustrated. We default to our old, controlling ways over and over. It may seem like we’ll never be able to change.
But with God’s help, change is possible.
John was fed up. He told me that everything he’d tried had failed.
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.
“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13)
I remember the sign on the men’s dorm wall during my freshman year at a Christian college.
A spiritual disciplines checklist was posted for us to keep track of our “progress” (monitored by a well-meaning resident assistant). I am wired for variety, not daily routines, and I felt ashamed every time I missed checking off the boxes in the “Jim J.” section: daily devotional time, prayer, fellowship, witnessing, tithing. (At least I got tithing – 10% of 0 income.)
I felt ashamed that I wasn’t measuring up, even to the point of checking boxes just so no one would know that I wasn’t making very good Christian progress. Good thing there was no check-box about honesty.
The way to get the best out of people is to orient people toward others.
Think about it. When are you at your best? It’s almost always when you are contributing to the welfare of others. Certainly there are those rare situations on the athletic field or perhaps in a business arena where the individual outshines the group. But people are almost always at their best when whatever it is they are doing is for the benefit of someone else.
The same is true of your kids. The more you can help them to do what they do in ways that benefit others, the more they’ll feel a sense of purpose about their lives. The more they feel purposeful about one area of life, the better they’ll do in other parts of life.
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Sometimes when parents make constructive parenting changes, things appear to get worse before they get better. This is because changes, even positive ones, throw kids off-balance. They live by a well-learned set of unwritten rules and it sometimes takes a while to grow comfortable with new “rules” of engagement. So they will often push even harder to test their parents resolve.
One of my coaching clients experienced this with her 9-year-old son, and gave permission to share it in hopes that it would help other parents.