Disciplining misbehaving kids is often a difficult and emotion-laden task. Our oldest son Daniel, sometimes said to Lynne, “Mom, you just bursted all over us!” And he was painfully right. Jim had his share of quick, harsh reactions as well. Those were discouraging times for all of us, and we wished we knew how to get unstuck from that negative pattern.
Getting an education is a tremendous privilege. Most parents recognize that future opportunities are built on many layers of learning that happen during the school years. That’s why when kids make poor choices at school, either behavioral or academic, parents usually get pretty upset. If we are honest, it’s mostly because we think our kids’ bad judgment or irresponsibility reflects poorly on US! But really, their behavior is THEIR “report card” and not ours. As school approaches, take some time to prepare your children to be responsible for themselves this school year.
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.
Jesus said that “smart carpenters” build a sturdy house on solid rock. Then when the storms of life hit, nothing will move the house.
This doesn’t mean storms won’t pelt the house from time to time, and even inflict some damage. It means the house will stand strong, able to endure even the most ferocious of storms.
When I extend this metaphor into parenting, I realize that before I get too worried about the “house” of parenting skills, I need to build a strong Foundation.
In our online course a parent once asked the following question:
I see the difference you’re talking about between typical parenting and parenting with the four messages in mind… and I like the difference I see… here comes the BUT… what about when you are pressed for time and have to get out the door and your kiddo won’t comply in a timely manner?
When you became a mother, you likely pictured images of you and your children frolicking, playing, creating and bonding. You probably didn’t have visions of yourself with your face beet red, eyes bulging and words that you thought you’d never say spilling from your lips.
But here you are, ready to pull your hair out! You’re not sure how you even got to this point or how to find your way out of the rut. So you make promises to yourself to keep your cool, to be more patient, to practice deep breathing techniques. Only to pick up the pieces after you’ve blown it… one more time. You know you are capable of so much more than just “holding it together,” but you just can’t seem to get there.
Jesus was a “different kind of king”* This was evident in many ways, and highlighted by the unexpected way he entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.
Custom was that a king entered a town with a full show of prestige, power, and authority as a conquering hero on a prancing stallion. Instead, on Palm Sunday, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a young donkey — a lowly beast of burden. (This is like the difference between leading a modern day parade by driving a big black Hummer versus riding a bicycle with chubby tires and fenders!)
During my recent reading of “Boys Adrift” by Dr. Leonard Sax, I came across a letter that really grabbed my attention. The letter’s author is a 27-year-old doctoral student at Notre Dame — oh, and he’s addicted to video games.
I don’t think you understand the computer game phenomenon when you talk about it sapping the motivation of male 20-somethings. That’s only part of the picture. The other part is that I don’t mean that people are playing Battlefield 2 because they wish they could be shooting lots of people. But they do wish they could be doing something that mattered. When they’re playing that game, they can, for a few hours, feel like they’re doing something significant.
When I started grad school, I had a rough first year or so. Many times I came home feeling like I was never going to be any good as a scholar, like I had no hope of ever actually doing anything significant, or making any serious contribution even just in the academic community. But I could turn on the computer and play X-Wing and feel like I was helping to defeat the Galactic Empire. If you want to feel significant, feeling like you just destroyed the Death Star helps for a little while. ….
…[T]here is also, in many games, beauty and adventure. In Morrowind, you can wander through a really beautiful, detailed, vivid world. Now, I prefer reality. But I live in South Bend, Indiana. There aren’t lots of places to hike or even to walk. …
Of course I agree that people should stop wasting time in front of the PC/Xbox and go do something real. But in order to treat a problem it may be helpful to know something about how it seems to those who suffer from it.
Richard R., Notre Dame
From Richard’s letter, we can learn several important things about how to thoughtfully and gracefully talk with our kids about video games:
The way core beliefs are formed is complex. Our environment, the media, our peers, and mostly the homes we grew up in are the major contributors to the things we believe about ourselves and others. Most of us don’t spend much time thinking about this, but the beliefs are there regardless, and contribute greatly to much of our behavior. Core beliefs deeply affect our parenting. For example, if conflict was treated as a problem and swept under the rug in the home I grew up in, then I will likely feel very anxious about conflict and will work hard to avoid it or put a quick stop to it in my children. My core belief may be, “People should be nice and not have conflicts.”
What “tapes” do you play in your head?
The funny thing about core beliefs is that they become almost imperceptible repeating “tapes” that play over and over again in our minds. When we learn to say them out loud they sound almost ridiculous. But they hold power over us until we can replace them with new “tapes” or phrases that grow from truth.