To the discouraged Mom in the third row,
As I share a story from my own parenting journey, our eyes meet and I sense a sadness inside of you. You are here alone. Are you a single parent? Are you married but struggling to get on the same page with your spouse? I’m not sure, but whatever the reason for your solitude, you seem to be bearing a lot of weight on those shoulders.
Perhaps you feel like a sponge, soaking up all the tension in your family. And there’s plenty of tension! There’s a burdensome sense of responsibility to keep everyone happy, and it’s not working.
Sometimes technology feels out of control. I am chief offender in our home. Two hours can pass and, if I’m completely honest, I don’t really remember much of what I did, saw, or believed was so important.
I recently came to realize that I was spending hours with various screens (computer, e-reader, phone, etc), as were my kids, simply because I was… BORED! Not that there weren’t other things to do, but somehow my life and the life of my kids was being sucked out of us with nothing to show for it.
Have you ever wondered what your family is “all about”? I asked this of coaching clients Ted and Dawn recently. They had come seeking help because their kids seemed ever more defiant, selfish, and irresponsible.
Eager to understand their family I asked them, “What would your kids say are the driving values you want to be sure they learn in your home? You know, how would they answer the question, ‘What is our family all about?’” Ted and Dawn weren’t sure. So I invited them to role play it with me. I played them and they played their kids. It went something like this:
The following is based on a reflection written by our eldest son, Daniel. We’ve adapted it a bit to speak more to parents. ~Jim & Lynne
What a relief it is to know that even if I somehow managed to become the person I’m constantly striving and browbeating myself to become, it wouldn’t earn me an ounce more of God’s already-abundant love for me. No more than running a marathon brings me closer to the sky. The sky is already here, touching me and filling me and nourishing me, and I am already safe.
Micah stood at the door, looking forlorn. “Mommy, You forgot to ask me who I am!”
Every day for a long time, Micah’s mom Therese was sure to remind him of perhaps the most important fact of his young life. Today, in the hubbub of activities, time had gotten away and in the rush to get him out the door to school Therese forgot. But Micah didn’t.
In the everyday transitions of life, we have perhaps our most potent opportunities to make eternal impressions on our kids, with acts or words that they might even remember for a life time. But we miss it because we’re caught up in the stuff of life.
Not Therese. Not usually anyway.
We do it all the time. “Nice work! Great job! You’re so awesome!”
It’s nice to take notice and give energy to the good things our kids do. But throwing kids compliments like this without any substance is akin to throwing them popcorn when they’re hungry. It tastes good and kids want more, but it doesn’t really nourish.
If you really want a compliment to improve a child’s sense of significance and grow wisdom at the same time, give that same energy some substance. Like this:
I could see her running down the hall, in pursuit of her friend. In most settings this would bring a smile to my face, however as my daughter rounded the corner at church, grazing the pastor with his cup of coffee, my face had an angry scowl. Controlled, of course, but angry nonetheless. My face was red. I was disappointed and embarrassed and, after catching up to her, my voice was curt and irritated.
“You’ve got to be more careful! That was not OK!”
The intensity of my feelings was not based on care or concern for my child, the friend she was chasing or the pastor whose hot coffee could have spilled and burned one or all three of them. Nope, I wasn’t concerned about that at all. I was only worried about one thing: ME.
Some parents worry that giving too many compliments might puff their kids up. Others thoughtlessly dole out praise without thought for the deeper impact. What kind of praise will communicate love to your kids without spoiling them?
“You’re the best!” feels good to hear. It also means that others are less great than me. Kids who hear it often might be inclined to compare themselves to others – their skills to other people’s skills. In that realm there’s almost always someone more skilled, so the striving to live up to the description can take on a fairly egotistical bent. Indeed, this sort of affirmation tends to puff up heads. But if your goal is to encourage a child — that is, fill them with courage to do what God created them to do — there is a better way to affirm.
As many of you may be aware from activities going on at your kids’ schools, October is National Bullying Prevention Month. Here are a few tips to help you think about what you as a parent can do to to prevent bullying.
When we see kids misbehave, often we ask “Where on earth did they learn that?” The problem — and the solution — is that often they learn it from us! Take a moment to ponder how your actions may be teaching your kids to bully, and what you can do about it.
It can be easy to blow your top when you hear your child is being bullied. But could there ever be anything good about bullying? Come along with us as we walk through a graceful response to bullying.
How did Jim stop the bullying of his eldest son? It isn’t what you would expect…
Sometimes kids just fight. It’s a part of life. But helping kids learn to navigate conflict in a healthy and constructive way can set them up to practice habits of problem-solving rather than bullying to “win” and get their way.
Whether through bullying or through other life circumstances, at some point your child will have to deal with rejection. Teach them where their value really comes from with this creative activity.
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Often times in the day-to-day messes of family life we need practical, specific ideas for how to communicate with our kids. Below are three of our most popular and practical tips — ideas that will provide a concrete tool in your parenting belt as you work to help build your kids’ character.