Are You a Coach or a Dictator?

When parents make the shift from controller/dictator/punisher to mentor/teacher/leader they will stop trying to control behavior and will start trying to teach why and how to behave. Kindness in this process is not weakness. Kindness toward our kids also does not automatically mean the kids run the show. It simply means that we recognize kid’s experiences are different from adults and we will walk alongside them and give them someone safe and sane they can rely on when they are struggling.

It is crucial for adults to remember that they are already “in power” because of their age, size, experience, role in the home, etc. It’s not a position of power that requires reminding over and over again. Demanding respect is an easy way to lose respect.

Exploding on a kid who is having a melt down, being difficult, or even defiant does not lead them to better solutions. It’s like spanking a kid for hitting his friend – I’ve never understood that. Let me hit you to teach you to not hit … It just doesn’t make sense. Adults losing control of themselves and yelling, name calling, and pushing around kids is kind of like saying “Let me lose control to teach you to not lose control”. It just really doesn’t make sense.

If we want to teach our kids how to navigate the ups and downs, day in and day out of life, we need to show them our maturity and our self-control. When we model the behavior we are trying to teach our kids, we give them something to look up to, a goal to reach for, an example to follow.

I’m not saying they don’t learn when we explode – but if you evaluate what they learn, can you honestly say that’s what you want to teach? When we explode they learn that we aren’t in control of ourselves, and expect more from them than from ourselves. When we explode, they learn they cannot trust us to help them navigate what they are feeling or facing. When we explode we break connection. And if we don’t apologize when we make mistakes, then we often place the burden of repairing the disconnect on the child.

This is a terrible injustice. As adults, we have more relationship experience. And if a majority of our relationships in our adult life have been broken then it’s time to do the hard work of finding out why and how to fix it. We cannot, however, expect our children to “behave good enough” for us to connect with them. We cannot expect our children to set the tone of the relationship. We cannot expect our children to grovel or beg for our attention.

No, this is all backwards. Our kids should already be good enough for our time and attention – because of who they are, not because of what they’ve done (or not done) in a day, week, month. It is possible to set healthy boundaries, to enforce necessary consequences, and to still shepherd their hearts and connect with them. It’s not always easy, and it requires that we look deep within ourselves, and also ask ourselves how our actions today will affect our future relationship with our kids.

Sometimes, in a hard moment, I ask myself, “How do I want them to remember this moment?” Do I want them to remember that mom flew off the handle, bit their heads off, and then was emotionally unavailable until they redeemed themselves with enough good behavior to earn my affection?

legosOr do I want them to remember that mom knelt beside them to right the wrong, clean the spill, navigate the situation, and remained emotionally available, behaved calmly, and lead them through with maturity?

I want the second scenario, hands down. It’s become extremely important to me to consider how they will remember things. As I realize how big our kids are getting, I also think about their adult lives – I want to be able to share in their adult lives. I want to be connected and able to enjoy meals, running errands, and game nights together. No, I don’t want to spend every waking moment with my adult children, but I want to see them regularly, often even. I look forward to being able to relate and connect, and not needing to correct anymore.

So to recap, since I feel like I carried on and rambled:

1. Lead, teach, and train your children instead of trying to control them into submission.

2. Model the behavior you want to see – such as self-control, patience, kindness – you know, fruits of the Spirit.

3. Apologize when you blow it. It’s okay to blow it. We get to make mistakes. But apologize. Do not leave the burden of repairing the relationship on your kids. Don’t expect them to behave good enough to be worthy of your attention.

4. Slow down. It’s okay to pause, evaluate, ask yourself what can be taught vs. caught and how you want them to remember this moment in the future.

Until next time,
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A Prayer to Share:

Dear God,
You know this parenting thing is hard. Please guide me as I guide my kids. Please soften my heart and help me build a lasting connection with them. When correction is necessary, help me find loving ways to correct them that help them grow and mature. Help me point them always toward You and help them to see Your light shining in me, first in how I care for them, then in how I care for others.
In Jesus’ Name,
Amen.

Who Are You?

Counseling is a big part of our life these days. One of the things our counselor brought up was that kids “this age” don’t know who they are, or what they like, or think of the world.

That got my wheels turning (like that’s news). I got to thinking of all the journals you can buy that have X amount of questions for a person to answer. Why aren’t we having kids do these?

But honestly, for as much of a nerd as I am, and as much as I love filling things like that out, my kids are not just like me. And I have yet to discover a love for writing in any of them. (Of course, cause that’s just how it goes, isn’t it?)

Well, we try to ask around dinner time what everyone’s favorite part of the day was. It’s been a fun way to hear what stands out to each of them. One person starts it (usually whoever can blurt it out fastest), and they ask someone specific. Then when that person answers, they “pass” the question to the person of their choosing. We started throwing in other questions, some serious, some silly, some super hypothetical, but questions to keep us talking and connecting. The game of questions has become part of our car rides, chore time, and meal time. t shirt

One of tonight’s questions: If you could only wear one color shirt for the rest of your life, what color shirt would you choose?

Tonight, as we were driving home passing a question around, and I was once again considering one of those journals (or making my own for my crew) something profound hit me. Answering questions in a journal is helpful in uncovering, discovering, and recovering who we are. It is something that can help us peel back layers. But one of the things that has best helped me learn who I am are conversations I’ve had with people. Close friends, acquaintances, and even random people who I’ve never met before. Questions asked spur me to consider something I’ve never considered, rarely considered, or consider a lot. It sharpens my knowledge of me, and of the world around me. And in turn, asking questions helps me understand who someone else is.

So, I’m going to put the idea of the question journals aside. Not because the questions are bad or the format is bad, but because I think we have the best chance of discovering who we are together. I don’t think it is a singular activity, this peeling open of oneself. I think it is best done in community, with peers and mentors. I also think it is something we should prayerfully consider – who we are, who our kids are, who our spouses, friends, coworkers are. No one knows better than the One who created us.

So the questions will continue, and I will continue to discover who they are and offer them the opportunity to explore who they are. And we’ll talk about who we are becoming – so when we are stumped, we can ask who we are becoming to help us figure out things about ourselves now. It’s a thought process that is helping move me to action and focus my time and energy as I move forward day-to-day.

Until next time,
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A prayer to share:

Dear God,
Help me uncover who you made me to be. Help me to discover the things that make me, me. Help me to recognize how the things that matter to me, connect me to You, so that I can love you and serve others effectively. Give me guidance and wisdom as I help my kids learn who You made them to be. Remind me to always point them toward You. Inspire me to ask questions that, regardless of how silly, peel back the layers and help them truly know themselves. Thank You for giving me this job of training up these precious kids.

In Jesus’ Name,
Amen.