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.

What She Shouldn’t Have to Know

I’m always trying to make things with the kids. Today, we made homemade pretzels – 20190227_154206.jpginspired by a friend’s post a few days ago. They turned out yummy and we got to have a little science lesson about how the crust on a pretzel turns brown. (We didn’t quite get ours as brown as “normal” but they turned out tasty and browner than bread.)

We were all twisting dough into shapes and having a blast with it, competing to see who could make the most pretzel-y looking pretzel, when my sweet 6-year-old tapped me on the arm.

“Mom, look, look what I made. It’s one of those…” She blanked.

“Like a Chiari ribbon?” I tried to fill in.

“No, for hanging yourself,” Sadness in her expression, she pointed at it.

I was frozen in the thickness in the air, staring at her ribbon-pretzel, and I swallowed hard.

Her sweet big brother chimed in, “Yeah, suicide awareness!” and smiled big at her, so she could smile too.

“If we had the right colors, we could paint it. Purple and teal, right Momma?”

I nodded, “We sure could baby girl.”

She let me know she wasn’t going to cook it that way, because she wanted to make an ‘R’ and she went back to the work before her.

And I begged God to keep my legs beneath me and my tears at bay as I worked with the dough in my hands. You see, we have these conversations so often in our home, about suicide, and suicide awareness. We have to, as we nearly lost one of our kids to suicide. I am typically the one that starts them – which means I pick the time and the setting and I get to pep talk myself into the moment. This one caught me off guard. She shouldn’t have to know about this just yet. Sure, sure, in a few years. But she is 6 years old.

But we do know. We all know and we can’t erase or ignore what we know, what we’ve seen, what we’ve walked through. Thank God we haven’t walked through it alone. Thank God we’ve always had a hand to hold, His faithful peace and presence, and friends to love on us.

I often have to remind myself of the hard things I’ve been through in the past, and how those very hard things have shaped who I am, and how those things become part of my personal statement about who I am becoming. Sometimes the hard things require some undoing and unlearning and new learning to reach for who I am becoming. But sometimes they are just part of the story.

Looking back on hard moments in my life, I see how short-lived most of them were. I also see how faithful God is to use our deepest pain for His greatest glory. It’s not always easy, and it’s not usually the way I would have chosen, but His ways are higher than mine, and I surrender to His purposes and plans.

She shouldn’t have to know. But she does. And since she does, I’m going to teach to her look for God in the hardest moments, and to wait expectantly for the good things He will do in and through a hard situation. Not just her, of course. But each of the precious children God picked for me.

Tomorrow, I’ll pull her into my lap and hold her close. I’ll talk to her about the ribbon she made and what it means to her. I’ll apologize for my quiet response and held back tears. I’ll tell her how those moments can sneak up on a Mommy and we don’t always know what to do with them. And we’ll talk about how much we love each other, and how much Jesus loves us. And we’ll talk about her brother and how much we love him, and how much Jesus loves him. And she’ll put me on the spot with some really hard questions, that she asks a lot, often. Some of them I can answer. Some of them, I cannot answer.

If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide or just not feeling safe, you can call 1-800-273-8255 and talk to someone who is willing to help you through.

Until Next Time,

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Parents Get a Do Over too

We’ve been watching an incredible series on TBRI – Trust Based Relational Intervention – to help us build trust based parenting skills to use at home. One of the practices they use over and over is giving the kids a re-do.

Disrespectful tone? Say it again nicer.

Forgot to ask, instead told/commanded? Try again.

Instead of punishing the person, they give them the opportunity to connect and try again. I’ll be honest, I thoroughly love watching these. They are full of useful helps like this.

Yet, in the real world, when the kids are awake once again, it’s easy to use the same old, same old.

My 5 year old daughter was particularly sassy this morning, and I finally barked, “Don’t talk to me like that! Get out of the laundry room!”

And I froze. That wasn’t the response I wanted to use. I blew it. I hung up another shirt, while shaking my head at myself. Next time, I’ll try it the right way next time.

Buzz. Wrong.

I called her back to me, “I didn’t mean to talk to you like that. Were you asking or telling when you talked to me?”

She smiled real big, “I was supposed to be asking. Will you please hand me that?”

I got to fulfill her request, reach something that was too tall for her to reach, and connect with her. And she got to have her do over and see that asking nicely produces better results.

Parents get a do over too. It’s a lot like apologizing – we have to tell pride to take a hike, and we have to tell ourselves not to wait until next time. Try again this time. Don’t let this moment pass without learning how to respond to and lead your kids better.

They get a do over when they mess up so they can practice the right behavior and hopefully turn the right behavior into a habit. We get a do over for the exact same reason.

Until next time,