It’s bound to happen, inevitable, unavoidable. Sooner or later you will set an age appropriate, loving limit on your child’s behavior and he will get angry. He will become furious with you and argue. As a good parent, you will stick to your guns; after all, you know the limit is for your child’s best interest. Suddenly your child will look you straight in the eye and say, “You’re the worst mom ever. You’re so mean. I hate you. I wish I lived somewhere else!” They may not use those exact words, but you’ll feel the sting. They may not even say the words out loud, but you’ll feel the laser cold stare they shoot at you. Really, it is unavoidable. It will happen. What’s more important than when it happens is how you respond!
Children need to know their parents are bigger and stronger than they are. They need to know their parents can and will survive their anger and harsh impulsive words. When your children blurt out the “I hate you…You’re so mean” mantra, do not strike back. Do not return anger for anger. Offer them a blessing instead, a blessing consisting of three parts.
- Acknowledge their anger and frustration. “I’m sorry this is so frustrating for you” or “I can tell this really makes you angry” are the kinds of statements that acknowledge and empathize with your children’s emotions. When you acknowledge your children’s emotions, you children will know you care enough to hear and understand them. You do not fear their emotions. Instead, you accept their emotions…and them.
- Confirm your continued love for them. You might simply say, “I still love you” or “I love you too much to let you (insert the behavior you’re limiting).” Your children learn that even when you stare into their face of anger you love them. Your love is unwavering, not conditioned on their emotions or behavior.
- Stick to you guns. Yes, the limit still stands. An age appropriate, loving limit does not disappear in the wash of your children’s anger. It remains intact because it is securely grounded in your loving desire for your children’s best interest.
Your children will learn several crucial lessons from this 3-part blessing. They will learn you love them. You are stronger than their anger. Their anger will not scare you away. And a loving limit remains, even in the face of anger. Give it a try…you might be surprised at the results.
One of the best kept secrets in parenting a teen is to start early; in fact, the earlier the better. You can begin parenting your teens when they are children. That may sound strange, but let me explain.
- If you want a teen to listen and talk to you about “anything,” start by listening to them when they are children. Give them a childhood of knowing their parent is interested in hearing their opinions and stories. It will demand patience on your part to listen to your child tell you the same story in excruciating detail for the hundredth time; but, listening with full attention establishes you as the “go to person” in your children’s eyes. It makes you the person they will think of when they have important matters to discuss as a teen. It opens the door for you to have the important life discussions you want to have with your teen.
- If you want your teen to have a desire to spend time with the family, establish routines that include fun family times. Make dinner time a family time of conversation, laughter, and sharing rather than arguments and lectures. Enjoy playing together. Add in some fun surprise activities now and again. Let your children learn they are part of a family filled with laughter, fun, and sharing. As a teen, they’ll want to return to that family time and again.
- Practice an open door policy. Encourage your children to invite their friends to your house. Keep a supply of drinks and snacks available for friends who stop by. Get to know your children’s friends. Make you home one that your children and their friends love to visit. Then, when you children become teens, they’ll still come to your house to hang out and have fun. An added bonus—you’ll know where they are and what they’re doing as teens.
- If you have areas of concern for your future teen, get involved early. For instance, start listening to music together now. Sing together. Listen to the radio and talk about the lyrics of various songs. Expand the options of musical opportunities and availability. As another example, include your children in making choices when shopping for clothes. Allow them to express their unique tastes. Discuss fashion trends and what dress communicates. As your children become teens, these interactions are more likely to continue. Potentially conflictual areas like music and shopping become areas of developing relationships rather than constant arguing.
It’s never too early to start parenting your teen; in fact, the sooner the better. Prepare for the teen years by becoming involved during their childhood. If your child is already a teen, do not fear. Focus on the relationship with your teen because it’s never too late to start parenting your teen!
No, we do not want to raise self-critical children. We want to raise hard-working children who accept themselves and others. Unfortunately, we can easily slip into a style of parenting that promotes self-criticism and perfectionism in our children. How do parents unwittingly nurture self-criticism? Let me offer a couple examples.
- Our child is working on a puzzle but keep trying to put the wrong piece in the wrong place at the wrong time. We jump in to take the wrong piece out and quickly replace it with the correct piece. In effect, we took over the puzzle for a short moment. We robbed our child of the chance to recognize their mistake, learn from it, and correct it on their own. We communicated they can’t do it on their own, they’re never good enough. We’ve nurtured a self-critical tendency toward anything less than perfect.
- Our child starts to color their tree pink. In our desire to teach, we jump in to correct. We quickly take the pink crayon from them and give them a green one while explaining, “Look, those trees are green.” We intruded upon our child’s imaginative perception. We squelched their creativity at that moment and limited the way they can look at the world to align only with our perspective or the common perspective. We also sparked a moment of doubt about their decisions and aroused a fear of being different. We’ve nurtured a self-critical attitude toward any uniqueness in their lives and art.
- Our teen wants to take an extra music or art class. We jump in to redirect them to something more useful, a math or science class for example. We explain the necessity of math and science as well as the frivolity of music or art. After all, they have to graduate from high school and find a well-paying career. Eventually, they succumb to our nagging and begrudgingly take a math class. We have subtly taken over their schedule and intruded upon their dreams. We’ve communicated their inability to make wise choices, explore options, have multiple interests, and even learn from mistakes. We’ve nurtured a self-critical tendency toward interests and decisions that don’t “fit the mold.”
In each of these scenarios well-meaning parents intruded upon their child’s decision and activity. They took over an experiment, a creative expression, a self-exploring decision. They left their child no choice but to “do it” the way their parent wanted it done. They put excessive pressure on their child to comply with their desire and their needs. When parents intrude upon their children’s lives, children become more likely to exhibit an overly self-critical nature and maladaptive perfectionism. What can a parent do instead?
- Focus on effort, NOT achievement. Recognize your child’s effort in everything they do.
- Acknowledge specifics of what your child has done right, or the things you admire, BEFORE discussing mistakes.
- Allow your child to experiment “outside the box.” Encourage creativity and uniqueness. Let them do things “their way” even if it takes longer, is not the traditional method, or is different than the way you would do it. You might explain how you do it, but allow them to try their unique approach as well.
- Let your child struggle with mistakes and choices. Allow them time to learn from their mistakes. While they struggle, do not say “I told you so” or “If you would have listened….”
Practice these four tips and you can help your children develop a sense of adventure and joy in exploring, learning, and growing.
Growing up in a family we often find ourselves socialized into particular roles. Family members get “pigeon-holed” as the scapegoat, the smart one, the trouble-maker, the helper, the athlete, etc. Those labels shape how we think. When we are treated like a helper, we grow to think of ourselves as a helper. When constantly treated like a troublemaker and called a “liar” or “stupid” in the midst of trouble, we being to think of ourselves as a lying, stupid troublemaker. These thoughts (good or bad) follow us into adulthood. We often do not even realize the need to address these roles until they interfere with our lives in some way. Then, we battle the limitations of the label, the walls of emotional confinement and mental restrictions created by the label we take with us into life. We struggle to replace the label of troublemaker, for instance, with a more truthful label like curious explorer.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want anyone in my family confined by a negative role and label. I don’t want anyone to have to struggle to escape the imprisonment of some negative label. I don’t want my family members pigeon-holed. I want them to develop as a well-rounded people. But how can I avoid the labels? How can I avoid pigeon-holing them?
- First, avoid labeling and name calling. Do not stoop to name calling, even in the midst of arguments…especially in the midst of arguments. Name calling and labeling sets up patterns of self-perception in our mind like concrete over time. The longer we hear the label or name, the more solid it becomes embedded in our minds. So, avoid labeling and name calling.
- Second, instead of labeling and name calling, acknowledge effort. Also, acknowledge a wide variety of talents and skills your spouse or child exhibit.
- Third, encourage everyone in your family (including yourself) to try new things. Deliberately seek out the things you believe you are not good at and give them a try. Learn about them a little bit and enjoy the new experience. If you’re a good athlete but not so good at art, take an art class. Keep on enjoying sports, but take an art class just to try something new. Who knows? You might find a new interest and talent.
- Fourth, our children may go through periods in which they lie more often…or constantly get under foot trying to help…or some other behavior. During those times, realize that people change and grow. Rather than attach a label, remain open to the idea that they may “grow out” of this behavior. Then, calmly address the behavior. Address each incident individually, not collectively. Become curious about the motivation behind the behavior. Discuss the behavior and identify alternative behaviors. After you have addressed the behavior, treat them “as-if” they already got it. Repeat this process as necessary…and repeating will likely be necessary.
Four actions you can take to break you and your family free from the tyranny of labels and the “pigeon-hole” confinement of superficial roles; four actions that can set your family free to grow into a well-rounded people.
Cornell University recently completed an interesting study about the “evolutionary advantage” of a positive attitude. They were able to simulate 40 generations of people while looking at the impact of attitude on survival. (Read a review here.) The results suggested that those who survived for multiple generations:
- Attached more importance to long-term happiness than to momentary happiness,
- Remembered past happiness for longer periods of time, and
- Attached greater meaning and importance to the upswings in their situation than the downswings.
You may be thinking, “But I’m not an evolutionist. I believe in creation.” That’s OK…so do I. One might interpret these results to suggest we were created to live longer and more successfully when we do the same three things listed above. Said in a slightly different way, those who “survived”:
- Attached more importance to the eternal than the temporal,
- Remembered past blessings and kept them in mind each day, and
- Attached greater meaning and importance to times of blessing than the actual struggle itself.
Let me make this a little more personal though. I mean, it’s kind of hard to think about 40 generations. Let’s narrow it down a bit. If we create a family environment that promotes these three actions, our children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren can learn to be happier, more successful, and “survivors.” How do we promote these three actions in our families? Here are a couple of ways.
- Develop an environment of gratitude in your family by thanking one another often.
- Tell family stories of joyful events and successes, funny experiences and surprise blessings.
- Tell family stories of how persistence and effort in times of struggles led to positive learnings or other positive results.
- Practice showing kindness to others as a family.
- Promote rituals of celebration. Mark your family values and happy events with celebration.
- Find ways to experience awe as a family. Watch the sunset. Listen to a concert. Visit a cathedral or the Grand Canyon. Experience awe as a family.
- Make prayer and worship a part of your family life.
We had another great Family Camp weekend at Camp Christian this year! Tim Jones was the speaker this year. He shared some fantastic insights for our lives and our families. Let me share three of these insights plus my most cherished experience of family camp.
- Adored people become beautiful people. This is true for our world and our families. An adored spouse will more likely become a person worthy of adoration. An adored child will more likely live up to their parents’ adoration. An adored parent strives to live a life that honors that adoration. The take home: honor and adore your family to turn the beast within into a beautiful member of your family in Christ.
- A vision of where we are going makes all the difference. Times can be difficult, struggles immense. But, having a clear vision of where those difficulties and struggles take us can make them bearable. For instance, discipline is never fun. It is hard for the one disciplined and the one dishing out the discipline. We hate to see our children struggle with the pain of discipline. But, if we keep a clear vision of where we want to go—the godly behavior and wise discernment we want our children to develop—discipline becomes bearable.
- We are called to be “story people,” to live a life of adventure following the “still, small voice of God.” There is no greater joy than following God as a family into the adventure of life in Him.
Thanks Tim for these wonderful insights for our lives and our families. Still, my most cherished family camp experience involves a simple observation. Families of all different stages come to family camp—grandparents with grandchildren, families of infants, families of teens, and even “empty nesters.” Spending time at family camp, I was deeply touched by the sight of all these families enjoying time together. Whether worshiping together, playing together, eating together, or laughing together, I loved seeing families interacting with one another. Interacting with families at family camp allows us all to be part of this beautiful experience. That experience is the one I cherish most.
Thanks to Jim and Terry Jones, the deans of family camp, for organizing such a wonderful family experience. Thanks to all who helped create an environment where families can experience the joy of sharing, playing, worshiping, and learning together.
Experts at The University of Texas (Austin) and the University of Michigan looked at five decades of research on spanking. They looked at research that defined spanking as “an open-handed hit on the behind or extremities” and excluded harsher forms of discipline in an effort to “weed out” abuse. The findings suggested “the more children are spanked, the more likely they are to defy their parents and to experience increased anti-social behavior, aggression, mental health problems, and cognitive difficulties.” (Read more @ The Strong Evidence Against Spanking, Spanking & Child Development, Risks of Harm from Spanking). These studies do not say spanking causes these negative outcomes, but spanking is strongly associated with these negative outcomes. Even so, these studies do suggest that spanking does not have the intended results of improved behavior. If spanking is ineffective, how can a parent promote positive behavior? I’m glad you asked. Here are a baker’s dozen of ideas you can use. Part 1 offered an initial baker’s dozen; read Alternatives to Spanking, Part 1. Try them out. I think you’ll like them.
- Of course, rules are important in discipline. They help define expectations and provide safety. However, too many rules can backfire. Read Family Rules: The Guardrails of Safety for 5 tips of creating effective family rules. While you’re at it, check out Because I Said So to learn the importance of have an age appropriate explanation for the rules as well. And, How to Raise Happy, Wealthy, & Moral Children will explain the dangers of too many or harsh rules.
- Parents will have to tell their children “no.” In fact, telling our children “no” will benefit them for a lifetime. But how can we say it and make it stick? Prelude, Fugue, & Variation in “NO!” will provide you some ideas.
- Psychologists describe a particularly effective type of parenting called “inductive parenting.” Read Dunkin’ Donuts & a Better Behaved Child for a great example of this style of parenting. And, 3 Steps To Teach Children to Behave describes a similar process, step by step.
- Effective discipline requires a parent look beyond the misbehavior to address the motivation of the misbehavior, the why of misbehavior. Why Do Children Misbehave describes 4 reasons children might misbehave and how to respond to each. Misbehavior: A Call for Love explains a few other reasons a child might misbehave and how to respond.
- Parents who discipline effectively don’t get caught up in their own emotions and feelings about their children’s behavior. But, they do use their feelings to better understand the behavior and to know the best way to respond to that behavior. Read A Back Door To Your Child’s Heart to learn more.
- Parents who discipline effectively also understand that a child’s development can impact their behavior. A toddler behaves differently than a teen, for instance. Here’s an example of development in My Daughter Saved Mr. Potato Head that can help you think about how discipline will be different for a child depending on their developmental level. Think Like a Child to Discipline Well will add to your knowledge about development, thinking, and discipline.
- One of the goals of discipline is for our children to internalize appropriate values so they can make wise decisions independently. Help Your Child Internalize Great Values gives 4 Do’s and 4 Don’ts to help to your child internalize positive values.
- Time out has become a popular discipline tool. Unfortunately, it is often misused and becomes ineffective as a result. Discipline with Time Out or Tune In redefines time out as tuning in and suggests 7 steps to make work.
- Of course, praise can be a great tool in discipline…or a real disaster. Learn how praise can undermine your discipline in The Dark Side of Praise and How to Ruin Your Child with Praise. Then read 4 Simple Guidelines for Praising Your Child to learn how you can use praise to discipline effectively.
- Parents do not discipline well by bailing their children out of troubles…or by pouncing on them for misbehavior. Instead, we need to let them suffer the consequences of their misbehavior. Doing so demands that parents respect their child and practice self-control. Read Parents, Do You Bail, Pounce, or Let ’em Suffer to learn more.
- Parents who discipline effectively have learned the art of allowing “natural consequences” and giving “logical consequences.” Read Fix It, Clean It, Replace It, or Lose It to discover how this art can help you discipline well.
- You can encourage positive behaviors and positive growth in your children (and isn’t that what we really want) by taking verbal snapshots of various moments in their life. Verbal snapshots are powerful. Read about them in Taking Verbal Snapshots of Our Children’s Lives.
- I saved it for last, but it’s really the first step in effective discipline. Improve your relationship with your children’s other parent. Read the First Step in Effective Discipline to learn how important this is.
Experts at The University of Texas (Austin) and the University of Michigan looked at five decades of research on spanking. They looked at research that defined spanking as “an open-handed hit on the behind or extremities” and excluded harsher forms of discipline in an effort to “weed out” abuse. The findings suggested “the more children are spanked, the more likely they are to defy their parents and to experience increased anti-social behavior, aggression, mental health problems, and cognitive difficulties.” (Read more in these 3 articles: The Strong Evidence Against Spanking, Spanking & Child Development, Risk of Harm from Spanking). These studies do not say spanking causes these negative outcomes, but spanking is strongly associated with these negative outcomes. Even so, these studies do suggest that spanking does not have the intended results of improved behavior. If spanking is ineffective, how can a parent promote positive behavior? I’m glad you asked. Here are a baker’s dozen of ideas you can use. Part 2 will offer another dozen ideas. Try them out. I think you’ll like them.
- First, and perhaps most important, realize you are your child’s best teacher. In fact, you are their Best Teacher Eh-verrrr.
- Practice the 6 ingredients described in Six Ingredients of Parental Authority.
- We discipline best from within a deep relationship. A Crucial Parenting Insight Learned in Three Parts offers a study that shows how foundational our relationship is for our children to learn.
- One powerful discipline tool we often overlook is the mirror. It’s true. Read One Powerful Discipline Tool to discover how a mirror can help you discipline effectively.
- Curiosity kills the cat, but it can make your discipline more effective. Assumptions, on the other hand, sabotage discipline. Learn more about this in Assumptions & the Downward Cycle of Discipline.
- Parenting is hard work. It really does take a village to effectively raise children. It Takes a Village…But How? describes four ways you can build a supportive village to help you discipline your child.
- A great discipline tool is to Catch the Little Rascals Red-Handed. This blog tells you exactly how to do it. Try it out for 2-4 weeks and watch your children’s behavior improve.
- To practice effective discipline, a parent must determine who owns the problem. Who is frustrated, unhappy, or experiencing unmet needs as a result of the behavior? That person owns the problem. Read Whose Problem Is That?! to find out how this knowledge frees a parent to discipline effectively.
- Discipline is “training to ensure proper behavior: the practice or methods of teaching and enforcing acceptable patterns of behavior.” Follow the steps in 3 Simple Steps to Discipline Children to begin this process.
- Routines are one of the most effective disciplinary tools, preventing misbehavior before it even happens. A Most Influential Discipline Tool explains how they work and what routines can help.
- Perhaps the most powerful discipline tool at a parent’s disposal is positive attention! Learn how to use attention to discipline your child in The Most Powerful Discipline Weapon Known to Man.
- Children have two currencies for love: time and attention. Banking Time & Attention with Your Children describes a simple technique for using time and attention to improve your children’s behavior. You might even try engaging with your children in this activity (Building Forts to Build Mature Children) to bank some time with your children.
- A neurologist taught me a great way to discipline children, change the environment. Learn five ways you can change your children’s surroundings that will improve their behavior in 5 Tips to Improve Your Child’s Behavior.
Read Alternatives to Spanking, Part 2 for another baker’s dozen.