Parenting with Connection and Confidence-The Child

Greetings! As the Summer unfolds kids are wrapping up activities and getting ready to go back to school. I am saddened by the news this past month: A 19 year old mass shooter snuffed out the life of several people including some children then was shot down by authorities. This was only the first in a string of similar incidences. The kids in my own neighborhood scream and yell at one another, and even in our churches, parents are frustrated with their kids, scolding and chiding without much success of compliance.  Something is amiss!

I would like to bring more positive news that there are parents and kids enjoying life together.  Many folks are making a difference in their communities, people are enjoying intergenerational activities and I know many families who are successful at engaging with their kids, connecting with joy and effectively helping their kids grow, manage emotions and become caring and kind people.  There is still hope that we can bring the Love of Jesus into our homes, our communities and the World.

This second lesson in a series of 4 lessons on Parenting with Connection and Confidence will focus on        THE CHILD.  I hope you will enjoy these thoughts and suggestions.  I especially hope that some idea or practical application will bring more love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control to you and your kids.

THE CHILD-

“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” -Jesus of Nazereth  (from Matt.19:14, NIV) 

Like Jesus,--well, somewhat like Jesus—I prefer to start with an invitation and connection when it comes to engaging with children.  Many parenting resources focus on discipline methods, which are surely needed to help guide and correct the child-person, but that is not the best place to begin.  Here are the 3 areas that I will highlight in this lesson on the Child.

–   Regard- I SEE You and I LIKE You!

–   Respect- Your child is a Person, separate from you.

–   Redemption- Children also need redemption.

Regard- “to look attentively at; consideration; concern; respect and affection; to involve” Webster’s New World Dictionary.  The first brain skill that children will develop is connection with the primary caregiver.  It is said that an infant will interpret two main emotions:  Joy and Disgust.  The question each little person—and perhaps we do too—ask is, “are they happy to see me or disgusted to be in my presence?”  The babies and children that get huge doses of, “I am delighted to be with you!” tend to be more secure and settled.  Children who are consistently greeted with disgust, despair or indifference, tend to be more agitated and difficult to settle.  With more studies about brain development and function we see that high regard connection with people who love us helps the brain develop, and even have profound effects on physical, mental and relational health.   Dr. Jim Burns, at HomeWord ministries provides a practical reminder on how to approach our relationship with our children using the acronym: *AWE! Affection, Warmth and Encouragement.  This is the mindset that helps a child grow into a healthy loving person.  Perhaps this is the best way to approach all of our relationships!

Respect- The second principal in connecting with your child whether infant, child, teen or adult is                 R-E-S-P-E-C-T!  Sing the song out loud! Your child is a separate person from you. Webster’s defines respect as: To feel or show honor or esteem for; to show consideration for.  

Children need to be respected as a person, not just an object to control and direct. Even infants will communicate if they are feeling overwhelmed or wanting more interaction.  Reading your baby’s queues will begin the pathway for respect as they grow. You may want to pause here and ask yourself this reflective question:

–   In what ways are you showing respect for, or disregarding your child in this area?

I notice that many parents seem to have the habit of answering for their children.  Even parents of junior high and high school kids have interrupted conversations that I was engaging with their son or daughter to answer for them. Have you or do you answer for your child when someone asks him or her a question?  This is extreme disrespect and gives a negative message that the child is somehow unable to speak or think for him/herself. Some children will actually feel invisible and unwanted if this is a constant habit.  If you are doing this-even for your young children, it may be best to just stop doing it.  I am sure you are not willingly trying to be destructive or disrespectful to your son or daughter, but now you have new information.  In what ways can you communicate and show your child that you believe he/she is capable of thinking and answering for him/herself?  Being seen and being liked is a powerful expression of love that translates into confidence and joy in the child. When was the last time you demonstrated that you truly saw your child and liked being with him/her?  Children that get this kind of assurance tend to act out less and engage in life with more positive social connection in and outside of the home.

When we show respect, we model it.  If your child is disrespectful, they may need guidance. It may be better to practice polite behavior at home through role-play  (make if fun!) rather than to embarrass your child in front of others.  Here are two more reflective questions to ponder:

–   What do your actions and words toward and in the presence of your child(ren) communicate overall?

–   How do you like to be respected?

Finally, let’s talk about Redemption.  Jesus said, “let the little children come to me”.   This was an unpopular notion in Jesus’ culture, that children would be welcomed into the adult arena.  Even now I notice that most of us are uncomfortable with childish behavior in our midst.  Children can be unruly, disobedient and disruptive. Surely they are in need of discipline, redemption and restoration.  So, what is the best approach?  First, go back to regard, then act with respect, then we can approach the need for redemption.   We will talk more about direct discipline in Lesson 3, for this lesson I would like to plant the seed that no matter how much we discipline, correct, cajole, persuade or direct our children, they are at the core self-centered and in need of redemption.  Certainly, we need to teach and direct them in ways that help them regulate their emotions, treat others with kindness and learn to do tasks that will be helpful in life. However, I believe that only God can redeem the child’s heart.  It  is not our job as the parent to turn our child into a “good Christian boy or girl”.  This motive may even be detrimental to their spiritual and emotional health.  Rather, it may be better to keep pointing the child back to Jesus as savior, the Holy Spirit as the Helper and the Heaven Father as the Lover of their soul.

I saw this happen after a sibling altercation in my friend’s home.  She listened first to see if the sisters could work out their differences with words, when it escalated to a physical shove, she intervened.  Each went to cool off where mom separately  engaged each one in a conversation. “ What Happened?”, she asked each one separately.  “What did you want?” “What was in your heart toward your sister?”  “What do you need to apologize for?”  “What would you like to happen next?”  She skillfully helped the girls replay, apologize-from the heart—and forgive.  The final statement that she made (I think this is a family theme) “Remember that you BELONG to our family!  Our family has regard for each other, we respect each other and we are kind to each other.”    It took time and thoughtful work with each child. But, I think these kids will gain skills to resolve differences in a way that my bring more peace and unity to a very fractured world.  We will talk more about Belonging at another time.

In closing for this lesson, we need to remember that each child is a uniquely created and loved person made by God in His Image. We are to have regard for one another, respect one another, and create an environment so each that of us can engage with the Savior for our redemption.  Perhaps these beginning reminders will help kids grow up to be more connected and caring adults who watch out for one another and enjoy relationships instead of hiding from them.  This is by no means the only things that children need from their parents, but perhaps it’s a good start.

I hope that you will be able to bring something practical to your family life that will help you connect more deeply and enjoy each other more.

 

Resources:

–   Confident Parenting, Dr. Jim Burns, 2007

–   God Attachment, Why you believe, Act, and Feel the Way you Do about God, Drs. Tim Clinton and Joshua Straub   

–   Parenting from the Inside Out,  Daniel J. Siegel, M.D., and Mary Hartzell, M.Ed, 2004

–   13 Things Mentally Strong Parents Don’t Do, by Amy Morin · March 6, 2019. Article from Forbes Magazine and HomeWord Ministries.  www.homeword.com

Parenting with Connection and Confidence - The Parent

Train a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not turn from it Proverbs 22:6

When it comes to parenting there are no guarantees!  But wait, you say, didn’t God give this “promise” that if I raise my child up right, then he/she won’t turn from it later in life?  First, this is not exactly a promise.  The writer of Proverbs made some astute observations that children who are raised in a certain way will maintain that character later in life.  It is a principle and there are many layers to it.  In this upcoming series I hope to give you some principles that will help you in parenting your kids for more connection and joy in your family.  There are no promises except, perhaps that if you reflect on these principles, engage God in your life and care for you kids with respect and regard, then life will be better for you and your kids. The four main subjects I will highlight in the next 4 sessions will be:  The Parent; The Child; Discipline; and Launching.   Hoping this will be dynamic and helpful to you and the life of your family.

The Parent-       

Reflection - How am I showing up and what is important for me?

The first step to becoming a healthy parent is to reflect on what is going on inside your own heart, mind and soul.  How are you showing up?  What was it like to be with “ME” today?   Family Patterns are deeply ingrained into the fabric of a family’s life. Each person brings a family system (or pattern) into the marriage and we establish a unique family system in our home that our children will live and breathe by until they break free and establish their own. These patterns can be healthy or unhealthy; beneficial or destructive An example of a family system or pattern would be how people in the family respond or react to conflict.  Is conflict feared or avoided?  Does everyone run when Dad or Mom is upset?  Is yelling and screaming the norm? Are people allowed to berate and criticize each other?  OR is there a pattern of working things out with respect and regard for each other.  Is talking, listening and caring exhibited when folks are upset or have a problem to work out with each other?  These patterns all begin with the parent or parents.  Reflecting on the patterns that you grew up with will help you become aware and, if necessary, be a conduit of change for a healthier pattern in the family in which you have the role of Parent.

Here are some beginning questions to begin your reflection:

What’s my motivation?                                To raise a Perfect Kid?                                                                                To make up for my own losses in childhood?.                                                                                Keep Order and Peace? Control and Manipulate others (Have Power)? To look good? Impress others? To enjoy each other and raise kids who can thrive?

How do I show up?                                         Angry, busy, calm, wise, connected to my own self?

What is one word that describes how you showed up today or yesterday?

What Family Patterns do I bring?             How did your family of origin do life together?   

Talk or yell?

Work through problems/conflict and Emotions- Fight? Flight? Freeze?

What un-written rules do you still hold to?

What Roles do we play?

Redemption -What is it that God needs to do in my heart for me to show up with Grace and genuine Love for my child(ren)?

Every person and every family needs redemption.  None of us are perfect. We all have places of healing and growth to acquire.  As we think about redemption the first place to look is inward.  When Jesus was teaching His disciples how to help others he said, “first get the log out of your own eye, so then you can see clearly to help the other.” Again, think about this: How did I show up today? How would I like to show up instead?   Some options? I like to reach for these: Joyful, Calm, peaceful, Curious, wise…

Sometimes we will be walking down the hall, our child will do something…not too bad, just perhaps mildly annoying and SHAZAAM! Your mother or your own monster spews from your mouth!  Your eyes bulge, your stomach tenses, you are tempted to toss the little one right out the backdoor into the kiddy pool!  Well, maybe I am exaggerating, but you may relate to the reaction that does not quite fit with the offense.  These reactions can come from what The Genesis Process© calls a Protective Personality.  These “protective personalities” flare up to protect us from being hurt and many times show up in ways that exert unnecessary negative power over our little loved one.  Protective personalities are based on  false belief’s  that lurk deep in our thinking and our soul.  These false beliefs are common lies about life, about God, about Self, and about Others.  Here are some common phrases that Protective Personalities are produced around: I’m not good enough, I am not worth anything, I will never measure up, God doesn’t care, no-one loves me, no one cares, I have to avoid people, I have to control people (to be safe)…

If these false beliefs run in the hard drive tapes of your heart and mind you may need to seek and get help and healing to resolve them. Professional counseling, help groups, spiritual formation counselors and the like can help you heal from wounds, forgive those who have hurt you, repent and resolve your own offenses.  It is only through deep reflection and healing that we can be a present and genuine loving parent to our children.  This kind of deep healing usually only comes as we engage others in the healing process.

In the New Testament scriptures James, Jesus’s brother, offers us this advice: Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. (James 5:16) 

 

Resolve - What step(s) do I need to begin to relate with my child(ren) in a healthier more connected way?

In conclusion, children need a healthy, emotionally mature parent who loves them and likes them.  The parent needs to be grounded enough to absorb the storms of emotions that children are likely to have.  Developing a consistent and clear message that I am the parent is anchored in love and grace. The clear message that “I can be here for you” needs to be communicated in word and deed--and tone of voice-- for children to thrive in a family.

It takes RESOLVE to get the help you need to be healthier emotionally, relationally, spiritually.  What is one small step toward growth in this area for you?

Sometimes our “good” parenting is highjacked because we did not receive what we needed from our own parents/caregivers-

It has been said that children interpret 2 emotions when they are young:  JOY or DISGUST.  What are you reflecting to your children? Hopefully with reflection, redemption and resolve this can be:  I see you… I hear you…I understand that you…. I can help you AND I am GLAD TO BE WITH YOU!

Perhaps you would like to pray this Prayer: Lord, you have gifted me with a child (children) to care for, to nurture in love and to help him/her grow in wisdom and in truth.  Help me to have the courage to admit my own brokenness, to bring my failures and my hurts to you so that I can be healed and redeemed.  Form me into the loving, mature parent that my child(ren) need.  By your grace I will commit to growing and becoming the person you are calling me to be for this special season of parenting.  Amen

 

Questions for Reflection:

What thoughts are stirred up?

What Shifts are you making in thinking?

What will you commit to exploring more?

This Parenting Topic is an excerpt from ReaLife Coaching parenting workshop:

Parenting with Connection and Confidence©.  Each month I will cover one of the four topics from this workshop to help you enjoy your family more and be the parent you would like to be, so your kids can thrive in relationships and life.

 *Please contact me if you would like to offer this as a workshop in your church or parenting group.*

 

Watch for Next month’s Topic:  THE CHILD- What Children need to Thrive.   

Resources

–   God Attachment, Why you believe, Act, and Feel the Way you Do about God, by Drs. Tim Clinton and Joshua Straub;   

–   Parenting from the Inside Out, by Daniel J. Siegel, M.D., and Mary Hartzell, M.Ed ;

–   13 Things Mentally Strong Parents Don’t Do, by Amy Morin · March 6, 2019. Article from Forbes Magazine and HomeWord Ministries,

–   Protective Personalities worksheet.www.genesisprocess.org

 

Relationship Rules

Relationships follow rules.  Whether you know the rules or even believe or care about the rules, they are still in place.  Let me use the metaphor of traffic rules.  If I drive on the freeway I must stay in my lane. If I want to change lanes, I put on my blinker, look over my shoulder and move into the space at the right speed to keep up with traffic.  If I miss any of these steps, I may be in danger of a serious crash resulting in injury and even death.

Relationships follow rules.  We can go through life ignoring the rules, not paying attention to them or just not even bothering to care, but if this is the way you live, your relationships are probably not very satisfying and perhaps even toxic and dangerous to yourself and others.  I know a woman who says, “I am just too busy to care about all that stuff, why bother?”  Well, talk to her co-workers, her kids and her husband (if she still has one) and they can tell you that she is difficult to be with and they steer clear when she enters the room. Perhaps you know a person who is always negative and saying that it is everyone else’s fault that their life is one dead end after another?