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Parents, Make Sure You Do This!

November 5, 2015

trust-based parenting

Our oldest daughter is about to turn 13 and we’re crossing new bridges at an alarming rate. She got a phone today, is at a sleepover tonight, and there have been quite a few times lately where we’ve had to say, “Hold on! We’ll get back to you on that one…” Fortunately, we have some great friends and mentors who have traveled this road and are able to help us.

These recent conversations have led me think about the question, “What have we learned so far?” Here’s a shot at the best we’ve read and discovered up to this point…

Choose connection before correction

Healthy correction rides on the tracks of healthy connection. If there’s not a healthy connection, our attempts at correction will default to power, fear, or manipulation and break trust rather than build it.

Discipline over Punishment

Discipline means to “teach.” Punishment means “to inflict damage” or “rough treatment.” Give re-do’s. It’s ok to say, “Try again with respect.” Kids need to get in the habit of good form, which takes lots of practice.

There’s no ‘quality time’ without quantity

Children learn when they’re ready, not when we’re ready to teach. They speak when something is on their mind, not when we’re ready to listen. You can have quantity without quality (present but inattentive), but you can’t have quality without quantity.

Consistency matters, good intentions don’t

Kids are incredibly perceptive and detect inconsistencies like cookies in the oven. Say what you mean, mean what you say, and walk your talk.

Pray often, daily!

Pray with your kids. Pray for your kids. You’ve been entrusted with the most incredible gift in the world and you need God’s strength and wisdom. “God, help him to know you and to know who you’ve created Him to be.”

Great parenting isn’t intuitive

Each child, each stage requires a separate learning curve. There’s no one-size-fits-all, but there is timeless wisdom and great principles that can be applied with discernment.

Look below the behavior to the heart

Behavior is a form of communication. Try to attend to the deeper message.

Say yes when possible, apologize when necessary, and explain why when asked

Each of these three can be difficult, but they help keep your connection with your child strong.

But say “no” when necessary too

Be a great parent, not a great friend. Connection is critically important, but there may be times that you have to care enough to risk their rejection or misunderstanding. When such times come, stay there like the Prodigal Father–always waiting, hoping, and praying for their return, ready to welcome them back and celebrate!

Hold open conversations more than one-way lectures as much as possible

Be quick to listen, slow to anger, and slow to speak. No one takes advice or correction well from someone they think doesn’t understand them or refuses to listen.

Two more things…

Laugh a lot

Well-timed humor and light-hearted play are boosters for connection. They can also drop the temperature in stressful situations or times of correction.

Start a bank account for their future therapy:)

Face it, no matter how hard you try, your parenting will never reach perfection. Work hard, remain humble and motivated to grow, but be gracious with yourself, and trust God to fill in the gaps.

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Blog, Healing, Parenting, Spiritual Formation

When Honoring Your Parents Gets Complicated

July 9, 2015

 photo

We tend to view the commandment, “Honor your father and mother,” (Exodus 20:12) as being intended for children, but the primary audience here is adults caring for aging parents.

Providing loving care certainly falls under the category of honoring, right? Sounds pretty simple. Mom or dad need help —we should help. Then why is it that many of us struggle less with helping complete strangers than we do our parents?

Because there are wounds.

Muddy Waters

Walking out this commandment becomes complicated when the relationship with our parents is strained or broken. We see our parent’s failures as we emerge into adulthood. Things we didn’t notice as children, things we couldn’t have made sense of, now become a source of inner turmoil. Often we’re still grappling with unresolved issues —asking questions like, “How could she have?” or “How could he not have?” well into adulthood.

It can feel like a complicated layer of confusion and guilt as we struggle with the tension of honoring our parents while acknowledging their brokenness.

When it’s Personal

It was my mother.

I went through a period a few years ago when I started to deconstruct my childhood and judge my mother for her failings.

Withheld affection. Isolation. Words.

At first, I tried to ignore it. “Nothing good comes from digging up the past.” But I started to connect some dots between present struggles and childhood deficits. It’s sort of like the saying, “Once you know some things, you can’t un-know them.”

The pain was there, and something needed to happen if the layers were going to stop piling up. Realization. Judgment. Detachment.

For a while I kept the relationship between us mostly surface, but that wasn’t the answer. Detachment was just a temporary detour from the pain. The only true solution was to forgive my mother while also receiving forgiveness for my own judgments.

This required God’s grace.

Empathy

The truth is, my mother did an incredible job in light her own upbringing. My childhood was nothing like hers. There were 11 or 12 spouses between her biological parents and she didn’t spend much time with any of them. She was treated as a nuisance and grew up fending for herself. She met my dad at a bar and the news of my existence came as quite the surprise. Throughout my childhood, my mother sacrificed almost everything to give my brother and I what she never had growing up. Her gifts weren’t time and affection, but rather opportunities and possessions. No one had ever loved her. No one taught her to love. But what she had to give, she gave generously.

Forgiveness (charisomai) is a form of grace (charis), and when grace takes hold of our hearts, empathy is a natural result.

Forgiveness was a lengthy process for both of us that included dusting off painful memories, acknowledging truth, repenting and expressing sorrow, and connecting with suppressed grief. It wasn’t fun or easy, but it was well worth the pain because it restored our relationship. We couldn’t believe the difference once we cleared out the minefield.

Restoration

Forgiveness doesn’t always lead to restoration. Restoration requires a degree of humility to be able to listen well, put another above oneself, and extend grace. The great news is that forgiveness doesn’t require restoration. You can choose to forgive as an act of your will and allow God to fill you with His grace and heal the effects of sin.

But restoration is worth the risk of failure whenever it’s possible. My mom and I had a pretty dismal track record with conflict resolution. Healing family relationships is tricky because of the lengthy history involved and patterns and roles that become so deeply ingrained in us. It’s easier to tip toe around a minefield than risk detonating one in an attempt to clear the field.

What my mother and I found however, was that God used the conflict to grow us. Our default tendency is to ignore the past and/or to judge our parents harshly for their shortcomings. For us, risking the pain of conflict was well worth the tremendous healing that awaited us on the other side.

Recently, one of our mentors held a public tribute for her aging father. She gathered family members and friends for a living eulogy. It made me think of how I’m going to honor my parents in the days ahead. Honor holds several dimensions, but one of them is certainly blessing.

What would it take for you to bless your parents? How will you choose to honor them? If you haven’t done it yet, a great place to start is a forgiveness process where you learn to neither minimize childhood pain nor judge your parents for their shortcomings. And if there’s the slightest chance for restoration, it’s worth the risk.

This is my tribute to my mother,

“You decided early on to protect us from the brokenness in our family legacy. We were going to thrive in ways you were never able to. You made sure of it. You were our first line of defense, and the coach who constantly called out our best. You never stopped fighting for us. We never knew a day when we felt what you felt most days as a child, ‘I have to fend for myself.’ We were always able to risk because we knew you and dad built a home that would always catch us.

The more clearly I see the past, the more grateful I am for you. You have been refined in the fire like gold and we are the beneficiaries. A Liberian peace activist once defined Ubuntu as the recognition that “I am who I am because of who we are.” You’ve changed our family legacy into a story of redemptive grace where God’s love is made visible. And for who you are, not just what you’ve done, we honor you!”

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Blog, Parenting

Frozen’s Most Valuable Parenting Lesson

May 31, 2015

parenting lessons

There’s a great lesson for parents in the movie Frozen:

“Conceal it, don’t feel it, don’t let it show,” is an absolutely terrible response to a child’s struggle, disability, or unique trait!

The “Grand Pabbie” called it well: “Elsa, your power will grow. There’s beauty in it, but also great danger. Fear will be your enemy.”

Unfortunately, Elsa’s father was too absorbed in his own fear to heed his warning. “No, we’ll protect her. She’ll learn to control it.” You might expect the troll to respond, “No! That’s what I’m warning you against.” Alas, the well-intended father sets the stage for his daughter to turn in on herself with a bottling up act that can only last so long.

When the containment strategy fails in Frozen, Elsa walks triumphantly up a mountain singing, “the past is in the past.” In real life, the act of “letting go” is seldom as pretty. Out of a deep sense of shame and fear, children will develop a spirit of rebellion and turn toward destructive and false escapes.

Interestingly enough, if Dad and Mom would have adopted Anna’s posture of acceptance and faith, giving space for failure and teaching her how love casts out fear, the winter in July might have been avoided.

The difference between the two approaches goes back to Greek mythology where Ulysses and Orpheus both travel by a place called the Isle of Sirens. Sirens were ethereal female characters with hypnotizing voices, which in Greek culture would’ve represented “temptation.” One of the heroes of the story, Ulysses, is so terrified of being lured into their trap that he has himself tied to the mast of the ship and his ears stuffed with wax so that he doesn’t hear their tempting songs. Orpheus, another Greek hero who was also a fabulous musician, however, resisted the Sirens by sitting on the deck of his boat and playing his own music, which was actually superior to the music of the Sirens.

This story represents the difference between negative and positive goodness.

Only by having stronger passions do weaker ones vanish.

Grace drives out shame.

Love casts out fear.

Healthy, God-centered self-acceptance drives out pride and envy. Forgiveness eliminates resentment.

When dealing with a child’s disability or struggle, it’s important to:

1)   Accept and bless your child’s uniqueness.

2)   Model how love casts out fear.

3)   Allow room for failure and use it as a teaching opportunity.

4)   Interject extravagant grace when downward spirals set in.

At the end, Elsa discovers that love thaws a frozen heart. Love alone casts out fear and makes the difference between a power turned toward beauty or darkness. It was in her all the time but fear masked it.

May our kids experience the same liberation of God’s love!

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. -1 John 4:18

 



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Blog, Parenting, Spiritual Formation

Answering the Question, “Who Am I?”

November 7, 2014

Alex12

I’m bracing myself right now. Somehow, my daughter’s 12th birthday has catapulted us light years ahead into uncharted territory. We’re now planning her 13th birthday and the changes are coming too fast. Don’t get me wrong– I’m happy about it all, I just wish we could slow everything down a bit.

We’ve been researching how to help her celebrate and step confidently into this new chapter of life. In Stasi Eldredge’s book, “Becoming Myself,” she describes how some friends called their daughter into womanhood with a special ceremony attended by family and friends.

I love this!

First, they kept the ceremony a secret. Continue Reading…

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Blog, Featured Posts, Healing, Marriage, Parenting, Relationships, Spiritual Formation

Help…They’re Stealing My Peace!

July 22, 2014

conflict resolution strategies

“Help, they’re stealing my peace!” How often have we said this? The day starts out right. Coffee by the pool… A little worship music and a reflective read through a morning devotional…

…but then it quickly spirals into what feels like an all-out assault on our peace.

The phone call.
The words with your spouse.
The kids’ third argument of the day.
The inconsiderate tone, again.

Relationships that are already strained can quickly chip away at the peace you’re “supposed to be able to enjoy in your home.”

When Peace Seems Elusive

That’s good news —especially when we are feeling robbed. There is a higher place than the one we are seeing at the moment.

I have found, after overcoming some great hurdles in my own family, that we can run right to Jesus’ teaching when family difficulties and a clear lack of peace arise.

Pray for Those Stealing Your Peace

Don’t go to other people to talk, vent or validate. Go to God. Search His Word. Pray for them. Pray that God helps you see them as He sees them. Ask God to search your heart, flood you with His love, and renew your mind. Ask God for wisdom:

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. —James 1:5

It’s incredible how often our struggles with people will stop right here. We don’t have to go any further. God softens our heart, changes our perspective, and we’re good.

When that’s not the case and it’s clear that a resolution is needed, it’s time to convene a peace conference.

Convene a Peace Conference

A peace conference is simply going to the person and facing the conflict, in the pursuit of peace.

Despite what people say, time doesn’t heal everything. Time can bury things, but buried things can still yield influence. It’s like a field with buried land mines in it, you just hope you know where not to step. It’s there, it’s damaging, and so we avoid it. It’s much better to clear out the land mines and the only way to really resolve conflict is to face it. Hold a peace conference.

Peace Conference 101

In the pursuit of peace, we need to be willing to take the first step. It’s not about blame. It’s not about our rights or who was at fault. Only the end goal of resolution should be in mind. It’s about sowing peace. If it’s not, go back to step one (prayer).

This is such a big deal to Jesus that in his first teaching he prioritized it over worship.

Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift. — Matthew 5:23-24

“But leave your offering.” I love that! Reconciliation takes priority over worship. Don’t put it off, don’t wait for them to come around, don’t wait until it’s 6 feet under ground, go, do it today.

When you get there, don’t forget to remain vulnerable. It’s so easy for good intentions to turn into a venting session. Certainly, both grace and truth are necessary. If we’re all grace and no truth, it’s not real. If we’re all truth, no grace, it’s really bitter. We need both, together, interlocked at all times.  It’s not instinctive, but when we can have the humility, love, and courage to face the truth, face the person, and possibly hear some painful truth as well, growth is a certain result.

For further reading, The Peacemaker by Ken Sande is a practical and insightful book on how to live in this world and walk in the peace we are intended. Another wonderful book is The Healing Presence by LeAnne Payne. Click on the image below for your opportunity to win your copy.

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