Summertime — Great Time to Get Dad Involved!

Summer is a great time to get Dad involved with the kids and Mom can serve her husband well if she becomes the relationship architect.  Creating that special “thing” that they do together helps a lot in forging a relationship outside of the daily to-do list of life–like clean your room, take out the trash, and the barking of orders that some dads find as the only way to relate to their kids.  

Just the other day, my youngest and his dad were able to get back on the tennis courts after having to take a year respite after major surgery.  The smile on their faces was priceless as they came off the courts.  “Boy, Dad, I’ve really missed that.”

“Me too, son!”

It was as if they had rekindled a friendship that had been put on hold for too long.

Need some ideas on how to be that relationship architect for the Dad who struggles with time to connect?

Tom was a project and fix-it kind of guy. He thought through what he wanted to accomplish each evening and most every weekend. Mow the lawn, trim the bushes, paint the siding…he would tackle his list in the same manner he handled his day job…with tenacity. The neighbors all raved about how nice the house always looked. His boss told him regularly how much he was valued in the organization. The church liked having him on committees. Barbara loved that he was so accomplishment driven! That’s why she married him.

However, with many years of working prior to becoming a father, Tom had mastered the art of being a focused workaholic.

Barbara had learned the hard way to give Tom a few days’ notice if she had something to do on a Saturday and would need him to watch the kids once the little ones had come along. Oh, he was more than willing to take the boys and go do something fun or play with them in the backyard. They would have a great time together! It just needed to be on Tom’s schedule. As long as he could still get something “accomplished” during the day, everything was good. Barbara began to realize that they needed to work together to “master” the schedule if there was going to be any family connection. Tom had not grown up with a family that “played” together. Spontaneity didn’t come easily.

Now that the boys were hitting puberty, Barbara knew that her early encouragement for Tom to have relationship with the boys was paying off! She could honestly say that the little boy in Tom was finally having a chance to bloom and her boys were the beneficiary of his many talents.

As she watched her “men” get in the car to head to the tennis courts, she remembered well a discussion that had taken place several years prior.

“Barbara, you need to be his cheerleader! You need to give him permission to take a day off work. You need to thank him for all the hard work he does for the family. Thank him for the projects he does around the house. Then ask him what fun things you can plan for the family. Tom doesn’t think that way. You need to help him think of fun things to put on the list.”

What wise counsel she had received.

Taking Meg’s advice, when the boys were younger, Barbara encouraged the boys in sports that Tom had enjoyed in high school. “If they can come to love the game of tennis, they’ll connect with their dad when they’re old enough to play,” she thought. So every opportunity, Barbara would see that the boys were taking tennis lessons to develop their skills. Basketball was another thing she knew Tom enjoyed, so Barbara suggested they install a basketball hoop next to the driveway. Tom thought it was for the boys, but she knew better. It was for family connection.

Barbara had become the master family scheduler with Tom’s permission. “I know you want to connect with the boys,” she had offered up. “Let me help you do that so that you know you not only have time to get things accomplished around the house, but that your boys will have a relationship with you as they grow older. I promise to let you know the plan well in advance.” With that, she put the schedule in motion. A two hour block to do something “special” with each of the boys once a month with the fourth week being her special time and a family fun time at least once a week.

Sometimes it was something that took no planning, like biking through the park or going to get ice cream. Other times, she would encourage Tom to get involved with the boys in what each of them enjoyed. Brad enjoyed video games, so Tom would spend time playing with him. It obviously wasn’t Tom’s “thing”, but it helped him gain a talking framework of what was going on in Brad’s head. Nick was into baseball, so they’d go to the park and work on catching fly balls. Derek was still at the stage of loving the animal world. Together they’d go down to the creek to catch tadpoles and, at Tom’s suggestion; they had built an outdoor terrarium for Derek’s turtles that he found, mixing Tom’s love for accomplishment with Derek’s excitement for turtles.

Watching the boys run upstairs trying to see who would make it first to the shower after their tennis match, Barbara put her arms around Tom and looked in his eyes. “Honey,” she said. “Thank you for being such a good dad and connecting with the boys! I’m so glad I married you.”

1 Thessalonians 5:11

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

Some men are natural connectors, but others haven’t had it modeled and don’t know where to start.

Dare you to encourage your husband to be involved in their tweens and teens lives. Create opportunity through encouragement. Be his cheerleader!

“Let go…and let God,”

Does it feel like your tweens don’t listen when you’re talking? Or maybe you don’t feel like your teens respect you? Tired of the conflict?  Get the skills you need to connect with your kids! Click here to receive our new free 5-session email course.

It’s Never Too Late to Right the Wrongs

This past week something transpired in our home that helped me realize how our words and actions can have devastating impact on our kids for years to come.  Keep in mind I have four kids who have grown up under our roof who are now 20-Somethings.

Most people would have described us as a loving Christian family who were very involved in our kids’ lives.  If you look at our family today, you’d probably say the same thing.  Our kids visit often and it is obvious that we have deep connection.

But last week — those great parenting feelings morphed into a “what was I thinking” moment.

Hang with me here because this is really important as our tweens and teens get older.  They will get under our skin.  They will do things that will set us off.  And we will hear things that will send us spiraling into a moment of fear and that’s when we will react.

Our daughter shared a memory with me about how her dad had “come unglued” at something he thought her younger brother had done.   As she was recalling the memory almost 10 years later, I could visibly see the emotion and accusation in her voice.  The anger and resentment was as if the event had just happened–and the event didn’t even happen to her–it was her brother.

You need to understand that this one event was not my husband’s typical response to our kids.  He’s one of the most engaged dads on the planet and he tends to be the peacemaker in the family so this was an out-of-the-box rare moment for him as the kids were growing up.  I’m guessing that this is why the memory was so overwhelming to our daughter.  It didn’t fit with how she viewed her dad.

Seeing how upset she was at the memory, I did the only thing I knew to do–I apologized for my husband’s behavior from a decade ago.  I told her that it must have seemed scary to her.  And I told her I was sorry that I had not tried to diffuse the situation at the time.  And then I admitted that my husband and I had not been perfect parents and that I hoped she would forgive us for what happened.

And it was amazing to watch the transformation in our daughter.  A sense of calm seemed to come over her.  It was as if the wrong had now been righted as she viewed the story through her now adult eyes.

Having seen how the event triggered in her, I was curious as to whether or not her younger brother remembered the incident–after all, it had happened to him.  Sitting on the back patio I described the conversation with his sister.  Within seconds the emotion exploded within him.  Yes, he had forgotten the situation all those years ago, but when reminded of the story, his anger returned full force.  “Mom, I swear I didn’t do what he accused me of!  Why did he do that?”

For the second time, I needed to apologize for my husband’s behavior 10 years ago.  I admitted the injustice in the situation.  I assured him I didn’t know what had come over his dad in the moment.  I reminded him that one event doesn’t define a man. And I made sure that he recognized that his dad and I loved him dearly.

But the conversations didn’t stop there.

That evening I asked Dave if he recalled the incident and I suggested that he needed to apologize to both kids.  Always true to his word, I came home yesterday afternoon to hear him seeking forgiveness from our son for his reaction 10 years ago.  The reconciliation between the two was heartfelt.  The wound that I had discovered by bringing up the subject would now have a chance to properly heal.

As parents we will make mistakes and some of those mistakes will be carried into the future for our kids even though for us they have been long forgotten.

But we have a God who encourages us to reconcile and right our wrongs.

Matthew 5:23-24

“Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.

As parents we have opportunity to apologize and bring healing to those emotional triggers for our kids if we will choose to walk into the conversations providing an opportunity for them to spew their emotion and us to offer a genuine apology.

James 5:16

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.

Dare you to walk into the conversation of apology when your kids bring up painful memories of the past.  Stand in the gap for your spouse or someone else to bring healing to their emotional wounds so your kids will be better equipped to mature in healthy ways.

“Let go…and let God”,

Did you know that we’ve started a new Facebook eCourse just for Moms of tweens and teens?  I hope you will join me there.  It is an opportunity to get practical parenting advice and interact with other moms.  We’ll go through With All Due Respect together as we encourage you, pray with you, share successes, and hardships.  You’ll create relationship with other moms including those who are at least 10 years ahead of you in the parenting process.  And right now it is 50% off as we transition to the new platform.  Dare you to join us!




3 Ways to Calm the Storm When Dad is Stressed

In most families dad seems to carry a lot of stress.  If he takes his job as protector/provider seriously, he most likely wants life to run smoothly at home because he can’t always control the circumstances at work.  

If you find your husband getting frustrated at things at home that you don’t necessarily think are a big deal, this blog is a good opportunity to think through how you approach those times when you know he’ll say or do something he might regret.  

Are you his friend in helping to calm the storm before it lashes out on the kids?

Now trust me when I say that you can’t stop all the emotion that rises up within him, but as his wife and mother of your children you do have the ability to add gas to the already brewing fire or have an opportunity to calm his emotions if the two of you are parenting toward the same goals.

So what can you do when you know ahead of time that your husband will react strongly to a situation in your home?

A.  Not tell him.

B.  Just let the chips fall where they may, after all it’s his reaction not yours.

C.  Let him know in advance what is coming his way so that he will have time to think through his response.

D.  Give him advance warning and make some suggestions on calming himself.

E.  Give him advance warning, make suggestions that might help him self-calm, and give him some suggestions on how to not unleash his frustrations on his kids.

This past weekend I knew that my husband was stressed about an upcoming trip for work.  In addition, he’s one who needs time to deal with transitions and we are in the midst of lots of them — a college student coming home next week for the summer, an older son moving back to the states from overseas who will be staying with us for a while until he can find a house.  Furniture to move, lawn to mow, exhaustion,  muscle stiffness, and a presentation to prepare added to his list of stresses.  

Then my phone rang, “Mom, I think I need to come home this weekend, I’m not only sick but I’m not sure I can drive.  I popped my shoulder out and I’m in a lot of pain.”

These words were from a kid who had shoulder surgery a year ago.

“How did you do it, son?” I calmly responded.  (Know that I’ve really had to work on the ‘calmly’ part.  Calmness comes from lots of opportunity to practice and failing miserably. 🙂 )

“Playing volleyball.  I know, it was dumb.”

And I knew that the words would heap a lot more emotion and stress on my husband. 

So what can you do to help your husband deal with the emotion and stress of similar situations?  The correct answer is cultivate an environment where we not only give him ample warning, but help him return to calm and then help him work through non-emotional responses.

  1. Start with the facts.  “Honey, I know this will probably upset you, but _______ did something really stupid and is going to need our help.”  Then non-emotionally share the facts.  
  2. Expect the emotion and remain calm.  Allow your husband to get emotional with you. Empathize and let him know that you understand why he is upset.  Comfort him to the point that he can talk rationally.  Things like “our son needs us to be strong right now” or “remember that we need to be here to support our daughter in the midst of this” helps our spouse return to the fact that he needs to respond like the good parent he wants to be.  
  3. With his permission, talk about healthy ways he might respond.  “I know that you are upset, but I also know that you want a good relationship with our son, maybe it’s best to not tell him how upset you are, but to just help him in the situation he is in.  We can save the ‘this is what you should have done’ conversation until after the crisis we’re in has blown over.”

If you get in the habit of responding this way (know that most of us need lots of practice), it is amazing how the relationships in the family can change dramatically.  The storms seem to blow over more quickly and the tone of the house is more peaceful.  

If your husband is like mine, his storm inside might brew for a little while longer, but those feelings can be sifted through together as husband and wife rather than heaped onto the kids as burdens that they will need to carry for a lifetime.

As a general rule, men need help in connecting with their kids in a healthy way during times of stress and conflict.  God designed us to work in harmony as we parent through the teen years.

Genesis 2:18 (HCSB)

Then the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper as his complement.”

Matthew 5:9 

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

Dare you to practice bringing peace to your family when stress has the potential of destroying relationships.  Helping our husbands in this way can create unity in parenting and strengthen our marriage.

Double dare you to share this with your husband and ask if this would be helpful as you parent together.

“Let go…and let God”,

Does it feel like your tweens don’t listen when you’re talking? Or maybe you don’t feel like your teens respect you?  Get the skills you need to connect with your kids! Click here to receive our new free 5-session email course.