Are You a Reactive Parent?

Sitting on the deck reading while enjoying the warmth of the early summer sun, I barely noticed the activity at the pool nestled behind the evergreens.  Immersed in my book, I was suddenly blasted with a string of profanity being hurled from the pool area.  In a fit of anger, I watched a dad rant as he paced along the pool deck screaming obscenities while what looked like junior high age kids and younger continued to play in the pool.  As I sat amazed, shell-shocked actually, I noticed it took more than 10 minutes for this grown man to finally calm himself enough to be able to communicate to his kids that it was time to leave.

Talk about an anger issue.

But what about us as parents?  We might not be as explosive as the temperament of this man, but do we react to things our kids do in a way that others might sit up and take notice if they were to witness the outburst?

I’ll be the first to admit that there were phases in our parenting when our home was anything but calm.  Having had four teens under our roof at the same time at times equaled chaos and sometimes my responses as a mom didn’t help the circumstance.  Instead of bringing a gentle and quiet spirit into a conflict I would sometimes escalate the problem simply to be heard.

But what causes these outbursts in us?  And how do we determine the root cause so that we can learn to respond rather than react?

As adults we need to look deep within ourselves in order to put the pieces of what might seem like a puzzle together.  “Oh, I guess I’m just like my mom or dad isn’t a good enough response.”  If we want to be able to have influence with our teens, we need to show them that we have self-control.  After all, isn’t that what we want from them?

Looking at our childhood is a great place to start. 

  1. Did your parents or other close family members react in ways that as you look back were a little over the top?  If so, has it become ingrained so that it seems normal to you?
  2. What are your fears?  Sometimes our fears are rooted to something that we are afraid will happen in the future because we saw it happen to someone else in the past.  For example.  Your brother totaled his car at 16 so you might have a fear of your child driving.
  3. What are your beliefs when it comes to potential issues with your kids?  Dating, drinking, language, sex, clothing, hair, friends, church attendance, and a host of other things make up part of our belief system.  Which ones are you more likely to react over? 

Once you’ve had time to visit your childhood through realistic adult eyes, ask yourself if you can really control these things.

Let’s face it.  All of us want our kids to turn out to become the person we dreamed they would be.  In order to do that we think we need to be in control even though once our kids hit the junior high years, it becomes obvious to most of us that we can’t control the other person.

Learning to let go of our fears and relinquish control to a God who loves us and our children takes effort from us.  We have to learn better ways of bringing calm into the situation rather than reacting to our kids by getting upset and lashing out.

  • Learn to pause and breathe in the heat of the moment.  Deep breathing and counting to 10 brings oxygen to the brain rescuing it from a fight or flight response.  It will actually help you engage your brain better.  If that doesn’t work, let the person know that you need to break from the conversation to give yourself time to get your emotions under control.
  • Ask yourself what you are afraid of and what you are trying to control.  Reactions are about you and not the other person.  What are you feeling?  Why does this make you feel like you are not in control?
  • Look at the situation from your child’s perspective.  Sometimes we need to look beyond the NOW we are in.  What else is at play with our child’s reactions?  Is there a big test coming up?  Did he get in a fight with a friend?  Many times the conflict we find ourselves in with our child has very little to do with the current situation.
  • If you are feeling the pressure of an immediate response, say “Let me think about it”.  Putting boundaries in place so that your teens know that you will not give them a response at a moments notice will allow you time to exercise this option most of the time.
  • Learn to think positively.  Many of us typically think of the worst outcome when, in fact, most situations have several alternatives.  By learning to look at potential options rather than focusing on the worst scenario, we will be able to change our outlook to the positive.

Just last week I was sitting in the family room holding our new grandson while my husband and son were in a conversation in the kitchen that was starting to escalate.  I’m sure I was probably more aware of the increased intensity of their conversation because of the baby’s startled reaction.  Knowing what to look for, it became obvious to me what my husband feared most in the moment.  I gently reminded both of them several times that the situation was escalating.  By doing so, I noticed that my husband was finally able to verbalize his fear to my son in a way that my son understood.  My son then reassured his dad that his fear would not materialize.  With that the problem was resolved.

Being aware of our reaction is the first step to self-control.  Being able to identify the fear can help bring resolution to an escalating discussion. 

1 Timothy 1:7

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

Dare you to look at your own reactions as you parent your tweens and teens.  What steps do you need to take be be the calm parent instead of the reactive parent?

“Let go…and Let God”,

Want to learn more skills as you try to become a woman with a gentle and quiet spirit in your own home?  Gaining control over our own emotional responses can change the tide in how our children react to us.  That’s why we’ve designed a women’s retreat to teach moms how to deflate defensiveness with their kids.  The next one is near Cincinnati, Ohio May 30-June 3, 2018.  Not only will you meet other moms who want great relationships with their kids, but you’ll enjoy the bonds of sisterhood in a way that will encourage you as you parent.  You’ll leave with resources and friendships that will be there to carry you through on those difficult days of being a mom.  

Price includes 4 nights stay in a private room and 10 meals in a retreat setting in addition to a world-class training like you’ve never experienced.  Most women come back year after year after they see the change it makes in them and all of their relationships.




Tired of the Conflict?

One of the things we sometimes forget as parents is that our brain is hardwired for conflict.  Spend some time with a 2-year old and you will see the way he is willing to stand up for his rights.  “No” seems to be his word of choice as he separates from mom and learns that he is an independent person.

It seems we spend the next several years trying to teach our children obedience and listening to mom and dad only to have that “no” rear it’s ugly head again, sometimes with vengeance, as our tweens and teens desire to break away.  As parents, we need to wrap our brain around the fact that their “no” is a good thing. 

Yes, you heard me right.  “No” can be a good thing.

Pause.  Take a deep breath.  And let that sink in.

We want to allow our kids to say “no” to us as they become older — as long as they can do so respectfully.  This is their way of self-protection.  It is how they figure out who they are and gain emotional awareness.  It is through conflict resolved well that our teens learn skills that will help them navigate adulthood with maturity and deeper connection with those around them.  They will learn that others are not necessarily all good (when I can get my way) or all bad (that person controls my every move).

Let me explain.

More than a decade ago my husband and I were struggling with one of our teens.  Conflict was a daily interaction–sometimes with several occurrences during the same day.  I felt totally inept and didn’t have the skills to navigate it.  I was at a loss.  I wanted to love this child but couldn’t seem to find the right balance of control versus letting her have her way.  It felt that whatever decision I made one of us was going to lose and most likely it would be her with the outcome of her choice.  Sometimes  I would set a boundary, she would cross it, and I would get tired of implementing it over and over again.  Talk about feeling overwhelmed.

Then my husband Dave and I took a dramatic step.  We decided to go to counseling together and were determined to find the counselor with the best reputation for handling conflict with teens in our city.   We needed someone to help us parent this particular child.  We were exhausted and at the end of our rope.

That’s where we started learning the skills to help us navigate conflict as a family.  Dave and I would give the counselor scenarios from the week’s drama in our home and he would patiently walk us through how we could have handled the situation differently.  It was eye opening and refreshing to have a different perspective.  These were skills I had never been taught.

That’s where Dave and I learned that we needed to pause when we were in stressful situations of conflict.  When our teen was having what seemed like a 2-year old meltdown, we learned to give her time to process the outcome of that “no”.  Then we would re-engage with non-emotional conversation.

As Dave and I were learning the skills with a professional, Nina Roesner and I would talk regularly about ways to apply these skills in both of our homes.  We both began researching the brain science behind conflict focusing on communication skills that would foster deeper connection in a way that would help us deal with our challenging person more effectively.  The more we would talk, the more skills we developed. 

We found that we had the perfect test lab for these skills in our own homes.  We both had teenagers!

What was amazing was what happened with my own family.  Trust was built in ways I had never experienced before.  My kids started coming to me with their questions more often.  My husband and I grew closer as we worked hard to strengthen our marriage to parent our children together.  We both came to realize the importance of being on the same page.

I’ll admit that our one teen continued to be difficult,  Even into her 20’s I continued to work on our relationship without much positive response.  I prayed without ceasing and used the skills Nina and I had refined.  But something was still missing. 

One day as Nina and I were talking it was as if a light bulb went on!  I decided to try this new idea with my daughter.

I implemented the technique the next time I was in communication with her.  Almost immediately, I started to see the defensiveness  dissipate.  She began sharing more and more of her struggles with me.  My heart soared last year when my husband told me what she had shared with him.  “Dad, I want you to know that mom has become my best friend.  I feel like I can tell her anything.”

Those words meant so much to me!

That’s what I want for you as a mom.  I want you to feel those words even if you never hear them as your teens move into adulthood. 

And it doesn’t come with closing our eyes to their defiance and letting them do things their way without boundaries.

It doesn’t come with control.

It comes with the skills that help us deflate defensiveness and garner respect so that we can influence their decisions.

Dare 28 in With All Due Respect is about resolving conflict in your home.  And it starts with us as moms in teaching them the skills they need.  Scripture talks about resolving conflict as well.

Matthew 5:9

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons (daughters) of God.”

Matthew 5:24

Leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

Dare you to become the peacemaker in your home and learn to offer reconciliation in a way that your teens can hear.  Join us for our all new Deflating Defensiveness Training Retreat near Cincinnati, Ohio May 30-June 4, 2018.  It will give you the skills to navigate conflict in all your relationships as well as help you model them for your kids.  

“Let go…and Let God”,



5 Actions to Take When You Can’t Believe Who Your Kids Are Hanging Out With!

It’s tough as a parent when our kids choose to hang out with what we might refer to as “unsavory” characters.  Whether it is the need to feel included or a desire to test the waters of independence, most kids are more likely than not to choose friends that are not necessarily a good influence on them at some point in their teen years.  I’ll admit there have been times I’ve not wanted my kids to hang out with other “church kids” for fear that the behaviors I saw would influence my teen’s character.  After all, research says that you become the average of the five people with whom you hang out.

Oh my, what a scary thought!

So how do we handle these situations?  Do we lay down the law or move heaven and earth to keep them away from each other?

And, of course, the answer depends on your particular situation. 

I’ve known parents who were in such dire situations with their kid that they chose to move the entire family in order to push the reset button hoping for a new start.  By all means, if this is your circumstance, I would encourage you to seek wisdom and counsel from professionals as you move forward to save your teen.  As you make this difficult decision, know that it will have a huge effect on all of you as a family.  I would know.  We made that decision at one point in our teen’s life.

But what about the other times when  fear creeps in?  How do we interact with our child knowing he is not hanging out with kids who are embracing the same character qualities we want to see in our teen?

  1. Resist the urge to always say “no” even though everything in your brain is seeing danger.  Our kids are wired to push back as they enter the tween  and teen years.  The last thing we want to do is set our relationship up to be antagonistic.
  2. Be welcoming.  When your kid wants to “hang out” with the friend, create a warm inviting atmosphere in your own home where the kids can hang out.  Encourage them to meet on “your turf” and provide opportunities for you to drop in on them.  Not many kids can resist warm cookies or a mug of hot chocolate.  This is your opportunity to share the love of Christ.
  3. Have positive conversations with your teen about their friend.  I know this seems difficult to do when you are so opposed to their choice, but hang with me here.  Ask questions and listen.  
    1. Why is this friendship so important to your child?  
    2. What is it about this person that your teen really likes?
    3. Let your child see that you agree with their analysis of their friend wherever possible.
    4. Then, as situations randomly arise, continue to ask questions.  What do you think (friend) would think/react in this situation?
    5. Share stories about your friendships and what you’ve learned over the years.
  4. Once you’ve created safety over time with your teen, begin to offer a comparison to their friend’s values versus your family values in a non-threatening way.
  5. Encourage your child to broaden their friendships to include kids with similar family values.

One of my kids always liked to push the envelope by hanging with people who were  directly opposite to our family’s value system.  I’ve found myself squeezed to the point of learning to love like Jesus loved even though it didn’t come naturally and it took everything in my power to choose that path to have a relationship with my child.

Sometimes as parents we need to be the role model for our kids to show them that Jesus hung out with sinners with purpose and intent.  Because of my teen’s choices I’ve been forced to love people who have chosen transgender lifestyles, homosexuality, a life of theft, and drug addiction.  These people have been in my home.  Sometimes, by the grace of God, they’ve joined our family at church.  We’ve been able to have spiritual discussions. Know that it was when I felt backed into a corner and knew that God wanted me to show love to my child by accepting her friends, that He began to weave a story that I had to release to Him.   

Mark 2:17

“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” 

Kids need to be able to figure out on their own how to develop true, meaningful friendships.  And it is much better if they can learn from us while they are under our roof where we can coach them through the process.  Parenting out of fear in these situations can easily drive our kids toward the very people we so desperately want to shield them from.

Dare you to encourage your kids to have healthy relationships that make them better people like Proverbs 27:17 friendship and engage with those of questionable character with purpose and intent of showing them the love of Christ.

Proverbs 27:17

Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.

Double Dare you to enter the fight for your kid’s life choices in a way that deflates their defensiveness and woos them to good choices.

“Let go…and Let God”,

Navigating our kids’ friendships can be a scary thing.  Our actions as a mom in these fearful moments of parenting can build walls that are difficult to tear down.  That’s why we’ve created our Deflating Defensiveness Training Retreat.  Let us help you reinforce the relationship before the walls go up, or if you are already there, we can help you rebuild the relationship in a way that will help tear the walls down.  If you feel that you are losing your tween, teen, or 20-something, this course if for you!  Conflict abounds as you parent and we can help you navigate it in a way that actually builds a stronger relationship.

If this is you, we hope you will join us May 30-June 3, 2018 near Cincinnati, Ohio.  Join other women who want to learn the skills to create stronger relationships with their kids, their husbands, and other people.  Pricing includes:  4 nights in a private room in a beautiful retreat setting, 10 meals, and interactive training with professional trainers who love the Lord and what to help women grow in their relationship with God and others.  Not only will you have opportunity to learn and practice new skills in an encouraging environment, but you’ll have an opportunity for private reflection as you develop an action plan to help you get started.