Broken Trust?

“It’s shattered,” came the response from the orthopedic surgeon  as he looked at my 21 year old son’s  x-rays.  “Impressive,” he continued  with a grin.  “How did you do this?” Read more

Building Family Relationships in the Middle of Conflict

A dear friend called me a few days ago asking for prayer.  Her husband and daughter were fighting again.  The previous night had been a standoff shouting match with words that should have never been spoken coming from their daughter’s mouth. 

“Oh my,” I responded.  “How did you handle it?”

“I quietly stepped in and suggested that they both have a cooling off period.

“How did that go?” I asked.

“Well, I think.  We agreed to get together tonight for another try at the conversation.”

This wise mother (I’ll call her Shannon) then told me what else she had done.  

She chose to become a relationship architect.

Sometimes we forget that as moms we have the power to intercede in a way to bring healing to the relationships in our home.  Rather than sit on the sidelines watching things unfold in a way that will most likely bring disaster, we can help soothe the relationships with the ones we love.

It takes time and requires us to tread lightly so that we don’t become an arbitrator or the third person in a triangle of “he said, she said”.  But if we engage in a way that encourages reconciliation from both sides, the family can become much stronger and be able to resolve future disagreements better as well. 

It is natural for most women to see both sides of an argument and to understand each person’s perspective.  Because of the way most men’s brains are wired, relationships don’t always come naturally.  Men are focused on fixing a problem and don’t necessarily see the full picture.  That’s why it is important that we help them in a way that can bridge the gap between Dad and his kids.  Let’s face it, most dads are super busy and don’t have time to focus on some of the sometimes petty things that our teens may want.  Since we typically spend more time with our kids, we might better understand the underlying reason for our teen’s request.

That’s where we can help bring reconciliation to the conflict. 

Shannon took time to talk with her daughter that night after the shouting match once things had quieted down.  She wanted to better understand her daughter’s request to borrow money.  Not only did Shannon listen to her daughter, but she was able to shed light on Dad’s perspective.  She helped calm the storm that was brewing in her daughter’s heart before they would meet the next evening.

As I was talking to Shannon she was agonizing over the fact that she wouldn’t be able to talk with her husband before the meeting.  “I did send him an email though.  Here, let me read it to you.”   

Honey, I was hoping we could talk before our meeting tonight, but I know you’re busy.  I understand how you feel in wishing Ava were more mature.  You are right.  She does need to dose of reality at times.  I’m just wondering if this is the hill we should die on?  I know that you love her dearly and want what is best for her.  I’m just wondering if rather than saying “no” in this situation if it might not be an opportunity to teach her some responsibility.  I was thinking if we ask her to do ____, _____, and _____, that we could see if she might take some initiative and show us that she can be responsible.   We could also tell her that if she doesn’t follow through then we will not be giving her money in the future.  That way we’ve given her advance notice of what is to come if she doesn’t do what we’ve asked of her.  I know that this is between the two of you, but I wanted to share a different perspective.  I’m praying that God will give you wisdom to move forward with her tonight.  Love, Shannon.

All I could say to this woman was, “Wow!”

Talk about getting it right! 

I realized later that Shannon had enlisted quite a few women to pray during the meeting time with her daughter.

Shannon did everything she could possibly do to bring reconciliation to this father/daughter relationship. 

When I asked her how it went her response was, “Praise God.  It went better than I ever expected.”  

What about you?  Are you willing to step in to engage as a relationship architect in your home and do you surround yourself with prayer warriors?

Matthew 5:9

“How blessed are those who make peace, because it is they who will be called God’s children! 

Romans 12:18

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

Dare you to be a relationship architect in the next conflict that brews between your husband and one of your kids.

“Let go…and let God”,

 

 

 

 

 

Are You Caught In the Extreme of Parenting?

I hear it often from women– almost daily.  The excuses, I mean.  The “I don’t deserve, I wish it were better, If only I could be more, I should have,” and the list goes on.  In their mind, they never quite measure up.  And they start owning everything that goes with parenting.  They own the undone chores, or the behavior of their child, or the homework, the grades, or any wrong choice of their teen.

And I wonder what we need to be doing differently as parents so the next generation of moms-to-be (those kids under our roof right now) don’t leave a similar legacy to our grandchildren.

You see, those self-doubts most likely stem from childhood–a childhood where the now mom (maybe you?) didn’t feel like she measured up.  She wasn’t all that she should be as seen through the eyes of her parents or teachers.  So her beloved role of motherhood becomes an idol for perfection.  She wants to get this right so she tries a little too hard to help her child measure up and be perfect according to the standard her parents set for her.

Sometimes we push too hard, or expect too much of our kids, or on the other end of the spectrum help too much all because we want to be the successful parent.  I’m still wondering if we’re trying to reach that imaginary ideal so that we can receive our own parents’ approval, or our child’s teacher’s approval, or the approval of our friends or someone else.

Maybe our parenting is focused on us rather than what is best for the child.

Ouch!  Yes, I know that hurts.

Over the last ten years, I’ve learned to look at parenting through a different lens.  But let me first share what I’ve learned by observing two moms.

Almost two decades ago I watched as two mothers each with daughters the same age as mine parented in very different ways.  One mother had what I will call an “I love my daughter and I want to point out the good in her so that she becomes a healthy, functioning adult.”  The other mother had an “I love my daughter and I need to let my little girl recognize she is a sinner pointing out those sins so that she can get them under control.  If I do that, she’ll be a healthy, functioning adult.”

As you read those, I hope you can see that one was looking at parenting from a positive perspective while the latter was looking at her role as mom through a negative lens.  If you look closely, they are two extremes.

I know that each of these christian mothers loved their daughters dearly.  But one focused on the good while the other was focused on any wrongdoing.

If we want to have influence on our kids, and if we want to change the culture in a world where right and wrong are not easily defined, we need a little of both of these moms actually.  We need the mom who can point out the good in a way that breeds confidence and instills a bond in such a way that respect and mutual admiration is established.  By doing so we develop in our child a willingness to be open to our teaching because we’ve created a place of safety.  Our children will be more apt to share their mistakes too because we provide a place where mistakes aren’t looked at as “an unpardonable sin” but as an opportunity to learn. 

But let’s face it, there do need to be times when a teen’s sin becomes obvious and action needs to be taken.  If we are always focused on the good, what should we do then?

That’s when we should ask questions.

Sometimes stating the obvious creates defensiveness in the other person.  The brain is wired to automatically think “no” as a way of self-preservation so always pointing out our child’s sin, makes our teens want to revolt and do the opposite.  By asking questions we can help them discover what may be obvious to us.

Self-discovery through questions helps our teen recognize their wrongdoings on their own without the sting of our judgment.  The “WWJD — What would Jesus do?” can take on a totally new meaning when we gently ask our kids what the right thing to do would have been.

If we are gentle in our teaching, helping our children discover their shortcomings rather than making mountains out of what should be molehills, our children will learn to create their own standard to measure up to–hopefully the biblical standard.  Instead of taking on a rebellious spirit or a spirit of never being or doing enough, they will be better equipped to recognize both their strengths and their shortcomings.  And, then hopefully they won’t measure their success based on the success of their children in the future.

Philippians 4:8-9

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.  Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me or seen in me–put it into practice.  And the God of peace will be with you.

Ephesians 6:4 

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

Don’t we want our children leaving our homes never having to question whether they measure up? Don’t we want them to feel our unconditional love even when they don’t always get it right?  Don’t we want them focused on God’s standard for behavior rather than ours or the world’s?

Dare you to ask yourself some tough questions about how you parent in your home and what you are doing to set your children up to be a healthy, functioning adult.  

“Let go…and Let God”,

For those who are tired of the conflict with your kids and want better relationships, our Deflating Defensiveness Training Retreat: A Conflict Resolution Workshop is only a few weeks away.  Deadline for signup is May 15.  We guarantee that you’ll walk away with new skills and a new way of thinking about parenting–about all your relationships.  You’ll also strengthen your relationship with Him!

Dare you to be changed!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Important Is It That My Teens Clean Their Room?

Whether or not to make a teen clean their room is a topic that almost always comes to the surface whenever I lead parenting groups.  There are usually parents in both camps–‘it’s not a hill worth dying on’ versus the ‘I can’t stand the mess’ moms.

Do you just close the door and hope that someone doesn’t show up to declare that part of the house condemned?

Do you break down and clean it yourself when your kid isn’t home claiming that it is the last time you are going to do it?  

Or do you stand firm letting your kids know that there will be no freedom until the room is clean?  No ifs, ands, or buts allowed.

Yes, it is quite the dilemma.

We want to have relationship with our kids and don’t want the battle of cleanliness to come between us, yet we struggle with what their messiness will mean for their future.  We make rules like “no food in your room” or “if clothes are not in the laundry, they won’t get washed”, yet we’re frustrated when the rules aren’t followed. 

So what can we do to solve the issue?  Where should we draw the line?  And how can we make sure we don’t pendulum swing (meaning you can get by with it this week, but next week I’ll probably be yelling at you for not cleaning it)?  Or better yet, why is it even important?

Believe it or not, the task of keeping their room clean can build an inner strength that we as parents might not even think about.

  • It forces our kids to persevere through to accomplishment–the room needs to be completely clean before I leave.
  • It teaches self-control–maybe I should put the trash in the garbage can and pick up my clothes daily so I don’t have the mess at the end of the week.
  • It teaches our kids to resist distractions–I’ll turn my phone off until I get this finished.
  • It helps them learn to stick to their decisions–I’ll do it after school or on Saturday.
  • It helps them decide what is necessary and what is not–I don’t need this gadget any more or I don’t like these pants so I’ll get rid of them.

One of the things that has blown me away over the last few years while I have been in more college dorm halls than any mother should have to endure is the amount of “stuff”.  Our kids have grown up with the attitude that more is better.  

Does a college student really need a 50 inch TV in a less than 130 square feet space?  Do they really need to bring all their clothes and makeup and 15 pair of shoes?  What are we really teaching our kids by allowing it? 

Maybe it’s too hard to keep their room clean because there is too much that is truly unnecessary.

Another question I usually ask in these parenting groups is what the kids’ schedules look like.  Are they so busy that they don’t have time to keep their room clean?  

What does the family schedule look like?  Are we encouraging fun instead of responsibility?  Yes, we want them to have friends and the teamwork they learn in sports or other activities can be really good.  A part-time job can teach responsibility and how to handle money.  Again, good.  But is it too much?  And too unstructured?

Is the schedule so jam-packed with the emphasis on friends, fun, and accomplishment that basic skills are being put on the back burner and seen as irrelevant?

The other thing we talk about in these groups is consistency.  

Whatever the rule is regarding the level of cleanliness for our teen’s room, do we breed consistency in a way that turns the chore into an automatic execution?  

Shaunti Felhahn and Lisa Rice share some insight in their book For Parents Only with regard to rules in our homes.  Seventy-seven percent of the teens said they wanted parents who not only set the rules but followed up to make sure they were executed.  

Think about that.  How many times do we tell our teen to go clean their room and then we never inspect it afterword?  It means we aren’t holding them accountable nor are we being consistent in allowing them to go do the next thing if we just assume they’ve completed what we ask.  Yes, it means we are breeding inconsistency and a lack of follow-through.  And I’ll admit to being that parent at times.

A wise counselor had a great idea that we chose to adopt when it came to our teens keeping their rooms clean.  Choose a consistent day each week that will be “inspection” day–say Thursday at 2:00.  If the room is clean and meets the family standard, then they can have fun on the weekend.  If it doesn’t meet the standard, the parent will tell them what still needs to be done. Then they have “grace” until  2:00 on Friday or another chosen time.  At 2:00 Friday there will be a second inspection if needed.  At that time it either meets the criteria or the teen is home for the weekend.  If the second inspection requires Mom to intervene and clean, then any mess goes into a tub and is not available until the teen earns it back by a certain number of “clean” inspections.

What is important is the upfront communication if you decide to do something like this.

  1. “Honey, I know that you seem to really be struggling with keeping your room clean on a regular basis.  Why do you think that is?  Then listen.  Maybe your teen can identify the problem and offer suggestions.
  2. “One of my jobs as a parent is to help you mature into a responsible adult.  Cleaning up after yourself is something you will always need to be responsible for.  I’m sure your spouse won’t want to pick up after you all the time–and I guarantee your college roommate won’t do it.”  This is where laughter comes in handy.
  3. “Your dad and I have been talking about how we’ve not been consistent in following through and helping you mature in this area.  I’m sorry for that and want to get it right.  I want to help you learn these skills now so they will be automatic when you move out.”  Apology says we are taking ownership for our part and helps us not play the blame game.  Using “I” language here is important.
  4. “What your dad and I have decided might help.”  Explain the plan and expect opposition.
  5. “Honey, you want to have freedom right?  With freedom comes responsibility.  These are skills you will need when you go into the workforce.  Yes, cleaning your room might be boring, but it breeds organizational skills and perseverance.  It teaches you to stay focused on a task to completion.”
  6. “Think about the process we’re planning to use.  If you think checking on Wednesday is better than Thursday, then we might be open to that.  I want this to be win/win for both of us. Nagging you to clean your room is not the relationship I want to foster.  I want you to like me when you move out.”  Again, laughter.

Two things are really important here:  1) timing for the discussion you are going to have — maybe do it over a trip to the local coffee shop? and 2) make sure you follow up on when you will start implementing.  Listen to their ideas on the when and how it will be done and accommodate their requests if possible.

Remember that our job as parents is to equip our kids to become mature adults while maintaining the relationship.  While it isn’t always an easy endeavor, if we can think through our typical battles, we’ll find ways to strengthen our relationship in what can be the difficult years of parenting.

Proverbs 3:1-4

My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity.  Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.  Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man. 
“Let go…and Let God”,
Learning to communicate with our kids in a way that strengthens the relationship isn’t always easy.  If you like the ideas in my blog, why not join me in the With All Due Respect eCourse offered by Greater Impact Ministries?  There you will find video teaching and other moms to support you in your parenting journey.  We have a private Facebook community where we go through the dares and talk through each of the participants’ parenting issues.  You’ll learn from each other and from the moms who have gone before you.  Women tell me all the time how much they grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ as they go through the book.  It will help you in your relationship with Him, with your spouse, and with your kids.  Dare ya!