Everything is Great With The Kids…

My family is drowning in grief this week. Three funerals to attend within the span of eight days.

One was a blessing. We celebrated the life of my dear Aunt Lois who passed at the age of 79. Having been in the hospital 32 times over the past three years, it was easy to let her go. She had lived her life to the fullest and had touched all of our lives. She needs to be at peace and my uncle, her caregiver who was by her side through everything, deserves time to rest. It has been a long journey.

And then there are the other two deaths–two high school students from the same school. Each committed suicide.

And I wonder how many times these parents have said ‘everything is great with the kids’.

From outward appearance, everything did seem to be on a positive trajectory. Both kids were good students, top athletes, had lots of friends, and a host of other good things that would make a parent say ‘everything is great’.

But it wasn’t.

Don’t get me wrong. Kids make terrible choices at times and the chemistry of the brain that results in someone making such a choice will most likely never be fully understood. Add the pressure to succeed and the possibility of fickle relationships especially during the teen years and it is more easy to accept that these terrible things do happen.

I have no idea what dragon either of these kids might have been facing. All I see is the tragedy of life ended so early. Friends and classmates who will forever remember the aftermath of their death. And the families who will try to put together the pieces for years to come.

And the parents will probably be asking themselves, “What could I have done differently?”

Everything with the kids obviously wasn’t great.

So what can we learn from these two deaths? What could I possibly write that would make a difference? 

For these two families, I could only say this: “I’m so very sorry for your loss.  Don’t blame yourself for the choice your child made. Grieve. And take your pain to a Heavenly Father who loves you and your child. Forgive your son. Forgiveness brings healing to you. Then use your pain to help others who are going through a similar loss. You know what it feels like and you might be the only person who truly understands. Even though you may never find closure this side of eternity, God sees your broken heart and He can use it for His glory if you let Him.”

To the rest of us parents, I’d say:

  1. Don’t assume that everything is great with the kids.  Appearance and reality can be totally different things.  Many of us hide our emotions when we get overwhelmed.
  2. Check in often to see how your kids are doing.  Ask meaningful questions–not superficial ones that can be answered with ‘yes’, ‘no’, or a grunt.
  3. Resolve conflict.  Unresolved conflict whether it ends in anger or is avoided all together leaves residual feelings of doubt, fear, and uncertainty.  Conflict resolved well creates connection.
  4. Listen without judgment.  Empathize with you child’s situations and feelings.  Let them know that it is normal to feel what they are feeling.
  5. Make physical touch part of your relationship.  A ruffling of the hair, a hug, a pat on the back all show affection to a teen that says, “I like you and who you are becoming.  We’re on the same team.”
  6. Acknowledge the little things even if it is something they are supposed to do.  “I so appreciate you being consistent with taking out the trash.  I know I can always count on you.”  
  7. Have lots of one-on-one time to talk.  Ice cream, after school snack, long distance car time all can create an atmosphere of sharing our dreams and fears if we are willing to take the time.
  8. Talk about suicide, what is going on with friends, their struggles at school, and especially how they ‘feel’ in the difficult periods of life.
  9. Don’t be afraid to say ‘no’ if you feel something is inappropriate for your teen.  Having to deal with disappointment in the little things helps them learn to deal with the bigger struggles in life.
  10. Teach them to look at life situations with hope.  Let them know that the pain in the moment won’t last forever.  It is something to work through, grieve, and become a survivor.
  11. Walk with them through the difficulties.  When things are tough be available.  Coach them on how to look at the situation differently to find peace.
  12. Share the love of God with them teaching them how precious life is and how God loves them so much that He was willing to die so that they might live.

Death can come in many forms for our teens.  It can be the suicide of a friend, a loss of a relationship or friendship, a disbelief that someone could do something that hurt them deeply, or even the loss of something they hoped to achieve.  In each of these situations, our kids need to grieve.  We need to be there to walk beside them and help them process.  While we can’t make it better–we can be there to give them hope.

2 Corinthians 4:8-9

We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed  

Jeremiah 29:11

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Dare you to give your kids hope, connection, and a hug this week.

“Let go…and Let God”,

Should I Let My Kid______?

It was a cold spring afternoon when my son asked if he could drive an hour the next day to visit his friend. Fairly new behind the wheel of a car, I hesitated. There were a million and one reasons to say “no” rolling around in my head and a few that said “it might be good for him”.

Luckily I had the where-with-all to stall. “Honey, that is a decision that your dad and I will have to talk about. I’ll let you know in a couple of hours.”

I know he was wanting an immediate “yes”. After all, that’s what most teens do. They see the world as opportunity and want to seize every moment regardless of the impact on others or possibly themselves.

Before talking with my husband I thought about the decision as I knew it was a crucial one. It would set a precedent for him and his younger siblings. My first thought was to go through my typical laundry list of questions.

  1. Do I trust him?
  2. Is the timing right?
  3. Is it safe and am I willing to take the risk?
  4. Are there things I’ve asked him to do where he is not fulfilling his responsibility well?
  5. Are there areas that I could/should tie this opportunity to for growth?
  6. Am I saying “yes” to make him happy or give him more responsibility?
  7. Would I be saying “yes” to make my life easier?
  8. Am I saying “no” out of fear?
  9. Given the circumstances which decision will bring about more maturity?

After asking God to bring wisdom into the decision and talking with my husband, we decided the answer was “no”. And knowing how the emotional brain kicks in when we tell our kids “no”, I braced myself for my son’s response.

He responded like most teens who could use some maturity. “You never” and “My friend gets to” and the “It will give me experience” came flying from his lips. Obviously upset my heart wanted to hug him and honor his request in spite of our reservations. After all, he did have some good points.

However, my husband and I stood our ground in spite of his attempts to pull on our heartstrings.

Three days later our son was still in a huff. We had done the circle discussion over and over with him as he continued to walk away frustrated with the decision as we stood firm.  Little jabs were flowing from his mouth. I could tell he was trying to wear us down for the big request for the following weekend. I ignored the jabs at times and asked him to stop at others. I let him know that his behavior was not doing him any favors in showing his maturity.

One evening at the dinner table it started again. I’ll admit that I wanted to walk away and not deal with the onslaught of comments; however, our son needed to know that we were firm on our stance and that he couldn’t bully us into changing our mind for the next weekend.

Matthew 5:37

But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.

 

My husband spoke in an even tone, calmly, but in a matter of fact manner that would let our son know that the discussion was over. He stated the facts from our position.

“Son, you have no experience driving in the city and you just got your license. We’ve told you that you need to be behind the wheel with us in the car  for a while unless it is close to home. We are not willing to take the risk with you that far away at this point in time. It is for your safety and the potential of financial impact on this family.”  And then with a little more feeling he continued, “You are precious to us and we don’t want to put you in a situation you aren’t ready to handle.”

He paused to let it sink in before he continued.

“We are also looking for you to step up and take more responsibility on your chores and personal things you should be doing. We see your dishes in the sink rather than you having put them in the dishwasher like we’ve asked, you leave wet towels on the floor for your mother to pick up, and the little things that would show us maturity like doing your chores without being asked before heading to play video games seems to fall on deaf ears. Getting adult privileges like driving an hour away means that you are showing responsibility in other areas.”

We watched as our son worked to get his emotions and disappointment under control.

“I know you are not happy with our decision, but the decision is ours to make. We would love to be able to say ‘yes’ because we know how important your relationship with Josh is and how much you miss him since he moved away.  Maybe one weekend soon your mom and I can drive with you up there so you can go see him.  Let’s see how you are doing on taking your responsibilities here at home seriously, and we’ll see if we can work something out.”

Parenting decisions aren’t always easy and typically they are a judgment calls based on where we are in the moment.  Do we want to be the fun parent?  The yes parent?  Are we making decisions so that our kids will be happy?  Or are we making decisions that will help our kids mature in a way that lets them see how authority, boundaries, and responsibility can affect their world?  

Are we parenting toward a successful launch?

Proverbs 31:25

She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.

 

Dear Lord,

So many times I make a decision out of my emotions in the moment rather than analyzing how this decision can impact my teen in a healthy way.  I want my kids to think that I’m the cool parent.  I want to be loved and I want to say yes as much as I can. 

Then there are times, Lord, when I say no out of fear instead of thinking about what is best for my child.  I forget that you love my kid more than I do and that they are always under your watchful eye.  Anything that can or does happen to my teen you have allowed.  

As I make decisions in my parenting, help me to do so with maturity, growth, and responsibility in mind.  I want my kids to be successful in the adult world.  I need to teach them responsibility and ownership of the things around them so they one day will be good citizens and good parents for their own children.  Once I’ve made a decision, help me to not waffle as my teen tries to wear me down.  Help me to be strong and courageous in this role you have blessed me with.  May I always come to You for wisdom in every decision with my kids.

In Your Son’s name.  Amen.

“Let go…and Let God”,

Saying ‘no’ to our kids can be difficult and raise the conflict in our homes.  That’s why we at Greater Impact have designed a two day retreat called Deflating Defensiveness Training.  The skills and methods we teach will help you turn conflict into connection with your kids and it will give you the skills to help settle your own emotion when your kids push back and try to lay a guilt trip on you.  This experiential workshop will give you the confidence to parent with Strength and Dignity as God intended.

Check it out!  You’ll meet other Christian moms who come back time and time again because of the exponential growth experience and the impact it has had in their marriages and with their kids.

 

 

 

Respect in the Little Things

Just this past week I had to swallow my pride, take a step back, and deal with the disrespect I felt in a healthy way. It was really a little thing–one that could have easily been avoided if the person had just sloughed it off as an over site and moved on.

And I’ll admit it was hard to keep the communication flowing in a way that cultivated relationship rather than me shutting down because I felt chastised.

It started with me asking a question.

The response wasn’t what I expected.

“I sent you an email,” the person stated in a tone of accusation.

“Oh, I must have missed it,” I responded in what I tried to make a light-hearted tone.

“Well I sent it.”

I’m sure I paused at the matter of fact tone as I tried to understand my feeling of deeper accusation.

As I took a deep breath my brain clicked into action and I tried to be upbeat and respond in a non-threatening tone.  “What email address did you send it to? When we moved we changed providers and I had to change my email.” 

The individual shared the email address and sure enough it was my old one.

“I didn’t get an undelivered message. I should have gotten one from the provider if it is no longer in use.” (Translated in my mind, “You didn’t do what you needed to do or this wouldn’t have happened.”)

Unfortunately the conversation digressed even more to others who had not responded to their emails which this person sent.

I laughed to ease the tension. “Guess they got lost somewhere in cyberspace. Oh well. Things happen. It’s not a big deal.” And I eased into the question I had asked in the first place.

“But I want you to know I did what I was supposed to do.” Translated, “Don’t blame me.”

I was shocked at the defensiveness in the tone and a little hurt that she thought I was blaming her for something.

My only goal was to gather information and seek an answer so that I would know what to do next.

I thought I was reaching out in a friendly manner. After all, I appreciated the work this person was doing. It meant a lot that the individual had taken initiative.  Yet, somehow this acquaintance/friend wasn’t picking up on my attempts to connect.

Having had my question answered, my first thought as we ended the conversation was, “What could have possibly happened in this person’s life (most likely childhood) that made it so important to not feel blamed?”  And I began praying for her.

As I thought about the conversation, I couldn’t help but think of the interactions we have with our kids on a daily basis.

  • Does our tone of voice come across to them as if we are scolding them?
  • Do we blame them for things they may not have done?
  • Do we come across as accusatory in the little statements we make putting them on the defensive?
  • Are we inadvertently pushing our kids away rather than creating connection?
  • Do our words make them feel stupid or our sarcastic remarks hurt in a way that makes them feel “less than”?
  • Are we focused on being right rather than the relationship?

I’m sure the individual I had conversation with had no clue as to how I was feeling in the moment.  I’m sure there was no ill-intent of any kind.  For this person, it was most likely a learned response based on how others had responded in the past–most likely out of pain and chastisement that was internalized at a young age.

But there is hope.  

What I’ve learned through the years of dealing with my own pain is that unhealthy communication patterns can be changed.  Sometimes a little humor goes a long way.  Apology can help as well. And there are countless ways we can assess what we are feeling in the moment so that we can change the trajectory of what feels like a negative conversation and turn it into connection.

But it takes introspection and practice.  It takes the will to change ourselves rather than blaming the other person.  And a training weekend sponsored by Greater Impact Ministries can help.  Trust me when I say that a training course I went through almost a decade ago literally changed the outcome of who I am today.  And the active learning environment made it a safe place to figure out what I was doing wrong in the moment and how to change the outcome with a few simple strategies.

The cool part is that our tone of voice, our defensive patterns, and the words we use are only a small piece of the learning.  The training I took all those years ago has transformed into learning that grows exponentially as I encounter new situations every day–especially in my parenting.

James 1:19

Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,

This verse saved me the day I asked the question of my friend.

1 Corinthians 13:4-5

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.”

And I want the love of my Heavenly Father to flow through me even when it is difficult and I feel disrespected or wrongfully accused.

If you are like me and want to be more like Jesus as you interact with those difficult people in your life, I hope you will join me at our Deflating Defensiveness Training Retreat in the Greater Cincinnati, Ohio area this June.

Women who have attended in the past keep coming back because of what God is doing in their relationships as a result of all they learn.  Another thing that happens as a result of the conference is that you will have continued support as you become part of the continued learning community. Women like you who want to make an impact on their relationships and shine the light of Christ to others will be there.

Healthy communication is learned and we can help you impact your family and friendships.  We hope you will consider joining us in June.  

To find out more:  https://www.greaterimpact.org/deflating-defensiveness-training

Dear Heavenly Father,

Sometimes I have expectations on how my kids should interact with me, yet I don’t always respond in a gentle way.  I get angry, frustrated, and at times defensive and I see the same behaviors from them.  Lord, I want to model your love and connect with them in a healthy way that will impact future generations.  Help me to learn to communicate in a way that shows my love for them just like you show Your love for me.  I so want a connection with my kids that will stand the test of time.  As I pursue You more, help me to also do everything in my power to encourage my children to turn to you.  May your influence in my life shine through me so that others will be influenced to follow you.

In the precious name of Jesus.  Amen.

“Let go…and Let God”,

I realize that a retreat is a huge commitment.  If you aren’t ready to join us in June, can I suggest that you start small with the book With All Due Respect: 40 Days to a More Fulfilling Relationship With Your Teens & Tweens

If you would like more support than just reading through a book alone, you can join our community eCourse where other Christian moms who have learned our deflating defensive skills will help you learn the process.  We’ll walk beside you on your parenting journey.

 

 

 

 

 

What is Keeping You From Connecting With Your Teen on a Deeper Level?

It was a Thursday evening. I had just gotten off a plane, exhausted and hungry. My husband offered to take me out to dinner and I was more than willing to let him pick the restaurant so that I could go home and crash.

Sitting in the booth telling my husband about the trip to visit my mother, I couldn’t help but notice the family sitting next to us. I tried not to stare, but I’ll admit that it was hard.

From afar it appeared to be Grandma and Grandpa, Mom and Dad with two kids, and an adult brother of the Dad. Maybe a family reunion with Grandma and Grandpa coming to visit.

But let me get to the point. We sat there for over an hour watching the daughter play games on her phone. Even though she was sitting beside grandma, there was no interaction. Zero.

Sure enough, after they had ordered, Mom got out her phone and started texting. I thought for sure she would put it down. Nada–at least until the food came out. Poor grandma sat there in silence as the men carried on a conversation at one end of the table in their own world.

Even as they ate, the daughter sat her phone on the table and continued to play games. Mom never said, “Honey, would you please put your phone away so you can eat?” There was no communication with this girl–only silent approval that this was acceptable behavior.

I’ll admit I wanted to get up and shake this mother and tell the pre-teen to put her phone away. But I did choose to be civil. After all, we were in a restaurant and this woman didn’t ask for my help.

As dinner was winding down, I happened to glance at the grandmother. She knew what I was thinking. And she turned her palms up, shrugged, and glanced at me as if to say, “There’s really nothing I can do.”

“Really?” I thought.

As moms, we may be way more engaging than this mother in setting boundaries for our kids and helping them learn the social skills that they will need to survive in the future, but I wonder how many times we’ve allowed something or someone else crowd out the deep connection we could be having with our teen.

  1. When our kids ask us for something, are we “too busy” in the moment and fail to circle back to help them at a better time?
  2. Do we set specific times on a regular basis to have special one-on-one time to do things that we both enjoy? And then do it?
  3. Do you have “talk” time or are you always rushing to the next activity with a list of “Did you do your_____ (homework or chores)?”
  4. Do you encourage interaction with other adults, especially with Grandma and Grandpa, so that relationships develop and a sense of family becomes important?
  5. Are we willing to do hard things ourselves, like put away the phone or give up something else, so that we can model relationships for our kids?
  6. Are we willing to step into the situations that are not going as we would like and say, “Honey, I would like you to put away the phone right now so we can enjoy each other, grandma, or whoever else is in the room.”?
  7. Are we willing to have the tough conversations before and after a situation so that our kids will learn what relationship is all about?

1 Timothy 4:12

Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.

Romans 12:1

I appeal to you therefore, brothers/sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

Dear Heavenly Father,

So many times I fail in my own actions and model behavior that will one day be passed to yet another generation. Lord, help me to not only think through my own convictions but to live them out for my children. Help me to be brave and walk into what might be conflict over things like phones, computers, gaming systems, friends, and other things so that I can teach my kids the art of true relationships.

Lord, I also pray that my relationship with you will become deeper and stronger as I choose to live my life for you. Help me to be a parent who engages with her children in a way that will bring you glory and honor.

In the precious name of Jesus, Amen.

Dare you to think about ways you can more deeply connect with your teen and teach them about true relationships.

“Let go…and Let God”,

Teaching teens the importance of relationship is so very difficult in a technology driven world.  If you would like to connect more deeply with your teen, why not grab a copy of With All Due Respect and join us in our on-line eCourse?  I’ll be joining you in a community of christian women who want to take their relationships with their kids to the next level.  Hope to see you there!

 

 

Do You Accuse or Choose to Handle Your Challenging Situations Differently?

Last week I shared a story of a mother who was more focused on accusing her daughter’s friend rather than handling the challenging situation in a way that would foster relationship with her teen. (Click here to read.)  The same week that I was traveling, I spoke with a grandmother who was trying to impact a difficult situation with her teenage grand-daughter. The situation had just occurred a few days prior and this woman was sharing how she was trying to have influence in an extremely gut-wrenching situation.

As I listened, I was in awe. I kept wondering if I would have had the wisdom to handle a situation in a similar manner. Truth be told, several years ago I was in the same situation–as the mother instead of the grandmother. And I’ll admit I didn’t handle it well. Honestly, I wish this woman had been in my life then. I might have done things much differently with her sage advice and wisdom.

“Monica was caught vaping and smoking marijuana with her friends,” the woman began. “I’m just glad my daughter called to let me know. It’s hard to believe that Monica would do something like that. She just became a teenager a couple of weeks ago. She seems to be so young to already be experimenting with drugs.”

I was able to share with this woman about teen drug use from my own experience with my teen. I found myself transported to all the things I wish I had done differently.  As a result my heart breaks for parents who are in these tough situations.

“I’m so sorry you are having to deal with it. It know it is hard.”

“I know that God is aware of everything and I’ve been coaching my daughter not to accuse Monica but to put her energy into listening and validating her daughter’s feelings.”

“That’s really great advice. Something is obviously going on deep inside your grand-daughter and her feelings do matter.”

“My daughter says that she and Monica are having conversations that are much deeper than they would typically have. They end more amicably than in the past.”

” That’s great. What else are you doing?”

“I’ve been asking God to show me the next step and how He wants me involved in the situation. Yesterday, I got to spend two hours alone with Monica. We talked about how much God loves her. I was also able to ask her if there is any lie she believes about herself. The more we talked and I shared different stories of things that I remember happening when she was little, Monica was able to tell me that she always felt like her brother was more important than she was. She felt that “she didn’t matter and no one really cared about her.”

“Wow. That was huge for a 13 year old to get to a place where she could identify the lie.”

“I thought so too,” the grandmother replied. “I went on to tell her that what was important is what God thinks about her and what she thinks about herself. She needs to find a way to love herself and understand her value. After all, God took His time to create her as a special person. I love her, her parents love her, but she needs to love herself as well.”

“That’s really awesome. I think too often as parents we get focused on what others think about us and not what God thinks or what we think. I love that you were able to get to a place where these are her choices based on what she believes about herself. I love it too that you are stepping into her life in an active role rather than sitting back to let your daughter and her husband struggle with it on their own.”

“One of the things I’ve come to learn,” I continued, “is that teens need several people who are active in their life and people who will not “tell them what to do” or “where they have messed up” but can focus on influencing them toward right decisions with the understanding that ultimately it is the teen’s choice. As much as we want to, we don’t necessarily have ultimate control. Learning that as parents is so difficult at times.”

So what about you? As a parent, how would you handle a situation if you discovered your teen was smoking pot, vaping, or doing drugs? What if they were having sex or doing something else that you disapprove of or is against your faith? Would you accuse and try to control or would you have the skills to influence the situation in a way for the best possible outcome?

Psalm 46:1-3

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.

Isaiah 43:1-3 

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord you God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.

Philippians 4:6 

Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Most parents have the tendency of accusing their teens and bringing down the hammer along with the lecture when they’ve done something out of line.  Dare you to choose to handle your challenging situations differently.

“Let Go…and Let God”,

 Wish you had people like this grandmother in your life to help with your parenting challenges?  Grab the book With All Due Respect and join us in our on-line ecourse.  There you will meet our mentors who have learned how to think differently about parenting challenges and can walk with you through the struggles. Whether it is drugs, sex, alcohol, defiance, or even a good kid who you want to connect with on a deeper level, we can help. Hope you will join us.