Learning to Listen Our Kid’s Way

Several years ago I remember a distinct day of listening and trying to walk beside two of my kids in a way that they needed.  What I discovered as I interacted with my 20-somethings that they both needed me in different ways.  What worked for one didn’t work for the other.

I caught myself opening my mouth when I should have been silent. “Just listen,” I kept telling myself. “Don’t offer advice; don’t ask too many questions.”

My son had gone into his silent mode, yet again. Right in the middle of his story, he just stopped talking. He was annoyed with me. It was his way of getting my attention.

The silence remained…

It became deafening as we sped down the highway.

“I know,” I ventured. “I asked a question and you were getting there. You don’t like me to interrupt your stories with questions. I’m sorry. Please forgive me. I’m trying real hard to break the habit. It’s just that I’m used to talking with females. That’s how we communicate. It’s how we know that the other person is engaged. I know that it annoys you, but know that I am trying. Please finish your story. I’d love to hear the rest.”

It took my son a while, but he did start his story again.

“Whew, I salvaged it,” I rejoiced to herself. I continued to listen. Even when I was tempted to chime in, I bit my lip and said nothing. I knew this was the way I could communicate respect to my adult son.

Later that afternoon my 27 year old daughter dropped by to do a few loads of laundry since her apartment’s washer was on the fritz. I knew that times like these would become counseling sessions.

Being single was hard for my daughter. She struggled to make the money stretch far enough even though she had a good job. There always seemed to be something that was going wrong in her life and she needed someone to work through it with her. Since I knew my tendency was to try to fix my kids’ problems, I recognized that I needed to  shift gears in order to allow my kids to be fully independent. I wanted to be there for them, but not be enabling.

As my daughter continued with her most recent frustration, I knew from experience that she was someone who needed to verbalize every detail and feel heard.

“Mom, I just don’t know what to do. There just doesn’t seem to be anyway out. The noise level is ridiculous in that apartment complex. It is so hard to come home from work at 10:00 with the TV blaring next door. I got woken up twice the other night with those two love birds having a screaming match out in the hallway. I’ve just about had it.”

As I watched my daughter get more agitated about her circumstances, I started asking pertinent questions as I engaged in her story.

“Wow, how did you handle it?”

“Did anyone call the cops?”

“You must have found it really difficult to go to work the next day.”

And the conversation continued for what what seemed like eternity as I listened to every minute detail.  Finally she said, “Mom, what am I going to do?”

This was my moment of truth.  Would I give her my honest opinion on what she should do?  And that is when I threw the ball back in her court to solve her own problem.

And I started asking questions again. “What do you think your options are?”

“How do you think you should handle it?”

As my daughter continued to think through her options, thankfully I was able to say, “Sounds like you’ve solved your own problem.”

“Mom, thanks for listening and helping me figure it out. I got my laundry done and have an action plan for solving the problem at the apartment. You’re the greatest.”

Communicating with our 20-somethings can be so different. Figuring out how they like to be communicated with and adapting our style to theirs allows them to feel the respect and love they need. Listening can mean two totally different things depending on their bent. My son wanted to tell his story–his whole story–without interruption. My daughter needed lots of dialogue with questions that made her think.

If we want to build relationship, we need to adapt to their needs in order to communicate in the way our 20-something can feel connected.

Colossians 4:6

Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.

“Let go…and let God,”


When Your Kid Breaks Your Heart

I’ve found myself walking around in a daze all week–numb.  My kid made a choice that has the potential for major consequences and my heart is broken.  That simple act that lasted less than five minutes could possibly change the trajectory of his life.  It has already impacted mine.

Even though my heart is broken, I’ve not allowed myself to cry.  Oh, I’ve been on the verge of tears many times, but personally, when I get scared for one of my kids I typically go into mama bear mode attempting to console my teen as well as blame myself.  I’m ready to do battle with whoever tries to judge my child for their actions.

My mind goes into a spiral.

Why didn’t I see this coming?

Where is the disconnect between who I thought my teen was and this new decision?

What did I do wrong in my parenting?

Could I have prevented this from happening?

I beat myself up for having somehow failed.  And my heart is breaking for my teen.  The hasty decision, the lack of thought to consequences, and now the heavy weight that our family must carry.  In this particular situation there are serious financial implications for us.

Lord, how do we get through this in one piece?

I’ve been here before with my other kids.  Discovering one kid was having sex sent my husband into an emotional spiral.  As I talk with other parents dealing with shoplifting, lying, sneaking out, alcohol, cutting and a host of other things, they all ask the same question.  Where did I fail?   Why can’t I have good kids like the other parents I know?  I’m scared.

What I’ve learned in my own parenting is that it is important to think about the situation differently than the downward spiral our brain wants to go.

  1. God is writing our child’s testimony.  And sometimes testimonies are nothing like what we desire.  However, it is through the wrong choices that God will use your child to touch someone else’s life in the future. He’s writing their story to bring Him glory.  It is in these crucial moments that our kids wrestle with who they are.  It is in these circumstances that we as parents get to pour our belief system into these precious children that God has given us.  They may not accept our advice, but we know that we are doing something that God desires of us.
  2. God knows the circumstances and will walk through it with us and them.  When the situation seems unfathomable, we know that God is in it.  Who would have ever dreamed something like this would happen?  Right?  Yet, God is our refuge and strength.  He will walk through what might seem like the ‘valley of the shadow of death’ to us.  Cling to Him.  Let Him know your thoughts and fears.  And pray that He will walk before you paving the way for the future.
  3. Grieve.  Whatever is different from what you imagined, take time to acknowledge the sorrow and pain of the situation.  Be sure to ask God to use this circumstance in your child’s life as a step toward maturity and an avenue for future ministry.  
  4. Pull the teen in closer.  When we are hurting because our teen did something that hurt us deeply, the automatic reaction is to back away–especially for dads.  It is a way to self-protect.  However, what our teen really needs in these circumstances is our love and “we’re going to work through this together” attitude and support.  
  5. Make sure to pour into the rest of the family.  It’s easy to be so focused on “The Situation” that we forget that the circumstance is also affecting the teen’s siblings.  Be sure to have conversations finding out how the other family members are being affected.  How are they feeling?  How is this impacting them at school or in their social situations?  What do they need from you right now to get through this?
  6. Slow down and pray.  Times like these are when I find myself on my knees even more.  He is the only place I can find strength to do the next thing.  Allow yourself time to slow down the typical pace of life and think through the steps rather than be in react mode.  Allow God to lead where He desires and don’t be afraid to talk to “trusted friends” who’ve walked similar paths.  If you don’t have people in your life who can pray with you, feel free to reach out to me.  I know what it is like to feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders.  I’m here to help lighten the load.

Getting through some of these life-defining moments can be tough.  Knowing where to turn and the decisions you should make can seem overwhelming.  Knowing that there is a God who sees where we are at in the moment and who loves us and won’t forsake us can give us the strength to do the next thing.

Joshua 1:9

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Writing to myself as well as all of you.

“Let go…and Let God”,




What’s Your Parenting Fear?

As I talk with women across the country about parenting issues and we talk about our kids, the same theme seems to surface.  As moms we’re afraid for our kids.  Whether it be a school shooting, falling in with the wrong crowd, cutting, or drinking and drugs, pregnancy, or a failing test score, we have fears that can hijack our brain in a nanosecond.  We hear something and we’re automatically on high alert wondering if “it” could happen to our kid or if our kid won’t live up to the dream that we have for them.

We put tracker’s on our kid’s phone and their cars to monitor their every move.  In China there is a movement in the schools to track a student’s attention by a brain monitoring device that alerts the teacher and the parent when a kid is not fully engaged.  The hypervigilance in our parenting isn’t healthy for us or for our kids.  That isn’t what God wants for us.

Think about it for a minute, and I hope you’ll dig deep.

What are your fears for your child?

Would you take a few minutes and list them?  Really think through them.  And I want to encourage you to put them on paper.

What are you afraid of for your kid?  It doesn’t matter if our kids are 6, 16, or 26, we’re bound to have some fear–an expectation that might never materialize or a hope that might be taken away.

Sit tight with that list as I share a story.

Over a decade ago, I had a long list of fears for one of my kids.  That list seemed to grow year by year as I watched the transition from elementary to junior high and then into high school.  I became overtly watchful as behaviors surfaced over which I seemed to have no influence.  I watched as this teen struggled with acceptance from classmates even though she could be outgoing and personable.  She was intelligent enough to grasp concepts that other students didn’t quite understand, yet seemed to be in a constant state of flux from motivated to uncaring in her academics.  She struggled with the nuance of relationships wanting to be seen for who she really was–a gifted individual–yet at times lacked the confidence to really shine.

And as a mom, I saw who she could be yet she didn’t seem to want to embrace it.

And I worried.

Fear had a grip on me when it came to this child.  And I didn’t quite know what to do with it. 

Yes, I would take it to the Lord.  Yes, I would pour out my heart to Him.  Yet I couldn’t move from that state of worry and fear.  I was always waiting for the next phone call or the next email from a teacher or parent.  At times I felt as if I could somehow see a dark future yet didn’t have any control over it.  Just when I thought things were getting better and I could breathe the next difficulty would surface throwing me into a state of stress. 

Instead of being focused on God, I was focused the circumstances of what could happen next.  After all, that is what worry and fear is all about.

Fear is about the future–what might happen.

Today, a mom read a scripture verse that she felt God was speaking to her through.  And I went, “That’s it!”  That’s exactly what we need in our parenting when we have those times of fear.

Psalm 112:7-8

He (the righteous) will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord.  His heart is secure, he will have no fear…

I don’t know about you, but that is what I want in my parenting.  I want to have no fear of bad news.  That will only happen if I am always trusting that He knows what He is doing in my child’s life.  My heart has to be steadfast on Him.  If we are secure in our hope in the Lord, then we have no reason to fear.

God is writing each and every one of our kids’ testimonies and it might not be what we would write.  We need to remember that God goes where we go (Joshua 1:9) and that He will comfort us (Isaiah 51:12-13) regardless of the outcome.

So now that you’ve heard a piece of my story, I hope that you will take your list of fears and offer them up to God as you confess your doubt and worry.  He is our Rock where we can take refuge (2 Samuel 22).  By turning them over to Him (which may need to be done on a daily basis), we will have peace that He is with us regardless of the situation.  

We may want certain outcomes for our kids’ futures, yet God is the one writing the story.  We don’t know the purpose of our child’s future from God’s perspective.  

So what about that child that I worried over?  What did the future look like for her?

All my fears became truths.  Worrying about them didn’t change them.  Yet God used them in a powerful way.  God used her to change me.  God had her ministering to people that I would never have been in contact with were it not for the friend group that she chose.  And God showed me that His ways are not our ways and I can always trust that He knows what is best to bring Him glory.

“Let go…and Let God”,











Are You Fighting Your Kid’s Battles?

Two things happened almost simultaneously this week.  That’s when I knew God was trying to get me to listen and take note.

Sitting at brunch with my oldest son, my husband and I were listening to my son’s every word.  For us it was a moment of trying to get our feelings under control at the thought of our son moving away.  We were painfully aware that this would be the last time we would see him other than FaceTime for several months.  And for us, it was time for deep introspection. 

As typical of our major times of separation from our kids, Dave was trying to let our son know how proud we were of him and encourage him in his new adventure.  We wanted him to know that the move was the right thing for his family even though we would miss them all terribly.  Our son was doing the same for us reminding us of all that we had poured into him through the years.

And then on a jovial note he commented, “But there is one thing I think you should have done in your parenting.”

Oh no, the moment of truth and a long pause as my brain automatically jumped to that word of “failure”. 

“I really think you should have let us fight our own battles.”


As he talked about a couple of situations, I knew where he was going with the comment.  When things got political with their sports, when my kids had a tough time with a teacher, or when they were having a tough time navigating a situation, I’d step in  ‘mom to coach’ or ‘mom to teacher’ or ‘mom to mom’.

Oh, no.  Gulp.  That was me.

“I know that you did it for all the right reasons.  I just think I would have been better equipped, especially as I got older, if you had taught me to fight the battles myself.”

And with that comment, I could see the progress I had made as a parent from my first to my last child.  My oldest wasn’t telling me something new.  He was sharing something that God had been teaching me in the moment.  Our youngest was in a battle at the time  and it had taken everything in my power to not step into the middle of the situation.

You see, my youngest had been in a situation where he was wrongfully accused.  He had been sharing bits of what was going on in his life with me for several months.  I knew the people involved.  I could have easily initiated a conversation that would have most likely cleared the entire situation up.

But I chose to stay silent.

As the situation became more heated and my son’s character was called into question, my heart broke for him.  How could this person accuse my son and say the things he had said without truly understanding the situation?  

And everything in me wanted to right the injustice.

But as I spent time with the Lord, He kept saying to me.  “This is your son’s battle, not yours.  These are the things that will make him a man.  He needs these difficulties to make him stronger.  Listen to him.  Make suggestions on how he should handle the situation.  But let him fight the battle.”

Ugh, it would be so much easier if I could just take care of it myself and not be forced to sit on the sidelines.

But isn’t that what we want to do as parents.  We just want it to go away.  We don’t want our kids to suffer.  We want life to go smoothly.  

But if we fight all their battles, they don’t grow stronger.  If they don’t feel pain, they don’t need us to lean on.  It is in the times of battle that they want our insight and will ask for our perspective.

My youngest fought his own battle and it didn’t turn out the way either of us had hoped.  And even though I’d still like to “say something”, it’s not my battle.  My job as parent is to remind him that there is injustice in the world and to be there for him with hugs and empathy attempting to normalize his frustration and disappointment.

There can be much learning when our kids fight their own battles and there can be opportunities for connection as we soothe their disappointments.  

As my oldest got out at the airport to leave, I reminded myself of my own growth as a parent.  I had changed when it came to the battles my kids face.  And I certainly didn’t see the lessons my oldest had missed out on by me not allowing him to fight his own battles, but I’m thankful that God allowed him to see my failures so that he could right the wrong with his son and the generations that will follow.

Ephesians 6:12

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

Isaiah 64:8

But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.

II Chronicles 20:15

Thus says the Lord to you, ‘Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed, for the battle is not yours but God’s.

Learning to stay silent when I want to speak.

“Let go…and Let God”,