Let’s face it, as moms we know our kids. We know what they are capable of and what they might do and most likely what they won’t do. Hopefully we understand their hearts and what motivates them.
And we definitely know which of our kids is most likely to cause trouble in the family.
I can’t tell you how many times as a mom I’ve had my kids come and tattle on the other. And I’ll admit that at times I did the wrong thing–I passed judgment on who was telling the truth. Think wearing a black and white striped referee shirt calling the shots of who is in the wrong–even without seeing the play.
Why? Because we know our kids. We know what they are capable of and what they might do.
Lord, forgive us as parents because we know not what we do.
Too many times as parents we choose to discipline without knowing all the facts. We don’t recognize that if there is conflict then most likely both of our kids are to blame in some manner. After all, you can’t have conflict without two people.
And if we have several kids, we typically create one of them to be the scapegoat. Think about it. A scapegoat is a person who is blamed for the wrongdoings, mistakes, or faults of others. And it is usually done for for reasons of expediency.
How many times have we issued judgment on one of our kids in a conflict situation between siblings because we want it to be over and done? We don’t want to sort through the “he said, she did”, and whatever else we hear as they try to talk over each other. So we issue an edict and refuse to talk about it any more. Most likely our judgment is issued on the kid who we think we know started it in the first place–our family scapegoat.
What if we began handling these scenarios differently? What if we took the time to teach our kids to solve their own differences? And what if instead of judgment we taught them empathy and validation skills that they could use with each other? These are skills that communicate love as well as respect.
Now I know that some of you think I’ve gone off the deep end by now. You don’t even think this is possible. But stay with me. I know this is a long post, but it is so needed in most of our families.
What is our goal as parents? Isn’t it to help teach our kids self-respect while they are under our roof rather than choosing sides where there is a winner and a loser in our family? After all, if we fall into that trap we are creating extreme thinking in each of our kids. The one in the “right” can develop an “I’m all that” way of thinking while the scapegoat develops the mentality of “I’m a loser and won’t ever measure up so why should I try”.
So what are some steps you can take if you are in the referee parent zone?
- When one of the kids starts screaming, or tattling, or blaming, pull them into a room together. In other words, help them address their own problems with each other, not with you.
- Your role is coach not referee. If there is a lot of emotional blaming, stop the conversation and take a time out. Send them separate directions to calm down.
- Resume the conversation. Have them state the facts from their perspective. No judgment. Just facts.
- Coach them to communicate their why. Teens need help understanding their feelings and their actions as a result of those feelings. Sometimes they will discover that the “why they did what they did” has nothing to do with the present circumstance but something that they felt in the past.
- Teach your kids to show empathy and validate the other person’s feelings.
- Encourage them to apologize to each other for their part.
- Help them decide what they need from each other in the future to keep this from happening again.
Here’s an abbreviated example of what it might look like. Know that typically this conversation will most likely take time–sometimes lots of time. Hopefully, this will get you started thinking about other ways to handle conflict in your home.
Aubrey: “I pushed you and took your car keys because you think you are some hot shot at school.”
Jeremy: “You made me out to be a fool in front of all the kids at school. Mom, she made me sit there in the parking lot until I had to finally chase her down to get my keys.”
Mom: “I can see that both of you are upset about this. I’m going to ask each of you to go find something to do to calm yourselves down. We’ll talk about it again after dinner. Be thinking about what part you need to own and why you did what you did.”
Mom: “I know in the past I’ve usually decided who was at fault when the two of you disagree. Both of you are getting to the age where you need to start resolving your own problems. I’m going to try to coach you through the process. Know that I might stop you and try to teach you a better way to say something. It might be awkward, but pretend you are at basketball practice and your coach is teaching you a new drill. Jeremy, why don’t you go first and tell Aubrey just the facts as you saw them today. Address her directly, not me.”
Jeremy: “Aubrey, I can’t believe you took my keys today. You made me feel like an idiot in front of my friends having to chase you down to get them so we could come home.”
Aubrey: “You act like you are some hot shot at school. You talk to all your friends as we are getting in the car and it is like I’m some tag along. I’m invisible to you. I was trying to get your attention today to tell you something and you told me to shut up. That really upset me.”
Jeremy: “But you…”
Mom: “Let’s stop right there. The two of you are getting emotional again. Take a deep breath. Let me summarize the facts I heard based on what you both just said. Both of you were coming out of school and Aubrey was trying to tell you something. She felt like you weren’t listening so she grabbed your keys and ran off with them. Jeremy, you chased her down to get them and felt embarrassed because of what Aubrey forced you to do to get the keys back.”
Once there is consensus on the facts, talk about the why.
Mom: “Now let’s talk about the why. Aubrey why don’t you go first”.
Aubrey: “Jeremy never listens to me. I took his keys because I wanted to remind him that we needed to stop at the store to pick stuff up for my science project on the way home and he wasn’t listening. I needed to get his attention somehow.”
Mom: “Jeremy, Aubrey just told you why she did what she did and how she feels invisible to you. Rather than tell your side of the story, I’d like you to use words to show her that you care about how she was feeling.”
After Jeremy shows empathy and validates Aubrey, then Mom would coach Aubrey to do the same after Jeremy states his why. Then they need to apologize to each other.
Once they’ve worked through it, coach them in ways to help keep the problem from happening in the future. Be thinking, ‘what does Aubrey want in the relationship’ and ‘what does Jeremy want’?
In this scenario, they both wanted the same thing–respect.
It isn’t until we teach our kids to “put themselves in the other’s shoes” that we can help them develop deep relationships with others.
Luke 6:37-38; 40
I hope you are enjoying some of the content of these blogs. Know that I want to walk beside you in your parenting and help you think outside the box of the way most of us were parented. We are raising a new generation of kids who need connection. With technology, cell phones, and relationships condensed to text, our kids will miss out on the skills of deep relationships unless we teach them the importance of respecting themselves and others. I don’t know about you, but I’m seeing real authentic relationships becoming a thing of the past.
Will you be part of the Generation Changing movement? We’d love to have you grab the book With All Due Respect and go through it with your friends. It will change the way you look at your role as a parent. And we promise to make it easy to lead. You don’t need to be a perfect parent; you don’t need to have perfect kids; and you don’t need to have ever led a group before.
A Small Group Leader’s Guide is also available with questions for group discussion.
It will change your relationships with God, with your spouse, and with your kids.