Tired of the Shouting Match?

Getting to the bottom of our emotional reactions to our kids can be difficult.  The heat of the moment can cause us to do things we said we would never do. And it has taken me a long time to understand these reactions even in myself.  Years, in fact.  If I’m feeling something going on inside of me, my tendency now is to get to the bottom of it and understand why I feel the way I feel.  And then make amends with my kids if I’ve responded in an unhealthy way.  I’ve learned that rather than listening to my feelings, I need to put my prefrontal cortex (thinking brain) in charge.  I’m finding that I’m better at it now — well at least most of the time.

But at times I’ll admit that anger, frustration, or fear will well up within me and I have to fight it back.  It’s a skill.  It is an awareness.

And it doesn’t typically come naturally to any of us unless we’ve seen it modeled.

That’s what puts many of us as parents at a deficit as to what to do with our emotion and what to do with our kids’ emotions.  Typically it becomes a standoff.  We tend to match our child’s emotional level trying to get them to “hear” us.  The next step becomes the escalating shouting match.

It doesn’t work.

And it hurts the relationship.

Parents from my generation usually didn’t give much thought to how a child felt in the moment.  I’m guessing most of us have heard the proverbial “sit down and shut up” or “will you just be quiet” or “stop crying”.  Maybe we’ve even said it to our kids when we’re exhausted and don’t think we can take the whine another minute.   Yes, our child might calm down in the moment, but we’re setting them up for future emotional outbursts.

The goal of helping us and our kids become more aware of our independent feelings is so that we lessen their sometimes destructive hold on us.  There is  a case study conducted by a UCLA professor that showed that awareness and naming our feelings lightens the emotion and actually makes us happier.

Who doesn’t want happy kids?

What I’ve discovered through working with moms is that sitting in the emotional ‘spin’ of our child actually helps contain them.  What I mean by that is that by validating that it is okay for our child to feel the way they feel helps them accept themselves and love themselves in the moment despite how they feel.  It doesn’t matter that what they did was hurtful or disrespectful or uncalled for.  It doesn’t matter that they aren’t handling themselves in a mature fashion.  What matters is that they know that in the moment when they feel out of control, that they are loved and everything will be okay.  

When we validate our child we’re communicating that they are valued and precious even in the moment they are in.   It says that we love them even when they are spewing all over everyone else.  A hug, looking them in the eye, and sitting with them holding their hand and offering tissues helps them know that someone is there to help them deal with the pain of the situation even when it might seem totally uncalled for to us.

Their feelings are their feelings.  Our job is to just be there for them in their moment.

Let’s say your 14 year old comes in after school, slams the back door, fails to take his muddy shoes off as he walks across the carpet.  When you ask him what is wrong, he shouts, “I hate you”, and then proceeds to slam his bedroom door breaking the hinge in the process.

Most of us tend to focus on all the things our kid did wrong:

  1. Slamming the back door.
  2. Wearing his muddy shoes on the carpet.
  3. Shouting “I hate you” which hurts us deeply.
  4. Breaking the door.

We focus on what happened rather than what our child is feeling.

When we put the emphasis on what was done wrong, we fail to get to the root of our teen’s feelings–the heart of the issue.  When we react in a harsh way, “How dare you speak to me like that” or “You are going to have to pay to repair this door” or “Come clean up this carpet right now”, we’re focusing on what was done to us not what is going on inside our teen.  By ignoring the reason for the outburst and not letting them vent in the moment, we are teaching our teens to either stuff and ignore their feelings or that their feelings don’t matter.

Research is showing that these are the very things that trigger addictions — emotional pain that the teen isn’t able to contain.  When feelings become overwhelming and aren’t understood, more and more teens start medicating to deal with feelings they want to get rid of.  When we choose to be in their moment and help contain them, we are lightening their emotional load.  We’re letting them see that nothing is wrong with those feelings and we’re here for them.

Galatians 6:2

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

I’ve sat with moms who have shared the frustration of not being able to connect with their adopted children as they become teens.  The hurt and feeling of abandonment of a teen can be overwhelming.  Dealing with the fact that they were given away can bring much pain deeply rooted in who they are.  The same goes for the girl who has become an outcast in her circle of friends or the boy who doesn’t measure up in sports or has a creative bent unlike his male peers.  

The teen years are a time of self-discovery as they try to figure out who they are.  It’s a time when they need to be nurtured–not taken to task for the things they do or don’t do.

Spending time in their emotional world and teaching them to self-process their feelings will help them move from emotional “doom and gloom” to “this will all blow over and I’ll be okay”.  It will allow your teen to move the situation from their emotional brain to their thinking brain which moves them toward maturity.  Once you’ve helped them, then and only then is it time to help them cognitively process the muddy carpet, the harsh words spoken in anger, and the broken hinge — in a gentle, matter of fact way.

Teaching our teens to process their emotional stuff will help them move to the more mature process where they can start viewing situations from the other person’s perspective.   It means that they will begin to move from the emotion of  ‘I can’t believe she did that to me’ to a mature thought process of ‘she typically doesn’t treat me this way, I’m guessing she is having a bad day.  I wonder if I did something to upset her.’  

Wouldn’t it be great if even as adults we could quickly move from the emotion to mature logical thinking? What if we could give the other person the benefit of the doubt instead of spinning in their emotion getting caught up in the other person’s level of anger? Wouldn’t it be satisfying to realize that instead of heaping our emotions on top of an already volatile emotional situation we could help soothe the other person in such a way that we both felt good about ourselves and our relationship?

Dare you to think about the emotional situations in your own home.  Are you responding to your child’s emotional fire in a healthy way?

“Let go…and Let God”,





Time to Tame the Beast in Your Teen?

Let’s face it, most of us have emotional outbursts from time to time.  Even if not openly for everyone to hear, at least internally where we tell ourselves that the person who has “hurt” us is in the wrong.  Hopefully we don’t go into this mode as often as our teens, but we do have these negative conversations.

 The question is how do we as adults deal with these experiences and move to equilibrium quickly and are we passing the right skills along to our tweens and teens to help them tame the emotional beast?

I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen grown adults who still haven’t learned the skills to calm their emotions.  Several years ago I witnessed an auto accident where a guy speeding in a sports car was involved.  Watching from  a distance I stared in disbelief as this man jumped out of his car raging and screaming as he ran toward the other car ranting to the other person involved.  He was totally oblivious to the state of the other person’s injuries.  The man was so emotionally charged in the moment he became an emotional beast ready to take out the individual whom he now saw as an opponent.

There is now brain research that  gives us a clue as to what is going on internally when we have those meltdowns–or sometimes shutdowns.   Most of the time those feelings will override our ability to think in a cohesive pattern causing us to go into a negative spiral.  When we go into the negative self-talk mode then the world around us becomes a dark place where we tend to emotionally vomit on someone who will listen–usually people with which we feel most comfortable around–family–or we go into our own personal inner sanctuary where we shield ourselves from the pain.

Helping our children harness those feelings by speaking truth into their lives can teach them skills that will provide a foundation for more emotional maturity.

So what are some of the things you can do as a parent when your kid comes home from school grunting as he walks past you in the kitchen, ignoring your greeting, disappearing into his room as he slams the door?

 Or what do you do when you and your child have had angry words and he shouts “I hate you!”?  

What if you see your kid punching his younger sibling or screaming words that you cannot believe are coming from his mouth?

Or you child seems to have retreated to a place where she seems to not be emotionally present?

  1. Take a deep breath and pray.  God sees your child’s pain.  Ask Him for wisdom in how to deal with this child in this moment.
  2. Give your teen space.  Every emotional outburst doesn’t need to be dealt with immediately.  I’ve coined a new catch phrase when I meet with parents.  If it isn’t a situation of life and death, choose to deal with it later–meaning after the emotion has subsided.  Even if the slammed door has come off it’s hinges or the younger sibling has a bloody nose, deal with the blood and not the emotionally charged teen.
  3. Re-engage when cooler heads prevail.  Re-engage in a safe place.  Maybe it is in the quiet of your teens room when everyone else is in bed or you take him to his favorite burger hangout or coffee shop, either way gently broach the subject without raising defensiveness in your teen.
  4. Ask your teen to do some soul searching.  What was he feeling in the moment?  What does she think triggered the outburst?  Was there ever a time he had that feeling before?  If so, what happened in the past and are those two events connected?  Research shows that anger in a given situation can sometimes be traced back to a previous event that seemed similar to the current event.  Because of that, your teen could have had a heightened emotional charge because the “feeling” was connected.  In other words, the emotional outburst was actually triggered because of what happened before–not necessarily the current situation.
  5. Help your teen become aware.  With your teens permission, come up with a way to cue your teen in on her emotional  escalation.  A simple hand gesture or funny phrase can easily raise awareness.
  6. Give you teen options for the future.  Share with your teen possible calming techniques for future situations.  Reading a book, asking someone to listen to their side without judgment (some kids process quicker if they can verbally dump their angst),  playing soft music that doesn’t further enhance their anger, or prayer and meditation are all ways to cope with negative feelings.  Your teen may find other ways that will bring calm to a given situation — a bubble bath, a chat with a friend, or doing something fun with a family member that takes their mind off the pain. Encourage your teen to tell you when they are struggling.  Even encouraging your teen to utter a simple statement such as “I’ve had a bad day and need to be alone or I need to process what happened” is a mature response that indicates they are becoming aware of their need to take control of their own emotional beasts.
  7. Share scriptures that will build confidence in your teens ability to take charge of feelings.  Most of us can allow negative thoughts to spiral out of control when our feelings run amok.  Scriptures that speak to their situation help our teens accept that the battle actually belongs to the Lord. 

2 Corinthians 10:5

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

John 8:32

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Colossians 1:22

But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation—

Dare you to be pro-active in taming the emotional beast in your teens rather than being a reactive agent adding fuel to that already roaring flames.  Teach them the skills to self-sooth their hurt and anger so they can reach full emotional maturity.

“Let go…and let God”,

 Even us moms need a safe place to deal with the feelings that emerge within us as we parent during the tween and teen years.  Our With All Due Respect eCourse is a great place to share and learn from other moms. And for a limited time, it’s free! And remember that you will need a copy of the book as we go through it together.  Moms tell us all the time that they’ve learned so much and how their parenting responses have changed significantly since working through this curriculum.  “I wish I’d read this book years ago” is a common response.  We encourage you to read it and let us know what you think.  It may revolutionize your parenting.

Are You Keeping Your Kid From Pain?

Years ago I found myself in the middle of a decision.  And I agonized over it. Would I say ‘yes’ to an opportunity that would only happen once in a lifetime or stay home with my tween who had a birthday that weekend?

Today, I find myself in a similar situation.  This time my kid is a 20-something who will have just had major surgery a week prior.  Do I dare go on the learning opportunity trip that is already paid for or should I stay home to take care of him? 

And, of course, I’m feeling the weight of my decision.  After all, I’m a mom.  Being there for my kid is my calling in life. 

Yet, I want to go on my trip.  Isn’t it good for me to go be my own person?  Aren’t my needs important too?

For me, it’s a battle of wanting to take care of my son while also wanting to take care of me.  And I fret over these decisions.  Neither answer gives me everything I want.  

This past week I was on a call with my life coach.  He’s helping me be a better version of me.  Taking the time to help me figure out what my calling in life truly is, my coach will sometimes ask me the hard questions.  His question hit the bulls-eye making me pause.

“Why is it that you don’t want your son to have any pain in his life?”

Talk about feeling like my heart was being shattered into a million pieces.  Is that really what my actions said to the world? 

The silence in answering my coach was deafening as I pondered my response.  I had to deeply consider my thoughts and the choices I was making.

Is it true that I don’t want my son to have any pain in his life? 

At surface level, my first reaction was, “of course I don’t want pain in his life”.  No one wants to endure pain or see someone they love in pain. 

Yet, is that the way God parents us?  Is that a realistic way to live?

If we want our kids to grow, mature, and become over-comers, they need to learn to deal with pain.  It’s part of life.

And the more pain we endure, the stronger we become once we’re on the other side of it.  It is through our pain and disappointments in life that we become more compassionate toward others who are dealing with difficult situations.  

I’m reminded of the parent who takes away a child’s toy because he hit his sister with it.  And then the mom feels guilty for taking away the toy, so she offers up ice cream to soothe the tears.  With that, she is trying to make up for the pain she’s inflicted. 

And as I ponder that scenario, I wonder if I’m the person who feels the pain most?  Have I been the one who hasn’t gotten over painful things in my past that I just assume that my tween, teen, or 20-something will feel what I’ve felt?  Are my parenting actions and need to be there for my child more about me than the circumstance?

Is it that I feel the need to control every potential happening so that my teen won’t endure heartache, pain, or disappointment?

And if I am always there to ease the pain, will my child fail to depend on God in these situations?

Sometimes pondering the difficult questions will make us stronger as a parent.  When we react and make decisions based on  trying to ease potential pain in our kid’s life, we may be standing in God’s path for our child’s maturity. 

Psalm 34:18
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
1 Corinthians 1:3-4
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,  who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.
Romans 8:28
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Dare you to take inventory of how you make decisions in your parenting.  Instead of trying to ease our child’s pain, try walking with him through the experience by acknowledging and validating his feelings.
Learning right along side you.
“Let go…and Let God,”





Does Your Teen or 20-Something Know Their Purpose?

As I spent time with a friend today we started talking about helping our kids become motivated.  The more we talked I was hit with an a-ha.

“Do you think your son knows what his purpose is?” I asked.

There was a long pause.

And for both of us it was as if the dawning of what I had just spoken took root.  In fact, as I look back to when one of my kids was in middle school, I wish I had understood the power of purpose better.

One of the things our kids need to discover and learn is how life fits together for them.

  • Where do they fit within their family?
  • Who among their friends have similar interests?
  • What strengths and gifting do they possess?
  • What do they enjoy doing outside of having fun?

Having our kids explore their dreams and passions allows them to examine what will motivate them and it helps them discover who God created them to be.

Fitting in the family is where we connect and feel included.  We all need to have responsibilities within the family unit.  Knowing the expectations and boundaries within the family gives all of us a sense of security in knowing how we all fit together.

Understanding how we connect to friends along with our interests, strengths, and gifting helps us know where we fit  within the outside world.  Enjoyment for mere pleasure is different than enjoyment in terms of adding value to other’s lives.  All of us need to feel a sense of belonging such that our part helps someone else do what they do better for the greater good.

Our kids are no different.  They need to understand where they fit in to serve not to be served.

There is no purpose in being or taking.

Our purpose is in doing for others.  It is the key to motivation.  It impacts us on the soul level.

So how can we give our kids a sense of purpose?

Give them responsibility that they can get excited about.  Now don’t get me wrong, kids do need to have responsibility for things that they don’t enjoy.  Homework, cleaning their room, emptying the dishwasher, and taking out the trash are certainly not things that most kids enjoy, but they are character building and do teach responsibility.

What I’m talking about are things that move them closer to their dreams of the future.  The things that bring them soul excitement.

When it comes to our unmotivated 20-somethings, I wonder if it is because they haven’t discovered their purpose.  Stuck in sometimes dead-end jobs, are they discouraged because they don’t see hope of a better future?  Yes, they are earning money for survival, but are they wondering if this is all there is to life?  Maybe they are disheartened at where life seems to be taking them rather than pursuing the undiscovered passion that is deep within. 

A while back I had what I will call an unmotivated 20-something.  Doom and gloom would at times surround him like a heavy cloud of darkness.  He just couldn’t see the future in any positive light.  Then several things happened that changed his outlook.

  1. He made a new friend who gave him a glimpse of what his life could look like.
  2. We started talking about his future.  What could life look like in 2-3 years that would seem exciting?
  3. We talked about different steps to get there and the likelihood that all of them might not be fun.
  4. And I asked him to take one step toward his future.

And it was amazing the change I began to see.  He took one step and saw success.  Then he took another and another.  Rather than feeling discouragement and frustration, he began to see the possibilities and embraced them as his own.

He saw his future.

He saw how it fit together.

As he made mistakes or failed, we talked about the learning that was occurring in terms of maturity and I reminded Him of the successes.

And he knew his life had purpose.  He had purpose.

He began to embrace his dream with a new passion.

If we truly believe that God is in charge of our lives and He created each and every one of us for His purpose, then helping our kids discover what their purpose is points them back to their creator and will motivate them toward the deeds He set for them before the beginning of time.

Proverbs 20:5

 The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out.
“Let Go…and Let God”,



Are You Believing a Lie and Acting on It?

My husband was traveling last week and purchased one of those small pocket books you can find in the airport bookstore to read on the plane.  As he settled into his seat focused on the book content he soon felt an overwhelming gnawing sense that he had failed.  A list of all the things we should be doing as parents caught his attention and one in particular took root — he had failed in making sure that his son always cleaned up after himself.

He kept thinking of his frustration over the last two years of the times he had come into the kitchen and seen dishes left out.  He thought about the unmade bed and the wet towels left on the bathroom floor.  As most of us would agree, this book confirmed what we know as parents — our kids need to learn to clean up after themselves as we try to teach them to become adults.  

None of us want to feel like failures as parents.  We can easily take things we read or things another person says about our kids and want to make sure our kids rise to the occasion.  At other times we see the success of other people’s kids and try to push our kids to be as good as or better than what we’ve seen.

But my question is simple:

  • Are those thoughts fully true? 
  • Is now the time to act on those thoughts? 
  • And if you do, what will be the result?

The lie my husband believed is simple.  “All teens and 20-somethings should clean up after themselves if they live under your roof and it is the parent’s job to make that happen.”

First you need to understand that sometimes we all communicate things in a not-so-gentle way that can put strain on the relationship.  And for those of you who know my husband, the way he handled the situation was so not like him.  Typically he communicates in a loving, gentle, laughter-filled way that makes others want to do as he asks.  Unfortunately, this time the lie was so strong in his mind that it came across as condemning and my son walked away with a feeling of his father’s disappointment in who he was as a person.

Ugh!  So not what my husband wanted. 

He just wanted change.

Standing on the sidelines watching my son during the following week after the exchange he had with his father, I heard him as he made sure he cleaned up after himself with spoken words of condemnation.  “I need to clean up or dad will come tell me what a disappointment I am.  I need to do this now because dad will feel like a failure if I don’t.  All the other things I am doing in my life don’t matter except cleaning up after myself.  I am such a loser.”

And the record kept playing in my son’s mind as he verbalized it for days.

Yet my husband was getting the behavior he wanted.  He was glad our son was cleaning up after himself.  Obviously, his communication had worked.

But he hadn’t seen the condemnation our son was heaping upon himself.

And I was watching the anger grow within my son toward his dad.

As I spent time with God trying to sort through the relationship mess that had been created, I asked myself the question.  What is true?

  1. My husband loves his son.
  2. My husband believed the lie that he needed to fix this “parenting oversight” in his son now.
  3. My husband had communicated poorly with his son.
  4. My son was heaping condemnation on himself from the conversation and anger was setting in toward his dad.
  5. My son has had two surgeries in the last year 10 months and had difficulty with certain movements like bending and twisting (hence the wet towels on the floor, unmade bed, and dishes not put in the dishwasher).  He had to make choices–do things that added pain or focus on what he could do to make life easier and get through his day.
  6. My son was working hard to get back to whatever normal life can be — working part-time, studying for the GRE, and working with the youth group at church all while still on strong medication.

And as I wrestled with God and these truths, I wondered if my husband realized that while yes, his belief was a good one, “teens and 20-something should clean up after themselves if they live in your home”, it could be a lie in this moment. 

Given the circumstances, was this a time for grace?

Given the timing, is the relationship more important than the “parenting oversight” my husband wanted to fix?

And I wonder how many of us as parents do the same thing.  We believe a parenting truth that could be a lie in the moment.  

We might get the result we want, but at what expense?  

Are we damaging the relationship in a way that forces our kids to look at themselves as a loser and taking on the responsibility of not living up to Dad or Mom’s expectations?  Are they heaping condemnation upon themselves as a result of our words or emphasis on a specific discipline?

Dare you to take inventory of the lies you might be believing when it comes to your own kids.  Are you comparing them to other kids and expecting them to be the same?  Are your expectations so high that your teen feels pressed in on all sides?

Colossians 3:21

“Parents, do not irritate your children, or they will become discouraged.”

1 Peter 4:8

“Above everything, love one another earnestly, because love covers over many sins.”

“Let go…and Let God”,