5 Things to Consider in Modeling Healthy Relationships for Our Kids

Most all of us have struggled at one time or another with a relationship.  A best friend who takes advantage of us, a parent who always has to have the final say, a boss who uses his positional authority in a negative way, can leave us unsure of what to do next.  Depending on whether we are wound to actively engage in the struggle or retreat to the sidelines determines the lens with which we most likely will teach our kids about how relationships work.  Our advice and counsel will be based on our own experiences.  Did we get the result we wanted with the action we took?

Take, for example, the notorious bully on the playground.  When Jeffrey comes home upset about an incident that happened at school, we as parents respond to Jeffrey’s emotions typically in one of two ways: 1) “You need to learn to stand up for yourself.”  And we’re ready to sign Jeff up for Taekwondo or boxing and we’ll consider marching Jeffrey over to the bully’s house to talk to the bully’s parents.  OR  2) “You need to stay away from that kid.” And we’re ready to call the teacher to intervene if need be.  We might even go as far as telling all the moms we know about what is happening so that Jeffrey is protected.

I’m not going to debate which way is right or wrong because there are too many variables in the average bullying scenario to even sort through the best response in a given situation.  However, it is important to realize that these are two extremes on the same relationship scale.  Depending on how we respond, we’re either teaching our kid to engage or retreat.

There is another scenario that we typically don’t see and that is the power of influence in the muck of relationships.  It is finding ways to communicate such that the other person can hear.  Things like respect, empathy, validation, and reminding the other person that we belong on the same team can go a long way.  However, another piece of influence if we aren’t getting the result we need is to be willing to create boundaries and utilize our right to instill consequences if the other person is causing us physical or emotional harm.

We know that kids tend to embrace what is “caught not taught”.  And so my question to us as parents is what are we modeling with our relationships?

I was talking to a woman last week about a difficult parenting situation she was struggling with and how it was being handled.  The longer we talked I began to ask questions about how she was responding to the dilemma versus her husband’s response. It was obvious they weren’t even close to being on the same page.  Or were they?

I don’t think she even knows what her husband’s true thoughts or feeling are on the situation.

Here’s why.  What I discovered was that her husband appeared to have had an overbearing mother who still tries to control her now adult, married son with his own kids.  This dad is caught between responding to his mother’s thoughts on how to handle her grandchild and his wife’s desires on how they should handle the situation.  Based on this woman’s comments, this dad seems to be doing exactly what his dad did–retreat and hope it would all blow over.

How sad.

His lack of action will most likely not bring the best outcome for his child.

But more importantly for us as moms, could we be doing the very same thing to our kids?  Are we modeling control in such a way that we are impacting our kid’s relationships now and in the future?

What if in the same situation above a daughter had witnessed the relationship dynamic with her parents.  Would she learn that moms are to control and dad’s role is to retreat?

So what can we as moms do to model healthy relationships so that our kid’s don’t end up on one end or the other of the relationship scale?

  1. Take a self inventory.  Do you retreat?  Do you tend to engage in conflict?  If so, do you fight fair?  (Fighting fair means that we engage in conflict in a way that builds the relationship rather than taking an I’m right/you’re wrong position.)
  2. Do your kids see you operating in your relationships in healthy ways:  With your spouse?  With your parents?  With your in-laws?  With extended family?  What about the friends you interact with on a day-to-day basis?
  3. How do you know you are modeling healthy relationships?  What is your measurement?  In other words, is there always conflict?  Do friends stick around?  Do you stay engaged with the person when difficulty arises between you and another person?  Do you know when it is in your best interest to hold that person at arm’s length?
  4. Take a look at how you deal with your teen’s relationship struggles.  Do you counsel in a healthy way hoping to bring both people back together so they can remain friends?  Or do you always take your child’s side empathizing to the point that your child feels justified with their feelings and actions?  Do you help your child try to see both sides?  Do you encourage them to go pray about the situation and for the other person?
  5. Do you re-engage with your teen to see how things are going so you can coach them through the next phase of reconciliation or being able to walk away with dignity?

I’ll admit that this can be deep work for some of us.  When healthy relationships have not been modeled for us, we typically don’t even become aware of it until something happens where it really matters.  The potential loss of a job, or marriage, or the possibility that we will lose a child who chooses to walk away will bring any of us to a place of looking hard at ourselves and how we do relationship if we are willing to take ownership for our part.

Sometimes we forget that it takes two people to have relationship just like it takes two people to have conflict.  By taking inventory of ourselves, we’ll be able to make sure we are operating in a healthy way so that we can better model it for our kids.

Ephesians 4:2-3

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 
 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
2 Corinthians 5:17-18
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:The old has gone, the new is here! 
All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:
Dare you to take inventory to see what you are modeling in your home.
“Let go…and Let God”,
Healthy relationships are so important, yet many of us don’t even know what they should look like.  All the training materials we create at Greater Impact lead women toward understanding what healthy relationships could look like if our eyes are focused on Jesus Christ. It’s skills based on brain-science and research along with what is taught in Scripture.  You will walk away with a whole new perspective of what it means to have relationship with Him, yourself, and others.
If you want to grow in your relationships, here’s what we offer: 
          For Moms: 
With All Due Respect: 40 Days to a More Fulfilling Relationship with Your Teens and Tweens
          For Wives:
 The Respect Dare: 40 Days to a Deeper Connection with God and Your Husband Daughters of Sarah Participant Manual
           For All Women:


Wish You Could Parent With A Clean Slate? You can!

I became a grandma today!  And the flood of hopes and dreams for my kids came rushing through my mind.  And it dawned on me that my son now has his hopes and dreams for his son–a clean slate with which to start.

But let’s face it, sometimes by the time our kids become tweens and teens we wonder if those hopes and dreams are even real any more.  They frustrate us and do things that we cannot fully comprehend.  We wonder if their decisions are tied to the way we parented or if they are just part of their immature brains.  And what do we do?

We do what most normal moms do — we react, we nag, and we try to teach.

And sometimes they put up walls. 

And even though we try to explain, to encourage, or help them see another perspective, they continue to fortify the walls or begin reacting to everything we say or do.  Sometimes we find ourselves in a no-win situation.

The phrase in our house became “Can’t we all just get along?

Several years ago I was in that no-win situation.  One of my kids had put up the walls.  Anger and bitterness seemed to rage at times.  She could only see her perspective and as a mom I could do nothing right in her eyes.  Sometimes I would choose to be silent rather than pursue what I knew would be a battle.  

Honestly, when she was in our home I didn’t have the skills to turn our relationship around.  My husband, Dave, and I even went to counseling trying to learn how to repair the relationship and hopefully start tearing the walls down.   And we were taught some skills–skills to deflate defensiveness and resolve conflict.  We worked hard on the relationship with our daughter even though by that time she had turned 18 and moved out.  I continued to do research and practiced what I was learning with all my kids.  I did everything in my power to seek her out and try to connect as she would allow.

And then I met a fellow trainer, Nina Roesner, who was working on strengthening her marriage.  And we would talk for hours about the skills that most of us weren’t taught growing up.  She was doing research too and the more we talked and struggled through our own family relationships, the more we learned about what worked and what didn’t.  We started reading all the brain research and putting the pieces together in what has become an unbelievably eye-opening course.  Last year Nina piloted the course for the first time.  (She is an amazing curriculum writer!).   And just like all our training materials, lives are changing in amazing ways.  God shows up and something happens over, and over, and over.

Parent/Child relationships have been strengthened and reunited.

Marriages have been restored.

And walls have come tumbling down.

About a year ago, my daughter told Dave that I was her best friend.  She said she could tell me anything and I would listen and “hear” her.  She now felt understood.

It’s a skill I needed to develop.  It gave me a clean slate in my parenting helping me forge the relationship.

Now it’s a skill that you can develop too.  And it’s training that we only do once a year.  You’ll get to practice the skills Nina and I have both learned in a safe environment.  People have told us it is amazing!


But here’s why it is so important that you learn these skills.  

Our kids are taking notes.  They’re learning from us! 

Will they learn to deflate defensiveness and resolve conflict well by watching you?

Just the other day I was having a somewhat heated debate with one of my adult sons.  I wanted him to understand my perspective, but we weren’t getting anywhere.  (And, yes, I’m human and forget to use the skills sometimes.)  Anyway, it dawned on me that I needed to change the way I was approaching the conversation.  As I did, suddenly, my son stopped the conversation and said, “Mom, you’re getting good at your deflating defensiveness skills!”  

He noticed! 

We laughed. 

And now I know that as he learns from me, he’ll be able to carry those skills into his parenting with our new grandson!

That’s a win-win situation.

We hope you will join Nina and me this year to learn the skills to help deepen your relationships.  

Proverbs 25:11 NET

Like apples of gold in settings of silver, so is a word skillfully spoken. 

Dare you to pray about joining us!  We hope you’ll take advantage of the discount that is good through December 31, 2017.  You’ll be joining women from across the country who want to improve their relationships and develop the skills that can be passed down for generations to come. 

Please know that since we are in a beautiful retreat setting (with your own private room), space is limited.

You can click here for more information.

Learning to…

“Let go…and Let God”,





Parenting Focus – Integrating Heart and Mind

I’m in the middle of three books which, if you know me, is highly unusual for this linear thinker.  The thing for me is that none of them are remotely connected–or so I thought.

Today, I had the A-ha that God has me focused here for a reason.  Each of these books is focused on the mind.  One goal I have for myself is to have the mind of Christ as I parent.  I want to see the world as He sees it.  I want to be focused on His will, His priorities, and His values.  Isn’t that what we want for our children as well?

As I think about the christian parenting books that I’ve read through the years, most of them talk about capturing the child’s heart. Know that love and a desire to obey have to come from the heart.

 Luke 6:45

The good person out of the good treasure of the heart produces good, and the evil person out of evil treasure produces evil; for it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks.

When our hearts are in the right place, a place of humility in reverence to God, we can parent with grace.

Ron Deal author of The Smart Step-Family shares a scripture that I have never really thought about from a parenting perspective.

1 Peter 5:5

dress yourselves in humility as you relate to one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.

Think about that as a parent.  When we relate to our kids as if we have all the answers, they tend to push back in opposition.  However, when we give grace and approach them with humility, they are much more likely to give us grace in return.  Humility helps forge the relationship.

Working on the heart of the child means that we are developing relationship such that they want to do what is right and pleasing because they can feel our love and acceptance of them being a distinct person separate from us.  It means having more positive interactions than negative.  Focusing on the good in our child rather than always pointing out what they are doing wrong allows our kids to develop in a way that is positive and healthy.

But scripture also tells us in Matthew 22:37, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.

I find it interesting that there don’t seem to be as many christian books out there that focus on developing our children’s mind.  I’m guessing that the reason might be that most of us already do so much to educate and teach our children the things that we value.  I remember when my kids were little they heard my husband say over and over, “We’re Hitchcock’s, we’re good at math, reading and tennis.”  In addition, we did an Awana program that focused on scripture memory hoping they would understand what it means to focus our minds on Christ.  As Christian parents most of us spend lots of time trying to help our kids develop their minds.

I find the latest research on brain development fascinating as it relates to how we relate to our teens.  Most know that our brains don’t fully mature until somewhere in the mid-twenties.  For parents of tweens and teens, it means we can still help our kids develop their minds while they are still under our roof and beyond. Our focus needs to make sure that we help our teens integrate both the cognitive and emotional sides of the brain.

Learning empathy, compassion, and other relationship skills (the right side of the brain) is very different from learning rote memorization of facts and the logical way to solve problems that occurs in the left.  When used in harmony both sides of the brain will help our kids develop what the Bible refers to as wisdom.

Dr. David Jeremiah in his study What Do You Think? reminds us that in the ancient Hebrew language, wisdom meant “skill”.  As we consider the use of the word in our parenting, it means our job is to help give our kids the “skills” to connect emotionally and logically in a way that will help create new pathways in the brain to forge better relationships.

Unfortunately in today’s culture, relationship skills are taking a back seat to technology communicated through text and pictures rather than face-to-face communication.  Assumptions are made without the opportunity to see a person’s body language, tone of voice, or facial expressions.  It means that our kid’s brains are being wired with shorter attention span and the inability to use both the logical and emotional sides of the brain at the same time because part of the “data” is missing from the interaction.

Bonding with our child’s heart becomes the ‘glue’ that helps connect our child to us so that we can help them develop the mind of Christ.  This means we teach them both skills that develop the emotional side of the brain as well as help them fill the cognitive side with God’s Word.  Then as we live life under the same roof we can model the empathy, compassion, and grace necessary to integrate a whole person helping them to connect words with action.

I love how Dr. Jeremiah puts it in his  What Do You Think? study, “We have to be very careful that we don’t lose sight of those things that create wisdom in our life — time, reflection, experience, correction, and meditation upon God’s Word.  We need information, but after that, we don’t need more information.  We need to allow God the opportunity to create wisdom in our life.  And it takes discipline in our digital age to turn off the electronics long enough to process the knowledge we already have.”

Dare you to become aware of whether your parenting actions line up with God’s Word.  Do you approach your tweens, teens, and 20-somethings with humility that will draw you closer together?  If you do, the relationships in your home will be more fulfilling and there will be less opposition during the teen stage of life.

“Let go…and Let God”,

Do you feel inadequate in fostering the relationship skills that you so desire with your kids?  Maybe you are just tired of parenting and the constant struggle is wearing you down.  We have two opportunities for you.

  1. Why not grab a group of moms and go through our book With All Due Respect: 40 Days to a More Fulfilling Relationship With Your Teens & Tweens.  This book will give you the opportunity to (like Dr. Jeremiah says) create wisdom in your parenting.  It is an opportunity to spend time and reflect as you meditate upon God’s Word.  It’s a great Bible Study tool or can be used as a 40 Day Devotional.
  2. If you want to learn “skills” that help create wisdom in your kids, know that we run a once a year three day workshop that will help you deflate defensiveness in your home with the people you love.  It’s called the Titus 2 Leadership Experience.  Here’s what one participant had to say:

“I am a preacher’s daughter who was born and raised in the church. I’ve been to countless women’s retreats. This is different! I’ve never experienced Christian women and leaders be so REAL with each other. God is doing something special with this ministry. My marriage and my family are being transformed. Most importantly, God is growing me. I highly recommend that you come see and experience this amazing Boot Camp for yourself!”

Summertime — Great Time to Get Dad Involved!

Summer is a great time to get Dad involved with the kids and Mom can serve her husband well if she becomes the relationship architect.  Creating that special “thing” that they do together helps a lot in forging a relationship outside of the daily to-do list of life–like clean your room, take out the trash, and the barking of orders that some dads find as the only way to relate to their kids.  

Just the other day, my youngest and his dad were able to get back on the tennis courts after having to take a year respite after major surgery.  The smile on their faces was priceless as they came off the courts.  “Boy, Dad, I’ve really missed that.”

“Me too, son!”

It was as if they had rekindled a friendship that had been put on hold for too long.

Need some ideas on how to be that relationship architect for the Dad who struggles with time to connect?

Tom was a project and fix-it kind of guy. He thought through what he wanted to accomplish each evening and most every weekend. Mow the lawn, trim the bushes, paint the siding…he would tackle his list in the same manner he handled his day job…with tenacity. The neighbors all raved about how nice the house always looked. His boss told him regularly how much he was valued in the organization. The church liked having him on committees. Barbara loved that he was so accomplishment driven! That’s why she married him.

However, with many years of working prior to becoming a father, Tom had mastered the art of being a focused workaholic.

Barbara had learned the hard way to give Tom a few days’ notice if she had something to do on a Saturday and would need him to watch the kids once the little ones had come along. Oh, he was more than willing to take the boys and go do something fun or play with them in the backyard. They would have a great time together! It just needed to be on Tom’s schedule. As long as he could still get something “accomplished” during the day, everything was good. Barbara began to realize that they needed to work together to “master” the schedule if there was going to be any family connection. Tom had not grown up with a family that “played” together. Spontaneity didn’t come easily.

Now that the boys were hitting puberty, Barbara knew that her early encouragement for Tom to have relationship with the boys was paying off! She could honestly say that the little boy in Tom was finally having a chance to bloom and her boys were the beneficiary of his many talents.

As she watched her “men” get in the car to head to the tennis courts, she remembered well a discussion that had taken place several years prior.

“Barbara, you need to be his cheerleader! You need to give him permission to take a day off work. You need to thank him for all the hard work he does for the family. Thank him for the projects he does around the house. Then ask him what fun things you can plan for the family. Tom doesn’t think that way. You need to help him think of fun things to put on the list.”

What wise counsel she had received.

Taking Meg’s advice, when the boys were younger, Barbara encouraged the boys in sports that Tom had enjoyed in high school. “If they can come to love the game of tennis, they’ll connect with their dad when they’re old enough to play,” she thought. So every opportunity, Barbara would see that the boys were taking tennis lessons to develop their skills. Basketball was another thing she knew Tom enjoyed, so Barbara suggested they install a basketball hoop next to the driveway. Tom thought it was for the boys, but she knew better. It was for family connection.

Barbara had become the master family scheduler with Tom’s permission. “I know you want to connect with the boys,” she had offered up. “Let me help you do that so that you know you not only have time to get things accomplished around the house, but that your boys will have a relationship with you as they grow older. I promise to let you know the plan well in advance.” With that, she put the schedule in motion. A two hour block to do something “special” with each of the boys once a month with the fourth week being her special time and a family fun time at least once a week.

Sometimes it was something that took no planning, like biking through the park or going to get ice cream. Other times, she would encourage Tom to get involved with the boys in what each of them enjoyed. Brad enjoyed video games, so Tom would spend time playing with him. It obviously wasn’t Tom’s “thing”, but it helped him gain a talking framework of what was going on in Brad’s head. Nick was into baseball, so they’d go to the park and work on catching fly balls. Derek was still at the stage of loving the animal world. Together they’d go down to the creek to catch tadpoles and, at Tom’s suggestion; they had built an outdoor terrarium for Derek’s turtles that he found, mixing Tom’s love for accomplishment with Derek’s excitement for turtles.

Watching the boys run upstairs trying to see who would make it first to the shower after their tennis match, Barbara put her arms around Tom and looked in his eyes. “Honey,” she said. “Thank you for being such a good dad and connecting with the boys! I’m so glad I married you.”

1 Thessalonians 5:11

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

Some men are natural connectors, but others haven’t had it modeled and don’t know where to start.

Dare you to encourage your husband to be involved in their tweens and teens lives. Create opportunity through encouragement. Be his cheerleader!

“Let go…and let God,”

Does it feel like your tweens don’t listen when you’re talking? Or maybe you don’t feel like your teens respect you? Tired of the conflict?  Get the skills you need to connect with your kids! Click here to receive our new free 5-session email course.