Tag Archive for: I want a better relationship with my teen

When Tempers Flare – Part 2

In looking at taming the wild beast within us when our temper starts to flare so that we don’t wound the ones we love, we need to take a step back and look at the goal we want in our relationships.

As you think of your own conflicts, what is the goal?

To get your way?  To make sure the other person does what you ask them?  To win?  To make sure you are heard?  To retaliate for the things that you are feeling because of the other person’s poor choice of words?

If you choose to look at conflict in a different way and recognize the signals your body brings when things begin to escalate, you have a better chance of thinking clearly and moving the other person to either your way of thinking or a blended solution rather than ticking them off to the point of frustration.

Whether it be the one-upmanship of verbal blows between husband and wife or the anger that resonates from a parent when a tween or teen pushes the limit, we have an opportunity to choose to recreate an environment that will bring harmony and trust with our family members rather than turning our home into a battle ground which pushes the other person away.

Most people learn their conflict skills from watching their parents fight.  Think about that.  Two separate families’ baggage from previous generations have the ability to derail families based on their skill level when the heat is on.  The divorce rates in America tell us how we’ve done in that area.

What if we, as a body of women, choose to learn the skills to do conflict well in our marriages and in our parenting?  We could change the course of the family for our offspring.  We could turn our conflict into connection that deepens the relationship.

So what does that look like?

Let’s assume that your spouse or teenager has just said something that riles you up.  What should you do?

  1. TAKE INVENTORY of you.  What do you feel?  A tightening of your chest.  Adrenaline rushing through your body?  A searing thought of how dare they talk to me that way?  Whatever it is just recognize it knowing that you have the ability to get it under control.
  2. BREATHE.  Deep breaths have the ability to calm your central nervous system.  Don’t speak or retaliate.  Just breathe.
  3. LET their words spew.
  4. LISTEN.  Remember harsh words and anger may have nothing to do with you. Maybe something happened at school or work today.  You just happen to be the target because they need to take their frustration out on someone.   At other times, it could be a result of something you’ve done or not done.  Listening helps us discern truth in their anger.  It allows us to admit fault and apologize if need be.
  5. AFTER they are finished, say something like.  “Wow, I’ve obviously really upset you.  I’m sorry.  You are right, I did __________.”  Or, if you are not at fault, start in the same manner but change the ending.  “Wow, I’ve obviously really upset you.  I’m sorry.  Do you think you can calm down enough to talk about this now or should we talk about it after dinner? I really want to hear what you have to say.”

So here should be the real goal in any conflict.  You want to make sure you are fully honest and fully respectful.  It doesn’t matter if it is your husband, your teen, your twenty-something, or your best friend.  Conflict needs respect and honesty.

So let’s think through the questions in my last post.

Dodging the landmines and pitfalls of conflict in your home doesn’t mean becoming a doormat.  Being silent and allowing your husband or children berate you doesn’t build trust or intimacy.  Walking away from the conflict actually pushes the person away emotionally  just as much as engaging in unhealthy patterns of conflict.  Setting the stage for respectful disagreement will actually build trust in the relationship.

While your feelings of hurt and frustration are bound to get riled as you listen to the criticism and harsh words of your loved one, recognize that your spouse or child hasn’t learned effective conflict communication skills yet.  You are their teacher.  Remind yourself that this is a learning process, the other person does love you, and by you changing the patterns of communication, everyone will benefit.

Revenge is something that most of us have struggled with in the past.  But to build intimacy in our home, we have to remember

I Peter 3:9 CEB

Don’t pay back evil for evil or insult for insult. Instead, give blessing in return. You were called to do this so that you might inherit a blessing.

Remember that rational dialog can only come after emotions have been soothed and anger has turned to calm.  Sometimes you may need to take several “time outs” before the situation can really be resolved.

We have to learn how to manage conflict well in order to build trust and intimacy in our homes.  While it isn’t always easy, and we will mess up, if we choose to work hard at trying to make some changes, it will not only increase the passion in our marriages but will serve as a model for our future generations.

I love how the woman who so bravely shared her struggle in my last post, summed up what we are trying to teach through The Respect Dare, With All Due Respect, Daughters of Sarah, and Generations.

It is because of all of  (the skills) that we can go from knife-throwing to talking to laughing to snuggling. We can simmer down and ground ourselves once more.

This group and the experiences before it have preemptively saved my marriage. We are going to have moments like these again and God-willing we’ll be able to make it right when it happens. But what about others? For those who do not have the tools, what will happen to them?

If you struggle in this area, why not consider doing a small group in your home using The Respect Dare book or With All Due Respect book.  Both of these will help you build skills that will have an impact on your marriage and your family.

Hope you’ll start adding these tools to your toolbox.

“Let go…and let God,”

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When Tempers Flare – Part I

Nothing spurs me on more than interacting with a wife and mother who “gets it”.  Notice I didn’t say, “always gets it right”.  It’s just that she recognizes that something needs to change in the communication with her husband and her kids.  And if this mom had teenagers, I’m guessing she would become painfully aware of how communication can get out of control when her kids frustrate the her beyond her breaking point.

My words of advice and encouragement to all of you who have children is learn this skill now. And know that wherever you are in the journey, it isn’t too late.

This dear friend sent a Facebook message when she was hurting.  The fight was over, but the words continued to sting.

Still reeling from the conflict she shares her heart:

What do we do when communication fails? I’m not looking for a judge’s ruling. I see both sides clearly and I know now where we went off-road.

“You’re not the boss of me.” “I don’t report to you.” “Your head is thick.” “Stop acting like a martyr.” “I’m not doing anything wrong.” “You half-assed what I asked of you.”

This is real. Knives straight to the heart because of what…miscommunication. This is why a happy marriage falls to ruin. We are human. We make many, many mistakes. We say things we shouldn’t and hurt loved ones in the process. Our blood boils over and we lose rationality.

My heart aches for her.  When tempers flare and the adrenaline starts pumping, most of us gush out words with venom. Somewhere within us that saber-toothed tiger aggression unleashes and we have no idea where it came from until it’s too late.  It is amazing how when the tension dies down and time settles the dust, we are able to see “where we went off-road” as this woman so eloquently describes.

If you are like me, you’ve been in the situation that this woman describes, oh, so many times.  Personally, I didn’t know how to reign it in.  All I knew was that I needed to make it stop. When anger welled up inside me I seemed to have a faulty gauge that couldn’t tell when I was about to blow!

And then came that one definable moment.

It was a teenager moment.  A definitive point in time where I was bound and determined that this teen would obey me.  Sarcastic words from a child determined to get her way  drove my anger gauge to boiling.  As she reached for the in-home phone that was mounted on the wall, after I had explicitly said “you may not call someone to come get you”, I was determined in my heart to win the battle. As this teen lunged for the phone, I reached it first.  Thinking it would easily slip off the wall bracket, I proceeded to rip it from the wall.

Horror gripped my heart.  My teen was not the only one out of control, so was I.

Now, mind you, I realize that these were not misused words here on my part.  The vocal venom was purely from the mouth of my child.  But I was participating. I was reacting to the aggression.

As I crumpled to the floor in disbelief, holding the phone, tears streaming down my cheeks in shock at my reaction, my teen marched out the front door in the dark, pouring rain.  The realization that I could bring such an ugly reaction to prove that I had authority over a child that I dearly loved, sent me on a path to try to understand how I could even begin to think about behaving in such an overpowering way.

And that was the problem.

I wasn’t thinking.

I had not predetermined the boundaries in my mind to set myself up for success during these trying times.  I didn’t know where the line was that should never be crossed.  I didn’t understand the need to recognize the signs my body went through before I reached that boiling point.  And the truth is that if I had learned those skills before I had tweens and teens, I would have been better equipped to handle that definable moment that would have negated the need for drywall repair and the purchase of a new home phone.

So how is it that some women have the ability to dodge the landmines and pitfalls of conflict that are naturally part of marriage and parenting without being a doormat?  What tool is in their tool boxes that allows them to not feel the sting of  those hurtful daggers thrown from a husband or angry teen?  How do they manage to “get it under control” and not return evil for evil?  How can they turn the scorn that they most likely feel and calm the situation enough to have rational dialogue?

Ephesians 4:29

Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.

The bottom line is that how we manage conflict determines the level of trust and intimacy we create in our homes.

Stay tuned to my next post to learn the tools of successful communication so that knives will not pierce the hearts of those you love.

“Let go…and let God,”

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Too Busy for Relationship?

Standing in the kitchen I was focused on fixing dinner when my teen walked through the back door.  Barely looking up, I asked my son how his day went and continued pealing potatoes for the evening meal.  He sat down at the kitchen island and rambled on about all the things that had happened during the day.   With an occasional glance I would give him my half-hearted “really” as he continued his story.  I had other things on my mind–the to-do list of my evening activities.

As soon as he took a breath I interrupted.  “I need you to go get your homework finished.  Your dad and I have a commitment after dinner and I have several things to do before then.”

I could tell he was frustrated with me.  And, yes, I probably should have been more focused on his needs.  But life can’t always revolve around when my teen wants to talk, can it?

The truth was, I blew it.  It wasn’t in the fact that I ended the conversation.  It was in the how I ended the conversation.  

Matter of fact.

No consideration for his feelings.

And a “task” that I felt at the time was more important than listening to him. 

I wasn’t focused on the relationship.

As parents we all make mistakes in how we interact with our kids.  But do we make an attempt to recover from them?  Do we learn from our mistakes and think through how we should handle it next time?

As I lay in bed that night thinking through my day, I realized that I needed to apologize to my son.  I asked for his forgiveness the next day since I made my agenda for the evening more important than what he had to share.  I told him how I blew it and how I wished I could have a do-over.  I shared the specifics of what I wished I had done differently.  We talked through them setting a plan in place for the next time a similar thing occurred.

  1. Look him in the eye.  Teens want to know that we are really listening and eye contact is a mechanism to bonding.  It says they are more important than the task.
  2. Speak your truth.  “I would really like to hear about your day and I only have 10 minutes before I need to get ready for tonight’s activities.  Would it be okay if you share the highlights while I peel the potatoes and we’ll talk after your dad and I get home tonight?  I really want to hear about what is going on in your world.”  This is also where you would give any instructions about the evening.
  3. If he agrees, position yourself with your task so that there is eye contact during the conversation.
  4. When time is up, say something positive.  “I really love that you come and share your day with me.  I just wish I had more time right now.  I’ll look forward to our talk later tonight.”  

Teens have a lot to process about their world and it is important that we don’t lose sight of the fact that they are willing to talk with us.  We want to encourage them to see us as their confidant.  One of the most important things we can do to build the relationship is to be a good listener.

Colossians 4:6

Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

Sometimes just sitting with our kids, listening as they talk about their day, can give us insight and opportunity to influence their decisions if we validate their feelings and show them acceptance and that they are important in our lives.

Dare you to assess whether you make your teens a priority in your life and handle your interactions with them with respect and humility.

“Let go…and Let God”,

Wish you could help Dad be more intentional in your teen’s life?  365+ Ways to Love Your Family:  Practical Tips for Dads of Tweens and Teens is an easy way to quickly help him have a positive way to have influence.  In less than a minute each day, he can put an action in place that will teach your kids the language of respect.

 

 

 

 

 

New Year’s Resolutions a Bust? Try A Different Approach!

For many years I’d set my New Year’s resolutions during the last week of December knowing that I wanted to do better the next year.  I promised to exercise daily and lose those extra pounds choosing to eat healthier.  I’d start cleaning the pantry and fridge assured that I would be better organized the next year.  And I’ll admit that I failed miserably at the challenges I had set for myself.  Something was not included in my planning–the inner me.  The person within that could hijack the best laid plans.

December 2006 was a different year for me.  Surrounded by my calendar, my Bible, and my prayer journal, I knew I wanted something different for the new year.  Things needed to change.  A relationship needed to change.

I was at a defining moment with one of my kids — my prodigal — my “I’m going to do things my way and you can’t stop me, kid”.

Oh, yes, I had tried to stop things.  I had tried to cajole her to a different lifestyle.  I had used every tactic in my arsenal of parenting skills and even with that I wasn’t making an impact.

I had never prayed so hard for a person in my life.

My prayers began with something like this. 

“I know you love her, Lord, even when at times I can’t.  I don’t really mean that.  I do love her with all my heart.  I just want her to live her life differently.  I want her to follow You.  I want her to see You in the midst of her day-to-day.  I want her life to glorify You and I want a relationship with her that says we are on the same team.  You have the power to change her, Lord.  Can you just do that?  Change her heart.”

That December in the quiet stillness of my tear-drenched, agonizing prayer, I felt a nudge deep within me.  “Debbie, you can’t change her.  You’ve tried over and over.  The only person you can change is you.  Start there.  Start with you.”

With that my prayers changed and my focus was different.

“Lord, You are right.  She is Yours.  I’ve tried everything in my power to help her see You and to help her see what she is doing to herself.  I release her to You.  I am choosing to let her go.  This is Your story, not necessarily the way I would write it, but it is Yours.   I know that You have a plan. What do you want from me, Lord?  What do you want me to learn in the middle of this trial and heartache.  I’m here.  Change my heart.  Change me to be the best mom that I can be to her and my other kids.”

That prayer became my New Year’s Resolution.  It wasn’t about what I wanted to accomplish–the weight loss or the organization.  It was about what He wanted to accomplish in and through me.

Beginning in January, I took a different tactic.  I focused on my past–the story that God had written for my life.  What affect was it having as I parented?  The next three months I cried more than I had in years.  I let His story wash over me as I looked at my childhood through adult eyes.  I better understood who I was and who God created me to be.  I also began to realize the pieces that I had brought into my parenting–things I would have never given thought to without the overarching heaviness of my prodigal. 

I began praising God as I continued to go through the trials with my daughter. 

Philippians 4:6  

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, WITH THANKSGIVING, present your requests to God.

There was no doubt that I was changing.  God gave me an empathy for my difficult child that could only come from Him.  He gave me a different perspective and a softness that was willing to endure her gut-wrenching choices and remain by her side.  Rather than the “you are doing this to yourself” speech, I was able to walk through the predicaments she got herself into holding her hand and letting her know that I was there for her.

Whether you are dealing with a prodigal or are just wanting a better relationship with your tweens, teens, and twenty-somethings, the book With All Due Respect:40 Days to a More Fulfilling Relationship with your Teens and Tweens was my journey.  It was the process that changed the inner me.  It helped me see who I was in the relationship and it helped me change the outcome of my relationship with my daughter and my sons as well as my relationship with God.

You see, as much as we’d like to, we can’t change our kids.  However, we do have the capacity to look within and make changes early in the relationship that can make a huge difference in the joy you find in parenting.  The change in you can affect a change in your kids in amazing ways.

Why not start 2018 off with a New Year’s Resolution to focus on your relationships?  I promise that if you do, you’ll see parenting from a totally different perspective and you’ll come to know the story He is writing for your life.

1 John 1:7

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

We’d love to have you start your own mom’s group and go through With All Due Respect starting in January.  If others won’t join you, you can also join our With All Due Respect on-line e-Course that will begin in January.  There you can join women from around the country from the comfort of your home.  You can access the videos and discussion stream at your own convenience.

Dare you to join us as God creates a new “inner” you in 2018.

“Let go…and Let God”,