Thursday, April 23, 2009

Principles of Parenting

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Have you ever noticed how often your children need reminding of things that you have taught them and are teaching them? God recognized this need for reminders when he gave the nation of Israel Deuteronomy 6:4-9. This passage became sort of the life-mission-statement for the people of Israel: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”

The need for reminders does not just apply to kids. I find myself constantly needing to be reminded of parenting skills that I learned and then later found myself slipping on. That being the case, here is a summary list of the key parenting principles that we have been talking about since Passionate Legacy began back in December of 2007. After each principle are links to the articles which address that topic.

1. Be a desirable example of godliness so that your children will choose it for themselves. Children grow up to be adults with a free will. They will choose a way of life based on what seems desirable, true, available, and satisfying. (Matt. 5:15-16, Titus 2:6-8, 1 Peter 3:1-2)

Convincing or Living?

A Leader Worth Following

We have seen the enemy …

2. Accept your right and responsibility to train your children. (Prov. 22:6, Deut. 6:4-7, Eph. 6:4b, Titus 2:15)

Who has the authority in your house?

3. Aim at the heart. The goal of parenting is to instill a desire and ability to love God and obey him. Our primary goal is to motivate our children to obey God out of love for God and a love for what is right. Our secondary job is to equip them with the tools to be able to accomplish this with success.

The Essential Nature of Self-Control

Fear of Punishment or Love for what is right?

Aim for the Heart

4. Make the rules of the house clear and consistent. (Eph. 6:4, Col. 3:21)

Clear and Consistent

5. Expect obedience. Always ensure that your word is obeyed.

Expect First Time Obedience

First Time Obedience Part II

6. Have a plan for discipline. Learn what consequences should be applied to which misbehaviors so that when the situation arises you are prepared to act decisively.

Have a Plan for Discipline Part 1 Handling Disobedience

Handling Attention-Getting Behavior

Handling Habitual Breaking of Rules and Routines

Handling Aggressive Behavior and Deliberately Hurting Others

Conflict Resolution Skills for Kids

7. Understand the phases of childhood and select discipline that is appropriate to each.

Phases of Parenting

8. Deliver consequences and discipline in a godly, empathetic way.

Taking the Anger out of Discipline Fighting the Battle!

See Discipline as Teaching

Is Your Discipline Getting Derailed?

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Is Your Discipline Getting Derailed?

Are you getting frustrated at your children’s lack of response to your discipline? Do you find them falling into the same patterns of disobedience and poor behavior over and over again, even after being punished? Do you feel like your discipline efforts are getting you nowhere?

Today we would like to offer two suggestions: 1. Be patient and 2. Look carefully for “Discipline Derailers”

I have heard parents say, “Spanking doesn’t work for my kid,” and they give up on spanking. The problem with this type of thinking is that discipline does not work overnight. There are no “quick-fixes” and it may take weeks or even months of consistent discipline to train a child in a certain area. Be patient, be consistent.

Look carefully for “Discipline Derailers.” These are things that we as parents do that sabotage our own discipline with our kids. Here are some examples:

Procrastination: Repeating yourself and then not following through until you are angry, only teaches the child that it is safe to ignore the first three or four commands. Threatening some discipline, but not following through, teaches the child that your word is meaningless. Remember, children can learn first-time-obedience, if it is expected every time.

Talking too much when the child or parent are angry: Our talking during discipline should be as brief as possible, and limited to what they did wrong and what they need to do right. Advising, lecturing, moralizing or teaching when either the adult or the child is seething with negative emotions will turn off the child’s ability to listen. Discipline should be as brief and non-verbal as possible. Verbal training should be done at positive times.

Negative Scripting: Children will believe they are, who you say they are. Don’t call them names, label them, predict a negative future or devalue them in any way (e.g. “Why are you always such a slob?”).

Bribing: Bribing will teach your child to expect rewards for obedience rather than to obey because it is right.

Making it personal: The tension should be between the child and the moral truth or principle, not between the child and you. Parents say things like, “I don’t want to listen to you whine anymore,” or “after all we have done for you, this is how you repay us?” or “I am sick and tired of your tantrums.” All of these statements make the parent the center of the issue and put the tension between the child and parent. Alternatives would be, “We don’t whine. Please use your big boy voice and I will listen to what you have to say,” or “If you don’t get up off the floor, you will have a time out.”

Anger: We believe one of the biggest “Discipline Derailers” is anger. When we get emotionally involved, and our anger gets the best of us, we have lost control of ourselves, control of the situation, and the respect of the child. How can we expect our children to control their impulses when we are not in control of our own? When we yell, get sucked into intense arguments, slam doors, call names, or belittle the child, we have sabotaged our efforts at discipline.

We should speak to our children in a calm and respectful way, and deliver consequences in a godly and empathetic manner. Add to that, a lot of patience and consistency, leading by example and a whole bunch of prayer, and we are on our way to leaving a Passionate Legacy in the lives of our children.

Friday, March 27, 2009

New Passionate Legacy Document Downloads!

You will notice on the right, there is a new section on the Passionate Legacy web page called Helpful Document Downloads. Periodically, we will be posting items that we have found useful to print and put up in our house. There will always be two versions of a document, an MS Word version (which can be edited), and a PDF version (use this if you don't have Word on your computer).

Conflict Resolution for Teens and Adults

“Where two or three are gathered … someone spills their milk!” The former president of Multnomah University, Dr. Joe Aldrich, used to say this in pointing out the fact that whenever two or more people live in close proximity of each other, some crisis is bound to happen. Some issue, some trouble, some quarrel is going to come up. Conflict is inevitable. But how we handle conflict will be the difference between the road to isolation and alienation, or the path to closeness and a deeper relationship. This is never more true than in the family. Conflict is inevitable, but conflict is also an opportunity! When a conflict is handled properly, the relationship is actually stronger on the other side, than it was before. The key is working through the conflict in a productive and effective way. Here are the steps to resolving conflict for teens and adults:

1. Go to the person you are angry with (or who is angry with you), and tell them that you would like to talk to them.

2. Identify the problem or issue clearly and concisely. If it was an offense against you, state “in terms of behavior” the offense and how it made you feel. Avoid name-calling, keep a calm tone of voice, and attack the problem not the person.

3. Allow the other person to give their side of the story or perspective on that issue.

4. Try to admit what you did wrong in the situation and “own” your part of the conflict.

5. Each person ask for forgiveness for their own part in the argument.

6. Each person agree to forgive the other.

7. Together, come up with an action plan for avoiding this conflict in the future. Each one commit to this plan and say what they will do differently from that point on.

(This list is available for download as an MS Word document or a PDF in the Downloads section of the Passionate Legacy web page.)

These should be posted in a conspicuous place in the house and teens should be invited to use these with each other and with the parents, and parents should use them with teens and with each other as well.

Note that in step 2, you are to identify the offense “in terms of behavior.” This is in contrast to a “characterization of personality.” Listen to the following: “Why are you always so rude!?” “You are being a pest!” “Why are you such a slob!?” Contrast these statements, which make characterizations, with the following alternatives: “When you spoke to me in that tone of voice, it sounded disrespectful,” “When you make those noises while I am trying to read, it really bothers me,” “Please pick up the mess you left on the table and floor of the dining room.” These last three statements address a specific behavior and will be more readily received than any blanket statement of personality or name-calling. This way of speaking will help in any relationship (marriage, coworkers, etc.), but it is HUGE in parenting. It breaks my heart when I hear a parent calling a child a name: sloppy, lazy, dumb, stubborn, etc. Name calling condemns the other person and may become a self-fulfilling prophecy, whereas addressing the specific behavior gives the person hope because they know exactly what they can change to make the relationship better.

“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:1

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Phases of Parenting

Many people talk or write about “Phases of Childhood,” or “Stages of Development” for children, and these are important to understand. They deal with observing and understanding the changes that take place in the growth process of a child. But it is arguably more important to understand the “Phases of Parenting” since these deal with applying changes in our goals and practical strategies for dealing with our children in a way that best fits their age. These deal with application rather than just observation.

Friendship is not the starting point of parenting, it is the eventual result. Before a healthy friendship is possible, parents must work through three relational building periods with their children. The success of each phase is largely dependent on the success of the preceding phase.

Phase one: Discipline, 0-5 yrs. In this period, you are establishing your right to lead and building the foundation for obedience. Your leadership is not oppressive, but it is authoritative. You must be fully confident in your right and responsibility to lead and give direction. You are in charge. If you cannot control your child, your cannot train him to his full potential. Tight boundaries are to be maintained and first time obedience is to be expected. Children will test those boundaries, but if they find the boundaries of the home secure, it will add to their own sense of security and respect for your leadership. Some of those boundaries will be expanded based on the child’s demonstration of responsible behavior. But you will only be able to hand off the authority that you gained in the younger years. If you have not gained authority in the younger years, your child already has that authority in their middle and teen years and will not be willing to allow you to make any decisions for their safety, protection and moral well being.

Phase two: Training, 6-12 yrs. A trainer works with an athlete through teaching, exercises, drills, and post-play evaluations. During practice, he stops the player at various times to make corrections, give explanations, and show the proper way and reasons for certain techniques, moves and plays. When it comes to rules, you are teaching the moral reasons behind the rules and the biblical principles by which we live. They also need to know that you are subject to rules as well, because they are based on eternal truths and absolutes. They should begin to realize that your authority, which was established in phase one, is based on and subject to the higher principles of God’s orderly universe and what He has instructed us in Scripture. In this phase, kids begin to make many of the day to day decisions, choosing from options offered by the parents. Freedoms in those decisions (e.g. friends, leisure activities, restaurant menu choices, clothes) are given at a pace commensurate with responsibility (obedience, chores, homework).

Phase Three: Coaching,13-19 yrs. This is a phase when many parents try to assert more authority and stricter boundaries, often in response to the natural pushing for freedom that teens exhibit. But your role at this stage is to begin to transfer responsibility to your teens so that by the time they are adults, they are fully responsible for their own lives. In non-moral areas, teens should be allowed to exercise more freedom. In other, more significant areas, teens should be given more freedom based on their level of responsibility. This “freedom based on responsibility” should be clearly explained. Teens should be made aware of the very important principle that increased freedom, comes from earned trust, which comes from making good choices. There are things that are privileges (sleepovers, use of a car, time with friends, personal electronics, fun activities … these are not inalienable rights) that can be earned by being cooperative and responsible (getting up on time, keeping good grades, honoring curfew). These are also years when many parents feel that their teen would rather not spend time with them, so at first, they accommodate and spend less time with their kids. But this lack of nurture for the relationship leads to distance and even a sense of abandonment. The teen then responds to the distance and sense of abandonment by acting independently, at which point the parent all of a sudden grasps for that parent-child relationship often in unfruitful ways (e.g. trying to assert more authority). The nurturing of the relationship should be a priority throughout this phase and a parent should carefully guard against this tendency toward emotional or relational abandonment.

Phase four: Friendship, age 19 and up. Friendship is the relational goal of our parenting. We are adult friends with wisdom and more experiences and they can ask for advice, but we are not their authority. We can offer advice, but they are not obligated to take it. Some parents continue to try to exert an inappropriate amount of influence through subtle and manipulative ways. This is self-serving and sabotages the transition of the adult son or daughter into a responsible, productive and secure adult.

In the transition from each phase to the next, we much carefully consider our goals as parents and thoughtfully and prayerfully adapt our strategy and actions to effectively fulfill the appropriate role (disciplinarian, trainer, coach and friend).

Thursday, March 5, 2009

What respect can you expect when you’re expecting?

Q: My husband and I have a question about our son’s behavior lately. He is three years old and it seems as though he is having trouble listening, following directions, and first time obedience. He seems more whiney and tends to get frustrated more quickly than usual. It's only been the last couple weeks. We want to know if this behavior is related to the fact that we are expecting our new baby in about 4 weeks. My husband’s parents and sister were out for a visit last week and she has a baby. Our son did very well with her. He wanted to help and was good about sharing his toys and very sweet to her. We just wanted to get your opinion about this. Thanks!

A: There is really no way to know if or how much your son’s change in behavior has to do with your soon-to-arrive-addition-to-the-family. There are other changes going on in your son’s life, aside from that new bundle of joy. At about three years old, and several other times in the life of a child, they will reevaluate and re-test all the of boundaries that they have accepted up to that point. That sounds like bad news, but this is a natural part of the cognitive (brain function) development of a child. The important thing for us to remember as parents is that when our children reach another point of re-testing those boundaries, we must show them that the boundaries are real and firm and will be enforced. The beauty of each stage is that it is an opportunity to explain, on an even deeper level, the moral reason behind those boundaries or rules. Be strong. You are the parent. You are in charge. Be firm in reminding him that he will obey when you ask him to do something. Keep your word. Don’t make empty threats. Follow through immediately with discipline. Younger children are very good at learning first time obedience, it is often the parent’s enforcement that is lacking. The child is testing that, and if you let up now, it will be the first step down a road that leads to an anarchic disregard for authority. In a few years, he will be getting bigger and more difficult to physically handle, so it is important that he has a clear idea in his mind of who is in charge.

I would also like to suggest that you do some specific things that show him that although you now have to focus on a new child in the house, your love for him is as strong and full as ever.

1. Tell him several times a day how much you love him and how important he is to you. Look him right in the eye and with a big smile ask, “Do you know how much I love you?” and see what he says.
2. Get a special gift and give it to him right about the time he sees all the gifts for the new baby.
3. When you put the baby down for a nap, take a few minutes to play with him. Resist the temptation to jump on the dishes or housework right after putting the baby in her crib. Read him a story, get out the blocks, get on the floor and play legos with him. Take 10-15 minutes to fill up his love-tank, so he remembers how important he is to you.
4. Try to never use your care of the baby as a reason for not spending time with him. Instead of saying, “Mommy can’t play with you right now, I have to feed little sister,” say, “Mommy will play with you in a little bit,” and then follow through on your promise.
5. Feel free to include the older child as much as possible in the care of the younger child, but never force it. If he wants to hold little sister, show him how to do it safely, but if he doesn’t, don’t force it.

Bottom line: give him time, attention, affection, and as much discipline as needed.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Conflict Resolution Skills for Kids

In the last several posts, we have talked about dealing with various misbehaviors … disobedience, attention-getting, breaking rules and routines and acting out aggressively or deliberately hurting others. But, not all negative behaviors are misbehaviors. Sometimes children may act out inappropriately in an attempt to solve a real life problem.

Whenever Suzie starts to play on the computer, all of a sudden Billy wants to play and demands that it is his turn. They shout and fight, then push and shove. Their parents (thinking they are helping them) have told them to learn to solve the problem on their own, and not to be a tattle-tale. But all they are learning is how to hit harder. If a child genuinely needs help, he needs to be able to get it. If we teach children that “telling on someone” is wrong, we are stealing an important resource that should be available to them. It is important for children to know that they can get help when they need it, because sometimes when they have done everything right, they still may not be able to resolve the conflict. This is frustrating to the healthy child, and it enforces the belief that “good behavior is ineffective in the real world.”

God has put authority in place to protect us and enforce the “laws of the land” or “rules of the house.” Children should be learning that they can turn to authority for justice rather than taking that law into their own hands. A healthy view of authority maintains that authority is good and can be called upon to bring some kind of justice to a situation. Children should not have to resort to retaliation or self-defense. That is why parents, teachers and police are there (Romans 13). When children are left to fend for themselves, they develop streetwise skills: watch your back, get revenge, fight fire with fire. And when they are taught that parents do not have the role of helping kids with their problems, children find their own means for survival. These children believe that they should only interact with their peers, and exclude the adult world, because adults are believed to be unavailable, ineffective, unhelpful, unjust, uninvolved, and unconcerned. This type of parenting is a form of abandonment. This leads to kids that don’t go to teachers when someone is picking on them, and can result in them being bullied by others or in built up anger which, as we have seen, can result in violence as gruesome as school shootings.

Let’s Get Practical

Here are some very practical things that help kids learn to avoid and solve common conflicts:

If two people want to do the same thing (play with a toy, game, computer, etc.) they can use “rock, paper, scissors” to determine who goes first. Then …

Have several kitchen timers available throughout the house and let the kids use them to take turns. For example: a turn on the computer is 25 minutes. (By the way, we also have a dri-erase board next to the computer. Kids log their turns on the computer and after 3 (25 minute) turns, they have to read for 1 hour to earn more turns.)

For the game console, there is a sign-up sheet close by, where kids can sign up to be the next one to play.

We also have a sign posted in a conspicuous place in our house that clearly outlines the steps for preventing and stopping a fight:

How to Stop a Fight

1. If someone is doing something you don’t like, tell them to “stop” in a nice voice. Or, if the fight is about a toy or game, agree on a way to take turns. Set a timer and do ‘rock-paper-scissors’ to see who goes first.

2. If they don’t listen, tell them if they do it again you will have to get an adult.

3. If they still don’t listen, get an adult.


No yelling, No hurting, No hurtful words.

We talk thought these steps on a regular basis with the kids. They seem so simple and yet they are so powerful. They also communicate that we are there to help them walk through difficult times and situations to give them wisdom and counsel when needed. When they do come to us, we affirm them, and try to help them find a peaceful solution to the problem.