Friday, November 30, 2012

Is public shame an effective form of discipline?

Recently I saw a picture on Facebook of some parents who took pictures of themselves (intentionally embarrassing) and posted them to their teen’s Facebook page.  Their daughter had been disrespectful to them, and they were posting the photos as a form of “punishment”.  The picture and the news story that followed circulated quickly around the internet and literally hundreds of thousands of other parents “liked” the article to show their support for these parents and this form of discipline.  My question for these parents is: how is that working for you?  Is your daughter more respectful now that you have publicly humiliated her in front of millions of people?  Does she desire to honor and obey her parents?  Does she desire to adopt her parents’ worldview, values and lifestyle?

Life is difficult.  Growing up is not easy.  Kids and teens today have it tough with so many pressures brought on by our high-stressed, fast-paced, beauty-glorifying,
media-driven, sex-saturated, peer-pressured and competition-centered culture.  There are incredible forces working against your kids self-worth and sense of value.  The life of a teenager can be especially difficult.  They face pressures at school to perform academically, athletically, not to mention social pressures.  Many teens wrestle with inferiority, fitting in with their peer group, getting used to being "at home" in their own body, picking friends, the pressures of looking attractive, having a boyfriend or girlfriend, the temptation to experiment with drugs or alcohol, the list goes on and on.  And if that were not enough, they are also trying to figure out their identity, their worldview, faith, values, priorities in life, and thinking about their future ... Whew!

In the middle of this mess of pressures, parents have an opportunity to emerge as an ally and confidant in the life of the teenager.  The home can be a place of stability and sanctuary to the teen who is desperately seeking some anchor for his soul.  A relationship with a loving parent can provide that one 'constant' in the adolescent world of chaos.  But this will only happen of the teen feels that her parents are "for" her, that they want the best for her, that they are in her court and on her team.

The news story mentioned above brings up an incredibly important issue related to parenting and that is: the use of “shame” in discipline.  This example may be a bit extreme, but there are many other ways in which parents directly or indirectly use shame as a form of discipline.  Spanking or yelling at them in public, using phrases like “how could you be so stupid?”, handling a discipline issue in front of a kid’s friends, talking to other adults about your children’s bad behavior when they are standing right there, comparing a child with another, or withdrawing love ... these are all ways that parents shame their kids.  

Kids need to know, even in the middle of discipline, that they are loved and that you are “for” them, that you are on “their side”.  But what does this look like?  In a discipline situation, the parent needs to make it clear that the conflict is between the child’s choices and the rule or principle that has been violated.  They are at odds with their own lack of self-control in the face of that temptation or difficult situation.  You want them to succeed in this battle with their own sin nature.  You want them to win in their fight with their own tendency toward rebellion.  You are not the enemy of the child, you are his greatest ally against our mutual enemy called sin.  

Instead of saying, “You are in deep trouble for hitting your brother!” we need to say, “We don’t hit in this family, we use our words or get help from an adult, to help you remember to not hit, you are going to have a time-out as a consequence.”  

Instead of saying, “I am so mad that you lied to me!” we need to say, “We want to be people who are honest, who tell the truth, I want to help you become an honest person, and so here will be your consequence for telling that lie.”

In place of, “Don’t you speak to me with that disrespectful tone!”  We should be able to say, “The tone you’re using is disrespectful and we don’t treat each other that way in our family.  I will speak to you in a respectful way and I expect you to do the same.”  -- PLEASE NOTE that you can only say this if you really do, in fact, model respectful communication in your home.  If you have not done so well in that area, admit it and make it a family goal.  “I know we have not always spoken to each other in an honoring way, but we are all going to work on this together, so that we can have good communication and talk through our issues in a respectful way.”  

Instead of, “I don’t care about your excuse, you screwed up and were out past curfew, so no going out next weekend!”  We should say, “I hear you saying you lost track of time, I understand that happens.  To help you remember to keep better track of time in the future, you won’t be able to go out next weekend.”  The consequences are the natural outcome of the choices of the child, not some vindictive attack by you.

So, back to the parents that posted embarrassing photos on their teen’s Facebook page.  This is a classic example of a parent turning their training of their child into some kind of competition where “getting even” is the goal, rather than instilling your values into your children.  These parents put themselves at odds with their teen and most likely exasperated the conflict rather than worked toward a peaceful solution.  

May God give us the wisdom as parents to come alongside our children and become a trusted guide and mentor as we navigate together the sometimes dangerous waters of this life.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

How Parents Sabotage their own Discipline

Anger is one way we sabotage our own discipline here are some others:

Procrastination- Repeating yourself but not following through until you are angry, only teaches the child that it is safe to ignore the first three or four commands.  Threatening but not following through, teaches the child that your word is meaningless.  Giving in to demands when he/she whines enough, conditions your child to continue to push because they know they will eventually wear you down.

Talking too much- Talking during discipline sabotages the correction because it is giving emotional attention for bad behavior. Only give attention to behaviors you want repeated.   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.  (Idea: redeeming drive time)

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.

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

Not believing that discipline will pay off- If you believe that your discipline will not pay off, then you will be half-hearted or inconsistent and it will become self-fulfilling.  If you are looking for your discipline to immediately change your child’s behavior, you will be disappointed and quit the necessary discipline.  There are no “quick fixes” when it comes to discipline, it is a long term investment.

How you see your role, affects how you parent:
If you see your child as a slave, possession, annoyance, disappointment or unwanted guest, you will: yell, belittle, ignore, boss.  If you see them as your equal or your friend, you will: beg, bribe, whine, give in to demands and be hooked into arguments.  If you see them as your disciple, an apprentice, a valuable person, but one who is simply inexperienced and in need of teaching, you will be: consistent, firm, respectful, positive, empathetic, encouraging, and hopeful.

What does your parenting style reveal about how you see your children?  What steps can you take to see your relationship to your child the way God sees it?

Friday, October 19, 2012

Deliver consequences in an empathetic and godly way

Why is it that when a substitute teacher visits a class, many times the students are on their worst behavior.  Because, for kids, it is very entertaining to cause someone to lose complete control of themselves, while they act like they have control over you ... when they really don’t have any control at all.  How the substitute responds to discipline issues and challenges to her authority will make all the difference between gaining respect and getting the class under control, or losing respect and all sense of order. Students, and most people for that matter, don’t have respect for someone who can’t control their own emotions.

Passionate Legacy Principle #8: Deliver consequences and discipline in a godly, empathetic way.  The way you discipline is as important as the discipline itself.  Never discipline in anger.  Don’t allow yourself to be emotionally affected by your child’s poor behavior. Learn to manage yourself.  Don’t speak in anger, join in arguments, belittle, call names, yell, or slam doors.  Speak to them in the same respectful way you speak to others that you teach in other life  situations.  Speak to them in the way the Lord spoke to those that were his disciples.  Use the neutral stance.  If you allow yourself to become angry, you are allowing your child to control you and the situation.  Make the tension fall between the child and the consequence, not between yourself and the child.  The child doesn’t need to know the behavior bothers you, the consequences speak for themselves.  Rules are not in place because of the effect they have on you in the first place, they exist because they are right.  You will only be an effective parent if you learn to control yourself.

The goal of parenting is to instill a desire and ability to love God and obey Him.  In the early years of parenting, you can rely on your positional authority with your children to cause them to practice right behavior, but in the later years, you will transition to only having your relational influence to motivate them to choose to follow God, out of love for God and love for what is right.  So to have an influence on your children’s lives, you will have to place value on the relationship.  Relational influence is gained through having integrity and treating your children with respect.  One of the biggest mistakes made in parenting  is to use anger to motivate children to obedience.  Anger is NOT an effective method of influencing behavior because it is disrespectful to children, it causes the child to lose their respect for you, it is an example of a lack of self-control, it puts the tension in the wrong place, and it presents a wrong motivation.

Let’s examine each of these reasons closely.

First of all anger is disrespectful.  Disciplining children in full anger is like throwing an emotional dagger.  Using strong emotion to cause a child to change their behavior is manipulative because it is holding your love for your child hostage in exchange for control.  It is manipulating a child to feel guilty, afraid, small, weak, unlovable, and unworthy to secure desired results.  Consider the law of love in 1 Cor. 13 Love is patient, love is kind ... it is not easily angered, also Eph. 6:4 Do not exasperate your children.  Col. 3:21 Do not embitter your children.  Matt. 20:25-28 “the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them. Not so with you” ... you are to be a servant, be a slave.  Jesus taught that he “did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  Anger is not a loving and respectful means of acquiring cooperation from a child and it is damaging to the parent-child relationship.

Secondly, it causes the child to lose respect for you.  You can sometimes control a person’s actions but you will never be able to control the way a person feels about you on the inside.  When someone treats us with disrespect we feel violated and angry and we lose respect for them. When we are intimidated into acting differently we see a person’s lack of love and integrity and we no longer respect their opinions or trust their intentions toward us.  If a person were to correct you in your workplace would you be more motivated to do well at your job if you were yelled at and intimidated or treated with respect and corrected in a constructive way?  Would you lose any respect for a supervisor who treated you with disrespect?  How would that affect your future performance?  It is the same with kids, they don’t respect someone who treats them disrespectfully and you will need their respect if you want to have any relational influence in their lives.  

Thirdly, anger is an example of a lack of self-control.  In Titus 2:1-15, Paul gives instructions about what to teach to older men, younger men, older women and younger women, and in each list he mentions to teach them to be “self-controlled”.  Self-control is the ability to exercise restraint or control over one’s feelings, emotions, and reactions.  Self-control is a foundational virtue.  Every other virtue is dependent on its presence.  Without it we cannot make ourselves obey God.  Children and adults alike need self-control.  Remember your goal of providing your child with the tools to obey God, self-control is the biggie.  If we want our children to develop the ability to control their feelings, emotions, and reactions, then we must learn to control our own.

Fourthly, anger puts the tension between you and your child, rather than between the child and his or her wrong actions, where it should be.  We need to allow consequences to do the teaching rather than anger.  The consequences should be allowed to be the “bad guy” so that you can be the good guy.  The consequences are useless when they are delivered with anger because then the child is more concerned with the way he or she is being treated than they are about their misbehavior.  If the tension is between the parent and child, then the child will just avoid getting caught rather than learning to do the right thing based on love for God and love for what is right.  A child can’t feel safe enough to think introspectively about their actions and the moral weight of their actions if they are not free to think their own thoughts without fear of severe emotional consequences, or they are too distracted by feeling angry toward the parent.  The anger and hurt of being yelled at distracts them from learning the lesson that they need to learn, and it makes it too easy for them to blame the parent for everything.  If they are going to be free to make good decisions, then they need to be free to make bad decisions and face the consequences without emotional interference.  In the end, facing good natural consequences will be far more effective in changing a child’s heart than anger.

Lastly, anger does not motivate obedience.  It motivates children to avoid getting caught because they don’t want to be yelled at, but it does not motivate them to love what is right.  It muddies the water of why we obey.  Rules are in place  because they are good, right, moral, logical and bring safety and order; not because parents will be inconvenienced, irritated or angry.  Remember that your goal is to instill in your child a desire to obey God, not just to get him to obey God.  When your child makes a bad decision, instead of yelling or even saying “I am so disappointed”, or “I am so tired of..”, or “you make me so upset when..”, just allow them to face a consequence and try to  empathize with their “situation” (their bad choice and resulting consequence).  If the misbehavior was away from home and there is a natural consequence, say “Man that really stinks, what are you going to do?” or “I'm sorry, that (consequence) doesn’t sound fun.”  However, if you are administering the consequence say “I’m sorry you have to face this consequence, I wish I could change it for you, but I can’t go against my conscience.”  Empathize with their sad feelings about the consequence.  Don’t bring up the fact that they earned it because that is obvious. And if you rub it in, you will sabotage the job that the consequence is doing in his or her heart.  The message is not that you’re so inconvenienced that you are going to be mean back, but that the child’s actions were morally wrong, and you have no choice but to allow the child to face the natural consequences of his actions.  This is a fact of life, there is nothing you can do about the natural order of things.  A wrong action always calls for a corresponding consequence.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Teen Dating Resources

Dating is a challenging issue that parents of teens eventually have to face. What age is appropriate for dating?  What does dating look like?  Does it mean to go out and enjoy time with someone or does it mean to commit exclusively to someone?  Is there a good purpose that dating fulfills in the life of a teen?  Are there any negatives to dating?  There are a lot of issues to consider.  Long before the dating years begin, a parent should take the time to educate their pre-teen in the purpose of marriage, the importance of purity, the necessity of personal convictions, the importance of choosing a mate carefully, and the work required in achieving a successful marriage relationship.

One resource available to get the ball rolling on these topics is the “Passport 2 Purity” weekend kit by Dennis and Barbara Rainey.  This set of CD’s and workbook covers the topics of puberty, the purpose of marriage, and the importance of purity.  I suggest taking your child away for a weekend to review this material for his or her 11th or 12th birthday.

Also I recommend this book list:

At age 12 have them read:
Redefining Beautiful by Jenna Lucado
So You’re About to be a Teenager by Dennis and Barbara Rainey

At age 13:
I Kissed Dating Goodbye by Joshua Harris

At age 14:
Eyes Wide Open by Brienne Murk
Authentic Beauty by Eric and Leslie Ludy
Guys are Waffles Girls are Spaghetti by Pam and bill Farrel
Connecting with God by Ron Luce
Boy Meets Girl by Joshua Harris
Passion and Purity by Elisabeth Elliot

At age 16:
Not Even a Hint by Joshua Harris
When God Writes your Love Story by Eric and Leslie Ludy

At age 18:
A Perfect Wedding by Eric and Leslie Ludy
Every Young Man’s Battle by Stephen Arterburn
Every Young Woman’s Battle by Shannon Ethridge

Another idea is to have them come up with a “dating plan.”  It must also include their physical standards and their plan to maintain them.  If it is a mature and moral plan, and the teen is willing to be accountable, then both teen and parent sign and then the teen will be allowed to go on dates.

Dating Contract
1. At what age do I plan to get married?

2. Given that age, when would be an appropriate time to get into a serious relationship and at what age would it be appropriate to go out on an occasional date with a “friend”?

3. What are the possible negative consequences of getting into a serious relationship too soon?

4. What are God's physical standards for my relationship at each stage?  (Indicate which items on the following list are permissible at these stages: casual dating, serious dating/courtship, engagement, marriage.) First Thessalonians 4:3 makes it clear that sex outside of marriage is off limits.  Matt. 5:8 says, "Blessed are the pure in heart."  Mark the list below in a way that will keep you pure in your heart, your actions, and your thoughts toward your date.

Being together
Holding hands
Good night kiss
Passionate kissing
Touching outside of clothes
Touching under clothes
Taking clothes off

5.  How and when will I communicate these standards with my date?

6.  What are safe places to date? (What boundaries do I need to set with my date to stay out of temptation?   Such as: No alone time, no night time, no lying down together, no bedrooms, etc. List ten safe dating options.)

7.  What will be the consequences if I break my standards?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

More Media

What is the best age to allow a child or teen to own a cell phone?  What questions should be considered?  When making the decision to allow your child to have a cell phone of his own, it is important to thoroughly evaluate the pros and cons.  Some of the pros are that you can easily communicate with a child about transportation and their whereabouts and be assured of their safety.  One of the cons is that a cell phone provides complete privacy in conversations with friends.  The accountability of talking in the family home, where others might hear gossip or bad language is gone.  A child is free to have unlimited communication with teens that the parent has never met or even heard of, talk about anything he chooses without any supervision, and develop intimate relationships with the opposite sex without the knowledge of parents if he chooses.  Without any accountability and supervision, many teens are tempted to slip into more improper behaviors.  Another con is that once a child has a cell phone, other children have direct access to your child, but parents no longer have access to each other.  When parents and children share phone numbers, the parents have access to each other, but once they have individual phones the child's number no longer links a parent to a parent.  So communication and accountability is lost, and it may require extreme effort to acquire a parent phone number of your child’s friend when it is necessary.  Yet another con is your child may receive inappropriate pictures without your knowledge.  Also, if there is internet access on the phone, there is the opportunity for unlimited internet usage without parental knowledge or accountability.  Many of these cons can be addressed by not allowing certain features on the phone, however not all of these cons can be completely avoided.  The most important questions are: Has your child received enough training to be on their own from here on out?  Do they have their own convictions and values firmly in place and have they earned enough trust to become autonomous in this area?  Is your child prepared for the difficult moral, ethical, legal, relational and safety related decisions he will face every day all on his own without any adult involvement?

Facebook and cell phones, combined with time spent with peers at school provides teens the ability to completely live in a “teens only” world where they are no longer supervised or influenced by adults.  As a parent, you must consider the consequences of allowing your child a life that is completely secluded before they are ready for all of the difficult and weighty decisions that they will be challenged to make on their own.

When you do decide that it is time for your kids to carry a cell phone, be sure to have a signed contract with them which outlines the proper use of the phone.  Here is an example:

I know that having a cell phone to use is a privilege. I respect that my parents love me and want to keep me safe. My parents respect that I am becoming a young adult and want the privilege of having the use of a cell phone. With that in mind, I agree:

1.  I am required to contribute to the cost of my cell phone. My contribution is:    $ per month.
2.  My cell phone must be turned off and put on the charger at 9:00 pm on weeknights and 10:00 pm on weekends.  Exceptions will be made for late night activities. I may always call my parents.
3.  I will not send or receive pictures of nudity, violence or other inappropriate activities.  I will not take or send embarrassing photos of my family or friends to others.  If I do receive inappropriate material I will show it to my parents and we will proceed with wisdom. I will not erase anything from my phone without my parent’s permission.
4. I will only give my number to friends (same gender) that I know share our values and are not involved in drinking, drugs or immorality.  Once I give out or receive a number, I will give that person’s first & last name, and number to my parents.  If I learn later that one of my friends is involved in one of these things, I will let my parents know as soon as possible so we can work together to figure out how to proceed with wisdom.
5.  I will not use my cell phone at any meal or during family time (may ask permission if school related).
6.  When taking or placing a call, I will step away from others so that I am not rude.  I will not text in a social setting unless everyone in the group has agreed that texting is the activity.
7.  I will obey rules of etiquette regarding cell phones in public places. I will make sure my phone is turned off when I am in church, in restaurants, or quiet settings.  I will not send or receive any messages during church service or youth class.
8.  When out, I will always have my cell phone with me and ‘on’ so mom and dad can reach me if needed. I will always answer calls from my parents. If I miss a call from them, I will call them back immediately.
9.  I will not use or show my phone during school hours.
10.  I will not erase texts, or any received media, and mom and dad can see them at any time.
11.  I promise I will alert my parents when I receive suspicious or alarming phone calls or text messages from people I don’t know.

The consequences for not following through with these limits on my cell phone use are: the use of my cell phone can be taken away from me. This can happen even if I have contributed to the cost of the cell phone plan.

I ________________________________ agree to honor this contract.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


A major issue in the lives of teenagers today is the vast amount of media in which they are exposed to and have available to them.  Cable television, movies, cell phones, music, internet and especially Facebook plays a huge role in the lives of many young people and families.  As parents who want to pass Christian values on to our children we must be aware and involved in the lives and choices of our children when it comes to this very important area of media.  We determined to educate ourselves and be actively involved with our children in this area.  We took the time to carefully consider what is and is not appropriate use of internet sites before we allowed our children to explore this world.  Facebook requires users to be 13 yrs of age and honoring this requirement teaches children to have honest and ethical character by consistently following rules and respecting authority.  Below is a sample list of guidelines for social networking sites.

Facebook Rules:

  1. You may only be “friends” with people who are pre-approved by us.  That means that you ask before you request a friend or respond to someone else’s request.
  2. You must be “friends” with us.
  3. If a friend posts something that is inappropriate, you must un-friend them.
  4. We must know your password at all times.
  5. You may only post information that is appropriate for the entire public.
  6. You may not use any of the applications (games, quizzes, surveys, etc.) without our permission first.
  7. If you do not follow any of these rules, you will not be able to be on Facebook (and possibly the internet) for a determined amount of time.
It is best to start out with strict supervision and let out the reigns as trust is earned.  As teens show that they are responsible and trustworthy they will need less and less supervision.  So some of these rules may become unnecessary for older teens.

Movies are rated based on what may be psychologically damaging but no thought has been given to what content may be morally damaging. The public media in general has no moral compass.  So rather that going by the ratings we evaluate movies based on the contents that they are rated for.

An example demonstration is to: allow a teenager to watch a movie rated PG 13 for these reasons.

Some Profanity
Some Violence
Some Language
Crude humor

Use caution in allowing a teen to watch a PG 13 movie rated for these reasons.

Intense Science Fiction Terror
Adult situations
Questionable for Children
Thematic elements

And not allow a teen to watch a PG13 movie rated for these reasons.

Intense Sequences of Violence
Sexual Situations
Substance Abuse
Not for Children
Brief Nudity

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Hope for Parents of Troubled Teens by Connie Rae Book Review

Hope for Parents of  Troubled Teens addresses some of the most important topics that are relevant to parents of teenagers.  Some of the topics included are: parenting styles, parenting goals, keeping the marriage relationship strong, teen-parent communication, peer pressure, drugs, alcohol, sex, rebellion, and runaways.   The author provides specific and practical application to be completed by the parents and teen at the end of each chapter.  The book is also based on biblical wisdom with plenty of scripture references throughout.  The underlying parenting philosophy of the book is that responding to rebellion by emphasizing parental authority and/or aggression will not lead to success.  While the rebelling teenager needs limits, he also needs a great deal of positive encouragement to talk out his feelings.  Parents cannot mandate submissive behavior of teens nor can they whip them into it.  “The goal is not broken submission to the will of someone who is stronger.  The goal must be to foster a heart change that will allow the teenager to be his own growing-up person, while at the same time maintaining a relationship with the authorities in his life that will contribute in positive ways to his growing independence.” (p. 174-175)

I would highly recommend this book!  It is so thorough and practical and is full of good biblical wisdom.  And I appreciate the balance between the parent’s responsibility of setting limits and acknowledging that teens need to be allowed to develop their own personal set of values and beliefs that will guide them as they transition out of your home and into adulthood.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Understand the Phases of Childhood

Passionate Legacy Principle #7: Understand the phases of childhood and adjust parenting goals and methods for each phase.

At what age do you allow your children to.…  Pick their own clothes in the morning?  Order from a menu in a restaurant?  Pick their own cereal?  Have an alarm clock?   Have a say in what movies they watch?  Select their own music?  Choose their own clothes at the store?  Get pierced ears?   Have a Facebook account?  Wear make-up?  Pick their own homework time?  Sleep over at a friends house?  Choose their own hairstyle?  Go out on a Date?    

How do you discern what issues are worth the relational strain that comes from saying ‘no’?  Many parents are concerned that they will lose their friendship with the child and this becomes more important than training and protecting?  They lack a grid for what is appropriate for what age and why.

Friendship is not the starting point of parenting, it is the end result.  Before the friendship arrives, parents pass through three building block periods with their children.  The success of each phase is dependant on the success of the preceding phase.

Phase one: Discipline, 0-5 yrs.  Establish your right to lead.  Lay down the foundation for obedience.  Your leadership is not oppressive, but it is authoritative. This is a phase of tight boundaries and limited freedoms.  Your task is to get control of the child so that you can effectively train her.  If you cannot control your child, you cannot train her to her full potential, nor will any one else be able to do so.  Parents make all the day to day decisions.  The child is completely dependant on the parent.

Phase two: Training, 6-12 yrs.  To use a sports analogy, a trainer works with the athlete through drills and exercises.  He can stop the player any time and make immediate corrections, explaining the reasons and showing him how to do it.  Kids make most day to day decisions choosing from parent directed options.  Transition happens gradually.  Freedom (friends, leisure activities, restaurant menu, clothes) and responsibility (homework, chores) move at the same pace.

Phase Three: Coaching, 13-19 yrs. Your role now is to transfer all responsibility to your teens so that by the time they are adults, they are fully responsible for their own lives.  Trust is earned, not automatically given.  Everything is a privilege (sleepovers, food, friends, choice of hairstyle, music and media, etc.) to be earned by being cooperative and responsible.  Children move to a position of total independence based on how quickly they show personal responsibility (good choices, good grades, timeliness, good attitudes, etc.).  Parents retain veto power.

Phase four: Friendship. Parents are adult friends with wisdom, children can ask for advice but we are not their authority.  Their decisions are no longer our responsibility.  The relational goal of our parenting is friendship. Just as it was with the Lord and His disciples, it should also be with you and your children, a discipleship relationship culminating in friendship. The process begins with tight boundaries, which give way to responsible behavior, leading to freedom and independence.

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.

The secret is the balance between protecting and preparing your children as well as the balance between parental control and a child’s individual freedom.  The child’s freedom and responsibility should increase at the same rate gradually over the 18 year that he lives under your roof.

There are two common parenting mistakes that many Christian parents make.  The first is to start protecting the child at birth and continue to protect the child all the way to eighteen years old or beyond.  This prevents children from wrestling with how to make wise choices for themselves.  The result is usually that they run out and do everything you wouldn’t let them do while at home as soon as they graduate just to experience the freedom of making their own choices.  This may result in life altering consequences!

The second mistake many parents make, is to let the children run the show from the very beginning, allowing them to decide the schedule, the agenda and the tone of the home.  They do not require children to follow rules consistently or do  anything to contribute to the home and family.  Young children’s bad behavior can seem harmless at first.  When two year old Susie speaks disrespectfully or spits at people it just seems cute.  Jimmy is allowed to watch anything he wants on TV, for as long as he wants because he won’t understand what he is seeing anyway.  Six year old Jordan can have an ipod, cell phone, computer, cable TV and Xbox in his room because no harm will come from it.  Eight year old Allison can choose her own friends, spend all of her time at any friends house anytime she wants, spend the night anytime and anywhere she wants no questions asked.  And then when the children begin to make poor choices in the teen years, their parents freak out. They realize that their children are out of control, self-centered and have no sense of boundaries.  So, to get things back under control, the parents start to play the authority card and take away privileges but it doesn’t work, it only causes the child to step up their out-of-control game.

It is a mistake to give kids large amounts of freedom on the front side of their childhood and then take it away from them when they become teenagers.  You want it the other way around.  Control should be on the front side of childhood and low on the back side.  Individual freedom should be low in early childhood, gradually increasing as they move through adolescence.

For more information in this topic, read Why Christian Kids Rebel by Tim Kimmel.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Training in Conflict Resolution Skills

For a Bible study on loving others click on the link on the right side of the screen.

Six-year-old Billy wants to take a turn on the swing during school recess time but six-year-old Susie will not get off the swing when he asks for a turn. Finally, Billy grabs at the swing and stops it. Susie yells and kicks at Billy who, in turn, yells and hits at Susie.

Susie and Billy have a real life problem: how to share the swing.They have a problem in how to share the swing, and because they do not know how to solve it, they are fighting to get what they think they have a right to.

James 4:1-2 What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?  You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want.  You quarrel and fight.  You do not have because you do not ask God.

Phil. 2:3-4 Do nothing out of selfishness but think of others as better than yourself, don’t only think about your needs but think about the needs of others.

Fighting often happens not for revenge or to get attention, but because children have a real life issue that needs to be solved. Fighting to solve a problem between children is not a misbehavior, because in these situations their primary goal is to attempt to get what they think they have a right to have. They do not want revenge (aggression). They do not want the attention of adults (self-indulgent). The deepest issue is not the hitting, it is the lack of knowledge of how to resolve a conflict peacefully. They need help from an adult to learn other ways of solving the problem.

Children, especially very young ones, usually do not know how to go about solving problems without hitting and yelling. This is not surprising since human beings have an instinctive reflex to lash out and protect themselves whenever they feel threatened.  In this culture, children also see hitting and yelling glorified on television.

Children often initiate fights with another child because they simply do not know how to handle the situation any other way. Yet there are other ways to resolve disputes that children can be taught from a very early age. Whenever you see a fight between children, first consider whether or not it is a problem-solving situation. Do not try to categorize it as self-indulgent or aggressive until you have first helped the kids learn some negotiating skills.

Here is an example of a fight between two children that began as an attempt to solve a problem.  Six-year-old Josh wants to take a turn on the swing during school recess time but six-year-old Linda will not get off the swing when he asks for a turn. Finally, Josh grabs at the swing and stops it. Linda yells and kicks at Josh who, in turn, yells and hits at Linda.

Linda and Josh have a real life problem: how to share the swing. They are not fighting for attention from the teacher (self-indulgence), and neither child is so angry that they are trying to get revenge by causing real pain to the other child (aggressive). They have a problem in how to share the swing, and because they do not know how else to solve it, they are fighting to get what they think they have a right to have. They need an adult to intercede and help them learn some beginning rudiments of negotiation and problem solving.

Here is another example of a disagreement between young children:  Three year old Josh gets out the two sided chalkboard and begins drawing, Linda comes over and joins him on the other side. Linda takes the eraser and erases. Josh asks to use it. Linda says “No”.   Josh asks to “Please” use it, Linda still says “No.”  Josh asks when he would be able to use it, Linda says “Never”.  She continues erasing nothing at all!  Josh knows the rule at his house is no tattling.  So he can’t get an adult to help.  What options is he left with, he could give up which doesn’t seem fair or he could try to get it back.  So he begins rocking the chalk board.  Linda screams, Mom looks over to see Josh rocking the chalkboard and now who is in trouble?  Little Josh.  Because of the no tattling rule in his home, they will repeat this scenario thousands of times. Linda will practice being a bully and Josh will practice using physical means of getting his way.  Neither child is benefiting from this rule.  Both are learning and practicing inappropriate ways of relating.

1. A coworker is verbally abusive to you, steals and destroys your property and sabotages your work.  You have tried to work it out by talking to no avail, you should: A. Steal your co- worker’s things until yours are returned, B. Tell your supervisor, or C. Turn the other cheek

2.  Someone is threatening to beat you up after school, you should:  A. Gather your friends to meet the bully after school armed with knives, B. Tell the principal, or C. Allow yourself to be bullied.

Answers: B for both questions.  There are situations where the safest, wisest and most beneficial choice for everyone involved, is to ask for help.

Many parents encourage children to solve problems among themselves, because they believe that allowing children to get adults involved, encourages tattling.  But getting help from an adult is not tattling.  Tattling is done with the motivation for other children to get punished. Children can be taught the difference between tattling and getting help.  When adults get involved it should be to remind the children of the rules and procedures and enforce them (set a timer for taking turns, use rock-paper-scissors to pick who’s first, etc.). If a child genuinely needs help, he needs to be able to get it.  If we teach children that telling is always wrong, we are teaching them a moral that, taken to the extreme, can compromise their safety.  Teaching children not to get and adult is stealing an important resource that should be available.  It is important for children to know that they can get help when they need it, because sometimes when they have done everything right, the other child involved continues to break all of the rules. This is frustrating to the healthy child, it enforces the belief that good behavior is ineffective in the real world.  They end up believing that following God’s ways are nice ideas but if you want to survive in the real world you must use the world’s methods.  God has put authority in place to protect us and enforce the laws of the land, and for the most part, if we go to the authorities they can handle the situation better than we can (unless they are corrupt).  Children should be learning that they can turn to authority for justice rather than taking the law into their own hands. God has created order and we need to model this order in our homes.  A healthy view of authority is that authority is good and can be called upon to enforce justice. 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.  Kids who have parents that will help them solve problems learn to use that resource.  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. They don’t go to teachers when someone is picking on them and this either results in them being severely abused by others or it results in built up anger which, as we have seen, can result in violence as gruesome as school shootings.

Rather than teaching your children that the only solutions to problems are fighting or becoming a victim, teach them conflict resolution skills which include as a last resort, getting a mediator or authority involved.  The following instructions can be posted as a handy reminder of the steps for resolving conflict.

How to stop a fight

1.  If someone is doing something you don’t like, tell them to “Please, 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.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Training Opportunities

Not all negative behaviors are misbehaviors. Before you begin to observe and chart the four misbehaviors, you need to be able to identify those times when negative behavior is not a misbehavior. Some examples are: The child is still young and needs to be trained in what is right or the child is attempting to solve a real life problem. In other words, sometimes the child is earnestly trying to get out of a difficult situation and doesn't know how to improve things without acting in negative ways. It is important, therefore, that as you begin to learn to recognize the differences between the four basic types of misbehaviors, you also need to stop and ask yourself whether the child is actually misbehaving or, instead, whether the child's negative behavior indicates he or she needs some help from you in solving a problem. (Taking Charge by JoAnn Nordling)

There are two major training opportunities in which the adult can help the child.

Training in Respectful Communication– When a child demonstrates that he still needs training in right behavior, one method of teaching is having training sessions. A training session is when a child performs an inappropriate behavior and the parent asks the child to make a second attempt at choosing the correct behavior.   With a young child you could say “Susie if you would like a drink, instead of whining you need to say ‘may I have a drink please’?” Or when an older child says to a younger sibling “Move!  It’s my turn”, you could say “Bobby I would like you to try that again, please.” And have him reenact the request with a more respectful tone.

There are some things that parents will have to practice thousands of times with their children before they get it.   But as we talked about in earlier posts, our goal is not immediate results but to write a moral code on their hearts.  We need to practice “Please” and “Thank You” with them.  We need to ask them to say “Sorry”. Some parents don’t require this because they believe that if it is not genuine it serves no purpose.  But the truth is that with children: “Actions precede beliefs.”  Parents should insist on correct behavior long before the child is capable of understanding the associated moral concepts.  Children first learn to act morally and then they learn how to think morally.  Thus, the two phases of moral training include: (1) the development of moral behavior, and (2) the development of moral concepts.  Actions come first, understanding comes second.”  (Growing Kids Gods Way, Gary Ezzo)

The action of saying “Sorry” leads to - knowledge of the moral code, which leads to - understanding of the reason why, which hopefully leads to – a choice of the heart acted out on the knowledge of knowing how.  Without the practice of acting morally, children will not have the knowledge of the moral code and have no cause to think through the reason why they say “Sorry”.    If we do not teach a child that he should say “Sorry” when he hurts others, in his heart he may conclude that there is no need for feeling or saying “Sorry”.

The next post will cover the second training opportunity which is training in conflict resolution skills.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Correction for Aggression and Loss of Self-Control

Much of the following is from Taking Charge by Joanne Nordling (SYBYL Publications, 1999).

Aggressive behaviors are actions that deliberately try to hurt, either physically or emotionally. Children are being aggressive, for example, when they destroy objects in a room, bite, spit in people's faces, fling themselves around the room knocking things over and bumping into people, or bang their heads against a wall. It is aggressive behavior when children seem to lose all inner controls by going into a rage and hurting themselves or others. Aggressive behavior can also be carried out in a more controlled way, for example, if the child deliberately tries to humiliate or hurt someones feelings, or tickles someone for sustained periods of time, or tells a lie in which the goal is to get even and hurt another person.

The basic correction for aggressive behavior is the Time-out. Time-outs are different from the either-or choice that was described earlier as part of the ignoring correction. At first blush, the either-or choice and the time-out seem similar. If you tell a child, “You can either be quiet during this TV program or you can go be noisy in your bedroom,” it seems much the same as saying, “Go to your bedroom and take a five-minute time-out.” But they are not the same. There are important differences. The child who makes the either-or choice to go to the bedroom rather than stay by the television and be noisy, is free to leave the bedroom whenever he or she chooses a different behavior. That is, as soon as the child is quiet, he or she is free to come back to the living room. But children may not leave time-out when­ever they choose. They must abide by the time frame laid down by the adult for the time-out procedure.

Like the other three corrections, time-out is not a punishment. Its purpose is to stop the misbehavior, get the adult back in control of the situation, and the child back in control of himself.

Here are the guidelines for administering the basic Time-Out.
1. Time-outs are different for children two years old and under

For the very young child, for example, an eighteen month old who is whacking big brother with a toy shovel, the best tactic is simply to say, “No hurting other people,” as you pick the child up and carry him or her to a play pen for a one minute time-out.  If a young child bites you or pulls your hair, say in a strong voice, “No. People are not for biting.” If the child does it again, once more say, "No.” And put the child down. The consequence of being put down is a powerful reminder that if you want to be with people, you cannot hurt them. If a two year old is whining, you can place your child in their crib for two minutes and say “No whining.” When you get them say “happy mood” and take them out.  If they show a happy mood, give them immediate positive attention, if they continue to whine, repeat the process. It may take a few days, but two year olds can learn that whining is not appropriate.
2. Act the first time you see the aggressive behavior
You learned the value of not procrastinating in the section on self­ sabotage. Aggressive behavior especially should be dealt with immediately because every child needs to know that deliberate hurting is never allowed.
3. Time-out should be short
For the preschooler, sitting quietly for three to five minutes is usually enough to stop the behavior and calm things down. For older children, one minute for every year of their age is a reasonable rule. Making the child sit quietly for unreasonable lengths of time is punitive and will escalate a power struggle. Children quickly need another chance to try a different way of behaving. Excessively prolonged time­outs result in increased power struggles that sabotage the learning of responsible behavior.

4. Time-out should happen in a place where there is nothing interesting to do

A child's bedroom is generally not a good time-out place because it is filled with interesting things to do. The bottom step of a stairway in the front hall is good. Or you can use a chair in some part of the room out of sight of the television, where there are no books or toys. Keep in mind this is not a shaming, punishing exercise like sitting in a corner with a dunce cap on your head. The idea is to find an uninteresting place for the child to sit. If you are in a public place, the child can stand by a wall or sit on the floor. The basic idea is that there should be no social interaction and nothing interesting to do. Time­out means just that: taking time out from all other activities.

5. Use as little talking as possible
Simply say, “Time-out.”  Remember the effectiveness of one-word or two-word statements.

6. As soon as the child is seated, quietly set a timer

If you do not already have a simple kitchen timer, buy one or more, it is an essential tool for the job of parenting. Set the timer and put it down near the child. Say, “You must sit quietly for five minutes.” Then walk away and continue to carry out your normal routine.

7. If the child fusses or does not stay in the chair, use the physical assist

If the child argues, complains, or bangs the chair around during the time-out period, go back to where the child is seated, reset the timer and say, “No. I said sit quietly for five minutes.” If the child does not stay seated quietly or attempts to run, use a physical assist. Go stand behind the child, with the palm of one hand on his or her shoulder while the palm of the other hand presses down at the base of the child's neck, securely holding the child down in the chair. Say, “No. You must sit quietly.” It is important for you to practice this physical assist with another adult before you try it with a child. Pressing down with the open hand just below the child's neck should feel secure and calming to the child. If it does not, you are probably digging in with your fingers or pressing down too hard. Keep experimenting with the other adult until you have taught each other how to do it. Do not use more force than necessary. Do not hurt the child. Release your hold as soon as you feel the child stop the struggle.

When the child is quiet and stops struggling, restart the timer and walk away. Occasionally, a child will fight the time-out procedure for a long time. Be prepared to stick with this for an hour or all evening if necessary. If you do not sabotage yourself, children will generally only test you at such an intense level one or two times. If you are firm and consistent, they will feel safe with you. If they know what the limits are, and they know the limits are fair, they will not continue to test them.

One last admonition: Using the physical assist by holding the child in a time-out place can turn into a power struggle if you let yourself become emotional about it. If you find yourself using the time-out correction more and more, instead of less and less, you and the child are caught up in a power struggle. You need to go to another adult who is familiar with these corrections to help you figure out how you are sabotaging yourself.

8. If the child loses all self control, use the physical restraint

The following is Joanne Nordling’s person experience:
When I was working as an intern at the Children's Psychiatric Day Treatment Center at the University of Oregon, I had to put an extremely aggressive ten-year-old boy in time-out. As sometimes hap­pens with very angry children, he exploded with rage. The only way I could make him stay in time-out was to wrestle him to the ground and sit with my back against the wall, my legs wrapped around his legs, holding his back against my front. I crossed his arms in front of his chest and held on. He was strong and I had to hold on to him with all the strength l could muster. When he relaxed, l relaxed any hold on him. When he started to struggle, I tightened my grip. We sat there on the floor for over an hour until he finally sat quietly for five minutes. It was one of the longest hours of my life. But from that day on, he was my friend, and he never seriously disobeyed me again. I was astonished at his positive reaction. He did not seem to feel demeaned, probably because, interspersed between our long silences, l also made an attempt to respect and listen to his feelings. “I know this is hard for you. It is hard for me too.”

Fortunately, these occasions arise only rarely. Still, it is good to know how to do it if the need ever does arise. Feeling safe is one of the most basic of human needs. Do not hesitate to hold children securely if they explode out of the boundary of self-control. Let children gain the security they need from the strong and matter-of-fact way your body holds them. Your own physical size and strength is obviously the limiting factor that will deter­mine the size of child you can hold in this way.

No child feels good about losing his or her inner control. Even though it happens only rarely, you will feel more confident if you are prepared for the rare instances you need to help a child regain inner control.

9. When the time-out is over, do not mention the negative behavior again

Time-out is not a punishment. It is a way to temporarily help you stop the misbehavior and help the child get back in control. Once the incident is over, begin giving positive attention for neutral and positive behaviors. In the same way you would give children a chance to get right back into a canoe if they tip it over, so children need to be given the chance to immediately resume normal behaviors in order to experience success in their interactions with you. As soon as they are exhibiting positive or neutral behaviors, let them know by your positive attentions that you care about them. It was their behavior you did not like.


If children are frequently acting out in aggressive ways, you can be certain they are responding to some deep hurt which they perceive has been done to them. Children who continually lash out at the world in aggressive ways are acting on an instinctual premise that they must protect their inner core of integrity. They have come to believe that their best defense is a strong offense. It may not be clear to you right now, but invariably, every child who frequently feels compelled to manipulate or hurt others is doing it from a need to secure himself or herself from further physical or emotional hurt. In order to help the child, you need to know how the child perceives his or her world. Listen to the child.

Besides listening to the child, talk to other adults who know the child. Talk about the problem with your spouse. Talk it over with the teacher or members of your family. Ask each other the question. “What has hurt Marty so much that she feels the need to hurt and manipulate others?” If you can discover what it is, you will better know what kinds of specific positive attentions you can give Marty to help her feel safe enough, so she will not have to keep lashing out at other people. The problem is that children cannot verbalize their unmet needs. Often parents and teachers cannot figure it out without the help of a professional counselor. If after you have tried everything suggested, and nothing changes, it is time to look for such a person.

It is sometimes hard to figure out whether a misbehavior is self­-indulgent or aggressive. If your gut reaction is one of shock and hurt because you believe the behavior was meant to really harm or manipulate, or if you sense the child is not just having it temper tantrum but has lost control of himself, use the time-out. If you are experiencing extreme irritation with the behavior, and believe it is primarily a bid for attention, treat it as a self-­indulgent behavior.