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.