HOW TO RESPOND WHEN YOUR KID ACTS OUT
Posted by Lauren Dack
I WAS THE BEST PARENT BEFORE I HAD KIDS.
I just knew that I was going to do things differently. I was pretty prideful about it, let’s be real. It would not be my kids watching a video on a phone in the restaurant. It wouldn’t be my kids having a tantrum in public. My kids would eat all their vegetables and be polite, contributing members of the family and society as whole.
I’m still holding onto hope that these things will happen for us.
All that to say, it feels a little ridiculous that I would write a blog about parenting. I mean, what do I know? I’ve spent the last four years figuring it out as I go. Reading books, articles, and even a class or two: I desperately want to be the best parent possible and I keep falling short. The problem is that reality is a heck of a lot different than theory.
REALITY IS CHAOTIC, LOUD, AND MESSY. REALITY IS REALLY, REALLY HARD.
Reality is a 1.5-year-old who considers the day wasted if he hasn’t climbed, tackled, and eaten everything in sight. A rambunctious, ridiculously adorable, needing-a-scenery-change-every-20-minutes, thinks-the-word-“no”-is-hilarious, very heavy, very particular, toddler.
Reality is a 4-year-old with sensory processing problems. A sweet, handsome, affectionate, picky, particular child who gets really overwhelmed, really easily and can’t communicate why. It sucks not being understood, and then not having the words to communicate what’s going on inside you. So he has a tantrum, he cries, yells, spits, or hits to get our attention.
So we know he needs something from us. The problem is that I’m angry. I’m confused. I don’t understand, because it doesn’t make sense. It hit me recently that I’m feeling the exact same way he’s feeling: angry, confused, overwhelmed.
LOGIC GOES OUT THE WINDOW WHEN IT COMES TO EMOTIONS.
Logic doesn’t always have a place when it comes to emotions, right? We need emotion to understand emotion. The emotion I’m going back to is love. How do I communicate love to my child through this tantrum?
I took a class recently and learned about relational needs (From the Center for Relational Care-check them out!). The simple principles are life changing. It has transformed my counseling practice, my parenting, and my marriage.
In the class, I suddenly realized I’d been using fear (threats, anger), or manipulation to get my kids to behave. That I’d sometimes withdrawn my love and attention when my child rejected me, or embarrassed me, or disobeyed me. That I was (unconsciously) wanting my kids to meet my needs. My need to be loved, accepted, and respected. All important needs. However, my kids were given to me so I could meet their needs, and not the other way around. If they meet some of my needs (and they do!), that is a blessing and a gift and should never be an expectation.
When your child is doing something you don’t understand or when you don’t know how to respond,
ASK: “WHAT IS HE/SHE NEEDING RIGHT NOW?”
Here are a few examples:
If you are unsure of the need, default to comfort.
I’ve been doing this more and more for my sons. Particularly with my 4-year-old, I’m trying to meet the need first, and discipline (when necessary) after he calms down. Only emotion can understand emotion.
Guess what? It’s working!
Asking my son if he’d like a hug in the middle of a tantrum has helped him calm down much faster. Telling him that I will always love him, even when he says he doesn’t want me, or pushes me away has made him feel safer and more secure. Pointing out the good, encouraging him to keep trying, letting him speak for himself, etc. is shaping my son’s character and heart.
While threats can often get your kids to obey, what will they do when the threat is removed? Will they make the right choices when you’re gone? My hope is that by meeting my kid’s needs first, I can better influence their hearts. Will I take away privileges? Oh yes, without a doubt I want them to understand that our choices have consequences. Do I want my kids to obey and respect authority? Lord, yes. Will my kids continue to test me and disobey? I believe they will. I’ll continue to try my best to be consistent with boundaries, rules, and expectations. I just want all of those things to be soaked in unconditional love.
Heart transformation can only occur within the context of a healthy, secure, and loving relationship. Love first. Your teaching will have more of an impact when you do.
I’m still learning all this, but I’m getting closer every day.
About the Author:
Lauren Dack is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Licensed Professional Counselor. She is wife to Josh and mom to 2 crazy, active, exhausting, beautiful, sweet little boys. She finds purpose and joy in helping folks live their lives more effectively, purposefully, and intimately. Reading is her favorite hobby. Follow her at LaurenDack.com.
Posted by Holly Crawshaw
On Sundays when I was growing up, it didn’t matter if we were facing imminent danger or in the throes of a natural disaster, we were going to church.
Literally, I can’t remember not hearing my mom’s alarm clock go off every Sunday morning at 8:00am—because, of course, church was always preceded by a solid hour of Sunday School (bless those volunteers).
My parents could have had World War III with each other on Saturday night. I could have had the measles. My brother could have gotten kidnapped. There was never any question . . .
IT WAS SUNDAY AND WE WERE GOING TO CHURCH.
I remember some Sundays thinking, If we could just stay home this ONE Sunday and watch cartoons and relax . . . But, nope. Sunday rules—it’s church-day.
My parents went through a pretty trying super awful divorce when I was in middle school. Dealing with their own grief and disappointment, they stopped going to church.
But we didn’t.
My three siblings and I continued in the robotic fashion of our youth, waking up and going to church every single Sunday. But… it was different then. We had huge, shame-shaped holes in our hearts. We needed church now—now, more than ever.
Guess what. We’re all still attending church. (So are my parents, but that’s a dramatic blog for another day.)
I don’t tell you this because I think church is the cure-all. Or because I think all people in church make perfect decisions. Or because I think going to church makes you a better Christian. But when I look back on my church-going years, there were always one or two people I was connected with that kept me (and my siblings) on-track.
Ms. Leigh Ann. Amy. Jeff. Robin. Elizabeth. My student ministry. My college group.
Where would I be without these relationships? I’m not sure, but I can tell you that having these voices speak truth to me during some of the darkest years of my life brought light and hope and the chance to be vulnerable. I needed them. I needed someone other than my parents. I needed to widen my circle of influence. And by attending services, youth group, and church outings, my starving soul got the nourishment it needed to avoid massive regret and heartache.
Fast forward some more.
I have two daughters. For most of their lives, I got up before the sun rose on Sunday mornings to help run a children’s ministry. A few years ago, I stepped down from my position to pursue full-time writing.
On Sundays, when that alarm starts blaring, I am 100 percent tempted to sleep in. To let my kids watch cartoons. To sit around the breakfast table and not rush out the door with half the family missing shoes and bows and Bibles.
But then I remember the 12-year-old Holly who needed to be buoyed by multiple relationships—relationships that ultimately kept her from drowning. I hope my kids never need mentorship nearly as much as that middle school version of me did. But I would be selfish to rob them of the richness found in being surrounded by wise and caring adults.
Whether it be a church group, a club leader, a teacher, or a hand-chosen mentor, our kids need other voices in their lives.
How are you widening the circle of influence in your child’s life? No, really. I’m curious. And beyond that, are you that voice for someone else?
About the Author:
Holly Crawshaw is a wife, mother, and writer who eats sour candy and laughs at her own jokes. She served on staff with North Point Ministries for six years, the latter of which was spent as Preschool Director. She and her husband, Ben, are raising their two daughters, Lilah and Esmae, in their hometown of Cumming, GA.
WIPE THE SLATE CLEAN
Posted by Autumn Ward
So there we were, standing on a sidewalk in the middle of downtown Gatlinburg, Tennessee. A couple in their mid-thirties with three kids ages 5, 8 and 10 struggling to have fun and enjoy a vacation together.
It wasn’t happening.
People were passing us on either side much like water going around a rock in the middle of a stream as we argued over kids not obeying, how much money had been spent, who was chewing too loudly, and whatever else we could get mad about. To be honest, I don’t really remember what we were upset about . . . what I was upset about . . . but boy was it getting ugly (and by “it” I mean ME).
I do remember it was CHRISTMAS. And rather than having peace on earth and goodwill towards men, I was having an all out total meltdown. No seriously, I was losing it. I felt like screaming or throwing something or even hitting something (or someone). Before I knew it I blurted the words, “I’m done. Let’s just forget it and go home” and then I walked away. Yes, I turned my back on my family and walked away (not my best moment).
There are many “not my best moment” moments in parenting. Oh, we strive to be our best, do what’s best, say what’s best—all those best things great parents do—but it’s hard. Parenting is hard. And the more I try to do my best, the more I realize how hard it is.
One thing I learned during this “not my best moment” is that what I do—what you do—after times like these can actually become your best moments as a parent.
I made it about ten steps down the sidewalk and then stopped. My heart was heavy with conviction. I was wrong. And I knew it. As the rage turned into remorse I made the choice to turn around and go back to my family. I had no idea what I was going to say or do, but in those ten steps back I came up with this:
“Guys, I love you. I love Daddy. I love Joseph. I love Sarah. And I love Anna. Mommy was wrong. I was wrong for my attitude and for getting so angry. I want to have fun with you. Do you think we can start over?”
My family responded with a heartfelt, “we forgive you” and, “we love you” and then did something I will never forget. They began admitting their own contributions to the Ward family “moment.” Each one said what they did wrong and asked for forgiveness. They had followed my example.
That’s when I came up with the “wipe the slate clean” thing we do. I told them to pull out an imaginary slate (I explained it’s like a chalkboard, they got it.) and pretend to write down the things they shouldn’t have said or done and then we would pull out our imaginary erasers and wipe them away.
And that’s what we did.
On the same sidewalk where I had my meltdown, we wrote down our wrongs and wiped them away. We had a clean slate. A new start. Another chance to get it right.
“This is why Jesus came, kids. Forgiveness. God knew we could never be good enough on our own so He sent Jesus to take our punishment. Because of what Jesus did on the cross, our slates can be wiped clean. We can have a new heart. Ok, now who’s ready to hug it out and go have some fun?”
It turned out to be an awesome vacation and one of my best parent moments.
My kids are now 13, 16 and 18. We have wiped our slates clean more times than I can count. When things start unraveling in our home, tempers flare and words are carelessly thrown around any one of us will say, “Hey, we need a clean slate. Let’s start again.”
Kids don’t need perfect parents. Which is good news for you and me because perfect is not possible.
Kids do need imperfect parents who are willing to humble themselves, admit their wrongs, ask forgiveness and let it go.
When we do this we give our kids a front row seat to the gospel, the grace of God, Jesus living and breathing right in front of their eyes. Our kids are watching and waiting. Let’s make sure we give them His best.
“He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.” Psalm 103:12
About the Author:
Autumn Ward has been a writer for The reThink Group’s First Look preschool curriculum for the past 10 years and is the Creative Director for Parent Cue Initiatives. She believes every parent can be a spiritual hero in their child’s life and it’s never too soon to begin sharing God’s story of love with them. Autumn and her husband, Chad, live in Cumming, GA with their three teenage children Joseph, Sarah, and Anna.
Posted by Sarah Anderson
Just two days into the New Year we got the difficult news that my 91-year-old grandmother had passed away. In the days that followed we did what everyone does in the grieving process. We remembered. We told a lot of stories. We recalled conversations and pivotal moments that stood out to us as we recalled the matriarch of the family.
And what we recalled, was that my grandmother was a great question asker. She had a reputation for getting the dirt on everything—specifically any romantic relationships we may have been involved in. This was torturous as teenagers, but endearing as we got older, when we started to see her incessant digging for information as not just a means to know more. It was a means to a different end. It was a way for her to encourage us and support us in whatever it was we were doing. Her great questions made her a great grandmother.
Barbara Walters, the reporter famous for her interviews with high profile people and her uncanny ability to make people cry with the questions she asked, was interviewed herself when her retirement from the broadcasting was coming to a close. About her iconic role in the history of broadcasting, she said this, “The most important thing a journalist or interviewer can do is to listen. Too often we write questions down and no matter what, we go onto our second question and our third question because that’s the way we’ve written them. We shouldn’t. The first question gets asked and the second question should be, why? How come? Tell me more.”
Obviously she was a pro as an interviewer. But her insights at what made her so great at her job are the same things that made my grandmother extraordinary.
Questions are powerful—made all the more powerful when they are a response to what we intentionally listened for first.
Purposeful questions are the best and easiest tool we have as parents to invest in the lives of our kids.
They communicate that we want more than information—we want insight into what makes our kids tick, motivates them, challenges them and hurts them.
A good first question says, I’m interested.
Active listening says, I care.
An intentional second question says, you matter.
And what follows creates relational equity between you and your kids.
So sure, we can start, with the “How was your day?” “What happened at school?” “What did you learn at church?” But what happens next can’t be found in any book, blog, or article. What happens next is up to us. It can’t be scripted or predicted but that’s where the magic happens.
It happens in the quiet, as your child slowly, peels back the layers of their life, and you thirstily drink in what they have carefully entrusted with you. And it happens when your reaction and your response communicate over and over and over again, “You’ve got my full attention, there is no where I would rather be, thanks for letting me in.”
Be prepared. You may get more than you bargained for. You may learn the details of everyone’s show and tell treasures, about the kid next to them on the bus, the specifics of what was served in the lunch line, or the atrocities of their Chemistry class. But you’ll also become the best student of your child and the earn yourself a reputation, and some day a legacy as being the person in your child’s life who did whatever it took to get to the heart of the matter, to get to the heart of them. No one soon forgets that.
They may not know it now, but what you are working towards as a parent who asks a good first question, but even better second question, is becoming the best front row attender to your kids’ lives they’ll ever know. Becoming their cheerleader, their confidant and their biographer of life, who remembers all the big stuff but has managed to tuck away the little stuff too—the stuff that makes your kids uniquely them and uniquely yours.
And that is a legacy worth creating with your kids and worth leaving behind for them.
About the Author:
Sarah Anderson writes for the XP3 student curriculum at Orange. She is married to Rodney Anderson and is mom to two beautiful bouncy boys, Asher and Pace. Follow her on Twitter @sarahb_anderson.