Stop Freaking Out, Mom and Dad!
by Carey Nieuwhof
I don’t gamble, but if I did, I’m confident I would lose the house, the car, and maybe the kids in about 32 seconds.
As my friends and family have told me all my life, I have a terrible poker face. I just don’t hide my emotions well.
It’s not that I’m an emotional person…it’s just that people can tell what I’m thinking. Instantly. My face tells far too much of a story. And when I try to hide it, I apparently look either frustrated or constipated. At least this is what people tell me.
Which has given me a distinct parenting disadvantage.
How about you? Do you hide your emotions well as a parent?
It may be more important than you think.
This isn’t about lying or even being something you’re not. Not at all.
But as Shaunti Feldhahn has so aptly put it, how you react to what your kids tells you matters a lot, especially as they get become teens.
Shaunti references a national survey showed that 75% of all teens agree with this statement “If I knew my parents wouldn’t freak out, I would really like to share certain things with them.”
Did you hear that?
Your kids would tell you things if they could be sure that you wouldn’t freak out.
And you know what my challenge is as a parent? I freak out when my kids tell me things.
I think it’s because I live in a hypocritical universe.
I may have done some things when I was a kid/teen/young adult that would cause the current me to freak out, but one of the main goals of parenting is to ensure my kids made none of the mistakes I made.
Wait, we can do better, can’t we? Isn’t the purpose of parenting that your kids make no mistakes?
Okay maybe not.
But parents, freaking out shuts down the dialogue.
You know it. I know it.
I mean even as adults, we withhold information from people in our family or even at work when we suspect they’re going to lose it on us. It may not be right, but it’s true. We’re human.
And so are your kids.
So what’s the best way to respond?
Listen. Don’t judge. As Shaunti says, if you’re going to freak out, freak out on the inside.
Meanwhile, on the outside, just listen…and pretend it’s perfectly normal. Which it probably is, even if it is disappointing.
The goal, of course, is not to condone what just happened, but to create a relationship of trust. Not to mention open and honest communication.
Kara Powell has also done a national study of teenagers and discovered that the reason kids who grew up believing in Jesus walk away from their faith as young adults is not because they have doubts, but because they have unexpressed doubts.
What teens need is a safe place to ask the big questions. When your 16-year-old daughter comes home and says she is not sure she trusts the Bible as an authority, freaking out on her only makes it worse, not better.
She’s really just looking for a place to question, to probe, to be honest. And if she can’t have that conversation with you or other Christian adults who don’t freak out, who will she have it with?
If you have a wider circle of adults your child trusts who have also learned not to freak out, you’re in great shape.
But if you—and all your friends—shut down discussion as soon as it starts, you know what’s going to happen, right?
Your kids are going to talk to someone about it at some point. And it will likely be with someone who doesn’t share your faith convictions or value system.
So this week, stop freaking out. As hard as it may be. Just stop.
And maybe…just maybe…you’ll have more influence in your child’s life as a result.
About the Author:
Carey Nieuwhof is the lead pastor of Connexus Church and author of several books, including Parenting Beyond Your Capacity (with Reggie Joiner) and his forthcoming book, Lasting Impact: 7 Powerful Conversations That Will Help Your Church Grow (September 2015). Carey speaks to church leaders around the world about leadership and parenting. He writes one of the most widely read church leadership blogs at www.CareyNieuwhof.com and hosts the Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast where he interviews top leaders each week.