Does a Connected Approach to Parenting Really Make a Difference?

Recently, someone yelled at me for not doing what this person wanted me to do. My fight or flight instinct kicked in and I felt a familiar rage rise up inside of my spirit. I was ready to fight back against the injustice spent on me. Before I opened my mouth, a flash back of a conversation I had with my 14 year old daughter raced through my mind:

Jules was in a musical…and her director, talented, but fiery in spirit, often said unfavorable things to the cast. The negative comments were not directed toward her, but her castmates. However, one day, my daughter and the cast mates she worked with most closely were the recipient of sarcastic, hurtful remarks. When I picked her up that evening, I asked if there had been any blow ups at rehearsal. Jules calmly explained the situation, with no inflammatory remarks toward anyone. I was livid that an adult spoke to my child this way. I asked my daughter’s response which was,

“Mom! It wasn’t about me. I’ve watched the director interact with the cast and it’s just how this particular director chooses to work. It isn’t the best way to address things, but it also isn’t personal. I don’t need to own this and feel upset. I’ll keep doing my best and look for what I need to work on in the midst of words that are unpleasant to hear.”

connected teens

The silence in our van was deep and wide. I had to catch my breath, reflecting on the maturity of my first born. In all honesty, had it been me, I would have probably debriefed it with about three friends and let it bother me for days. I’m guessing my 14 year old would never have mentioned the event had I not asked. Her ability to measure the situation with such maturity took my breath away.

As I reflected on my daughter’s capacity to face unwarranted hostility, I took up courage and strength and made a choice. The person who yelled at me wasn’t my issue to take on. It wasn’t about me! Because of the strength garnered from my daughter’s example, I faced my adversary calmly, respectfully, and even validated this person’s feelings about the situation.

And the words from Romans 12:18-21 immediately rang true:

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will replay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’” 
Those verses references are from Proverbs 25 where the Lord concludes, “In doing this, the Lord will reward you.” I was rewarded immediately, with a peace flooding my own soul.

My oldest son was sitting out by our fire pit, looking deep in thought. I went out and asked if I could join him. I told him I would be up for listening to anything that might be on his mind. He slowly opened up to me some troubles he was having with a sibling. I looked at this almost a man, but still my little boy in absolute awe. Five years ago, this boy suffered with an overactive sense of justice. He kept me on my toes and my knees as we dealt with his often big emotions which could disrupt the household. Today, he quietly shared his struggle with kindness toward a misbehaving sibling. He told me he was asking God for wisdom and help to love this family member with an enduring “love you no matter what” kind of tenderness.

connected teens

I felt tears spilling over my eyes. I confessed my own struggle to love unconditionally when this family member acts out. Putting my arm around my son in understanding, I shared how his godly response was exactly the example I needed to move forward in parenting this child. He looked at his own actions and went running to Jesus for help. I shared how proud I was of the character growth, humility and love, he exhibited. We prayed together…asking God for wisdom, growth, and His spirit of kindness and love. We prayed for our sweet family, lifting up the challenges we face together. Humbly we asked for God’s Spirit to reign in the midst of the joy and the heartache.

We walked back into the house and I silently thanked God for intervening in our family so many years ago now.

There were so many times in the beginning of our journey as we began to change our mind set from “adversarial” parenting, to a more connected approach, that I doubted and wondered if this was the right way to go. I have no question anymore. My children are more equipped to face the world and it’s challenges as young teens, than I was in my first few years of marriage. I’m learning from their depth of insight and maturity and challenged to be a better version of myself. What a gift to move from a place of trying to control these little hearts, to a place of freeing them to be who God intended.

Giving our kids a safe home where they know they are loved no matter what; where they understand they are God’s workmanship, created to be a blessing; creating an environment where our children are responsible for their actions and moving toward wisdom is something I will never regret. I’ve been struggling the past couple of months to implement these messages consistently with a couple of my kids. I’m re-energized as I see my older children living them out on their own. And I’m ready to re-commit myself to living out these values in our home.

I hope you choose to join me in my own journey. Together, let’s reach our kid’s hearts for the sake of Jesus and reconciling our children and others to God.

How to Become a Wise and Peaceful Parent

wisdom

When I speak with moms about making connections to our kid’s hearts, I often hear things such as: “How can you stay so calm? I’m way too fiery.” Or, “How do you know what to say? I could never think to say those kinds of things to my kids in the moment.”

I want to share with you a little secret. When my parenting paradigm began to shift to a more connected approach, I was fiery and didn’t know what to say either. To be totally truthful, I’m STILL fiery. My personality and temperament are a gift from God and they haven’t changed.

A change has taken place, not in my personality, but in my submission to God’s beautiful ways…which are not my own. As I understand more of who God truly is and what it really means to walk in unity with Him, I am able to trust and submit more of who I am, to let Him mold me.

I mess up. A lot. When I was beginning to learn the messages of connection from Connected Families…the mess ups were sometimes, literally, All. Day. Long. I wanted to communicate safety, love no matter what, that my kids were capable and responsible for their actions. However, that didn’t always happen.

My kids were just laughing about a day that I THOUGHT I was living out the messages. At the sweet age of 8, I told my son that because he argued with all of my instruction that he could live a day WITHOUT instruction and parent himself. I thought this was so creative. I was going to teach him to listen to me! What I ACTUALLY communicated was rejection, throughout the day. I remember talking to my friend Jim on the phone later in the afternoon telling him what I had done. I felt depressed, realizing I had pushed my boy away and did nothing to grow anything lasting in him. Jim helped me come up with ways to communicate better with my boy, and thankfully we ended the day with a strong message of acceptance and love.

Often times, though I WANTED to communicate grace-filled responses, my old responses of anger, control, conditional love, and “you aren’t capable,” would creep into my interactions with my kids. It isn’t in the natural part of my spirit to give life-giving, always loving messages.If I make a mistake and then tell myself, “I’ll never change, I just can’t do this. I’m too fiery. I don’t know what to say,” then I’m also saying, “My kids aren’t worth me sacrificing myself for better parenting.” I love my kids passionately…but I’m not able to walk in perfection. Letting go of perfection has helped. 

wisdom

So, let’s get practical. When I find myself responding with anger or sarcasm, saying or doing something that isn’t my new heart for parenting, I do the following: I stop. I remove myself from the situation and take time to calm myself before I say any more. I ask God for wisdom. Then I go back and practice what we call a “do-over.” I look at my child and simply say, “I’m sorry. When I was sarcastic just now, that isn’t that kind of parent I want to be, nor the message I want to give to you. Will you forgive me? May I have a do over?” Then, I try the interaction again, sharing the messages I want to share, in a manner that shows love and safety to my child. 

In the beginning, my do-overs were numerous times a day. As I continued to practice this act of evaluating, repenting, apologizing, trying again, I started to notice something. Sometimes, I would stop myself right in the middle of an immature interaction and try again. Then, one day, I realized my do-overs were getting less and my wisdom-filled responses started becoming more of who I was.

An added bonus, I was communicating several strong messages to my kids:
  1. It’s OK to be authentic and bring mistakes to the light.
  2. Modeling repentance and asking for forgiveness has given them the tools to do this in their own relationships.
  3. Grace and truth are high values in our home.
  4. God changes our hearts, and sanctification takes time. We can be patient with each other as we grow.

After years of practicing do-overs, calming myself, and communicating unconditional love, safety, humility, and wisdom to my children, it has become more of who I am. It is more natural now. God has been using my continual trusting Him in the midst of my own misbehavior to change my heart, over time. So much so, that I don’t even recognize myself in the comments from the moms with whom I’m blessed to interact. 

You can do this too. You don’t need to stay enslaved to a temperament that needs refining. Growing in wisdom takes time. I don’t have all the answers and say everything perfectly to my kids. However, I’m doing better. You can do better too. Let go of the perfectionistic thoughts that tell you, you have to do it right all the time to do it at all. Those are lies from an enemy who wants to steal our kid’s hearts. Fight it. The victory is already yours, waiting for you to pick it up and take it. You CAN connect with your kid’s hearts.

Love Your Kids Challenge

Love Challenge

Think back to the pre-parenting days when you wanted to be a mom or dad. Remember when you looked at the positive pregnancy test or heard/saw your baby’s heartbeat the first time? Do you recall the day you got the call from your adoption agency or social worker? Your child was ready to come home? What did you feel like the first time your saw your child’s face, tiny hands and feet, smelled their skin? Can you still feel the warmth, the longing to protect, soothe, and sacrifice for this new life in your home?

love challenge

Love challenge

Those first moments with our children are some of the sweetest moments in our lives. As time wears on, the feelings fade a bit. We sin against our children in our selfishness at times. Our children sin against us in their willfulness. At some point we have to stop the continual gazing at our child and go on with life. Our joyful zeal diminishes and our ideals take a back seat to sleepless nights, feedings, crying, diapers, toddler messes, homework, activities, sibling rivalry, teenage heartaches and mistakes.

Have you stopped smiling at your kids?

Do you feel disillusioned and disappointed? Tired and complacent? Are you lacking peace, contentment? Do you feel angry? Have you stopped gazing at your children and smiling?

Some of you have children home for the Summer months. (Or in our case, a loose schedule as we are not “formally” educating our children and taking a homeschool break.) My heart breaks a little bit every time I see a mom post on social media how she needs a wine break by 10 am. I hurt when I see the looks on little faces when moms talk about how they can’t wait for Summer to end so mom can get her freedom back. Let’s do better moms and dads!

If you are familiar with Connected Families, then you may know their Family Framework to help you grow in God’s grace and truth: 1. You are safe with me. 2. You are loved no matter what! 3. You are God’s workmanship, created to be a blessing. 4. You are responsible for your actions. I want to issue a challenge from the second point:

How can I communicate love in all circumstances?

What does it look like to love your kids when things are going well?
Will you show love to your children for no particular reason?
How can you love your children even in misbehavior?

Love challenge

How can you fill your Summer with messages of love and acceptance toward your children?

Here are a few ways you can practice communicating love this Summer:
~SMILE! Don’t underestimate how much our children need to see warmth in our face.

~Listen to your tone of voice. Are you harsh and disinterested? Be intentional to speak with gentleness and sweetness. Show interest in what your kids are saying and sharing. Laugh.

~When you children fight, stop yourself from sighing and feeling exasperated. Look at their fights as opportunities to help them learn about the world and relationships.

~Do you have a child stuck in disobedience or rebellion? Hug them! Find an activity you can both enjoy together and do it. Don’t wait until they “clean up their act” to show them tenderness and interest in being with them. Love them now in the midst of their sin! (Remember God’s lavish love for you.)

~If you have a day with nothing planned and everything is going swell…surprise them! Take them to Sonic happy hour for a candy slushie. Go to a library event or puppet show. Find a free kid movie and go together. Hit an amusement park or go shopping. It doesn’t have to be glamorous or expensive. Just play together and enjoy it without distraction!

~Is it hard to like one of your children, much less love them right now? It is up to YOU to bridge the gap and mend the relationship. Take the lead. Encourage your child in this difficult time and show love even when you may not feel it. Take a walk together. Read a book aloud. Ride bikes. Listen to your child’s favorite music. Watch their favorite YouTube channel together.

~Set down your phones and walk away from your computers and devices. Enough said.

Love Challenge
Join me in this challenge to Love Your Kids No Matter What.

Think back to those first moments of tenderness and the thankfulness you felt for each of your kids. God has given you a great blessing and gift to parent the child(ren) in your home. Don’t forget it. Remember the joy. The days are fleeting and you won’t regret loving your children with a deep, sacrificial, unconditional love.

Let me know if you are with me!
~Swannie Mom