“Knock it off! Stop it! Get over here, NOW!” These are familiar phrases for most parents. When kids act up we get frustrated. We get demanding and even disrespectful. Kids may comply with our demands in the short run, but over the long haul they learn from our example to be frustrated, demanding, and disrespectful when they’re not getting their way.
Dustin was becoming this kind of parent. He saw where it was leading and knew he wanted to walk a different road. Determined to become a different kind of dad, he immersed himself in a new way of thinking. Where once his primary goal was quick fixes and parental control, he developed the new primary goal to come alongside his kids as a model of God’s grace and guidance. It’s been hard work and it’s far from finished. But this recent report from Dustin shows the results:
My two elementary school-aged boys, Nate and Ethan,* were playing football in the backyard. Nate got mad at Ethan and came to me to tell about it in great detail.
Here’s the conversation that followed:
Me: “Nate, thank you for telling me all this information, but what you told me doesn’t help Ethan understand that you feel wronged. Nate, look at Ethan (he was still playing football with another friend) and tell me — who has the problem?”
Nate: “I do. I have the problem and I am mad… and Ethan… he is having fun outside.” (That made Nate even more upset!)
Me: “I agree. Then tell Ethan the problem.”
Nate: “See! You don’t care!”
Me: “Oh no, I do care very much, but I don’t have the problem with you and you don’t have the problem with me.”
Nate: “Ethan won’t care.”
Me: (Smiling) “I bet you a chocolate that Ethan will care.”
Nate got Ethan’s attention and they walked away to talk privately. Three minutes later I went out and found the boys smiling, arm in arm. Even though I won the bet I tossed Nate a chocolate to emphasize the “win” in this for everyone.
Me: “Looks like I owe you a chocolate.”
Nate tossed back the chocolate with a HUGE grin.
Nate: “No you don’t!”
I threw the chocolate back anyway as if to say, “Way to work things out on your own!”
Me: “Enjoy the chocolate, boys.” I walked back inside, and the boys ended up having a great day playing together.
At face value this result may seem overly simple or too good to be true. You might think, “That would never happen with my kids.” A year ago Dustin would have said the same thing! Only recently has he fairly consistently seen his kids more respectfully manage their own relationships and responsibilities.
However, the biggest change so far is Dustin. He’s a new dad. It’s taken much reflection, confession, determination, and unlearning of old habits. But he knew that with a vision for being a coach, not a controller, he could slowly disciple his kids toward maturity. His newfound skills are evident in his report.
If you want results like Dustin’s, it takes the same depth of commitment that he made. This is not about “fixing” our kids, it’s about becoming the parent you want to be. Of course the irony is that as you become this new parent, your kids will slowly change too. Parents who tenaciously focus on their own growth gain deep respect from their kids and increased influence in their kids’ lives.
— by Jim Jackson
Jackson is the co-founder of Connected Families, author, speaker and parent mentor. Learn more at www.connectedfamilies.org.