Parenting without Tears

Is parenting without tears even healthy? Find out why it is important to have a soft heart.

Have you ever been told that becoming a Christian would make your life better? I have, and I am still waiting for that truth.  When my daughter was struggling with depression and anxiety, it was the most painful time in my life, filled with distress and lots and lots of tears.

praying dad copy 206x300 Parenting without TearsIn church this week, our pastor spoke about ‘lamenting’ and what it means to ‘sow your tears.’  In Psalms 126, David talks about reaping a harvest of joy after tears have been sown. It seems paradoxical, but the pastor gave such a meaningful explanation of grief and suffering that made it seem, well, much more positive and hopeful.  In the book of Ezekiel, God talks about taking hearts of stone from his people and replacing them with hearts of flesh. So, when we become followers of Jesus, our pain actually increases as our hearts are made softer than they were before.

Often our daughter would tell us, “Other parents don’t care if their kids drink, stay out, have sex… so why do you care?”  Sometimes I wish I didn’t care so much, but my relationship with Jesus has actually softened my heart so much that I can’t help but notice and care.  The world tells us to “let go.”  Even counselors will sometimes suggest that your authority and power is limited and so if we can’t stop certain behaviors, we should just accept them.  After all, “they are just teens” and we should just “expect certain behaviors.”  This idea to care less is difficult for a soft heart that recognizes the eternal nature of our humanity.  I am not sure that what we are walking through with our teens as parents should just be endured or ignored.  Maybe instead we should open ourselves up and allow ourselves to feel this pain more deeply and sow our tears…let ourselves feel the full brunt of sorrow.  Throughout the Bible, grief and deep sorrow is one of the first steps in how believers grow and this might be key to how we become better leaders in our homes.

So, what are we supposed to do with all this pain? How do we plant our tears in order to reap joy?  Some of us are really good at trying to overcome our pain, or we minimize it, stuff it down and just hope it goes away. Our culture of individualism even teaches us to ignore pain, have a stiff upper lip, and resolve issues with our own strength. This is destructive because it is not in our nature to ‘hold’ pain and if we don’t recognize our pain we will transmit it to others.  The way to sow our tears is to bring our sorrow, suffering and pain to the God who knows what it feels like. No other god in this world was a sufferer…not one of them was ever weak, vulnerable or in pain. Jesus was. His heart of flesh was perfect, which is why we read that he cried so many times in the stories of His life. He is One who relates to pain, has felt sorrow in the deepest places of His heart and was able to pray and worship His way through those times. Don’t be afraid to lament…to lay down those ugly feelings and get real with Jesus. When we sow these tears, not only does He collect them, but He also plants them into our lives and then brings a harvest of joy out of the dry ground. Try reading through some of the Psalms of lament and use them as your prayers during difficult times. You might be surprised what you reap.

 

How do I get my teen off the couch?

Getting your teen off your couch is often says more about your parenting skills than it does about the teen.  We all need a little Parent Training because we tend to lack the courage to follow through on our directives.  If it is time to take back your home this short Parent Training might be for you.

1. No problem for you.

    • When we rescue the teenagers in our lives from difficulties THAT THEY COULD manage, we teach them two valuable lessons.  One, they can get others to do their work.  This produces entitlement and in working in mental health for a decade, I can say nobody who is entitled is happy.  No one.
    • Teenagers won’t do work that somebody else is willing to do for them.  You were that way when you were a teenager.  I was too.  And I was good at it!
    • Parents should believe enough in the teenagers who are in their lives to empower them through serving in a consultant role.

2. Offer choices.

    • As you are listening, encouraging, consider offering some choices if the teenager is stuck.
    • Remember your presentation of possible choices is YOUR job.  Choosing and enacting them is theirs.
    • Caregivers need to remember that a teenager can only score a goal if the teenager possesses the ball.

3. Consequences only.

    • Consequences are the teacher.  Enjoyable consequences and not so enjoyable consequences.
    • Many folks who support teenagers, including me, are incessantly tempted to REMIND students of what they learned.  I can then become construed fairly as condescending and the teenager then works to prove to me that they didn’t learn anything.
    • Remember, none of us like other peoples’ ideas as much as we like our own!  So we can smile, listen, love, consult, hug, then leave.

4. Don’t warn or remind.

  • With regard to warnings and reminders, I have learned two things from the teenagers God places in my life.  One, they teach others to not own what the adult intends the teenager to own.
  • If I remind a teenager 5 times to get off the Wii, then I’ve just taught that teenager that he doesn’t have to listen to me until the 5th time.
  • The real world doesn’t usually offer reminders.

5. Don’t justify or defend.

  • When we justify our authority, it’s because WE don’t feel you have enough of it; that’s about us not them.

 

Parent Training reminds caregivers that a teenager can only score a goal if the teenager possesses the ball. Call to find out more parenting tips

5 Tips to Communicate Accountability

These are five great ways to develop accountability within your relationship with your teen.  These steps look simple but they do take some practice…. we dare you to give them an honest shot.

1. Wait until calm.

    • We don’t do good work when we’re angry.
    • The 93% of a message that’s communicated non verbally doesn’t lie.
    • When we engage while angry, teenager focuses on our anger not there misbehavior

2. Stop talking sooner.

    • Teenagers don’t especially enjoy or appreciate adult speeches.
    • People don’t appreciate lectures and generally don’t like the ideas of others.
    • Famous communicator, Dale Carnegie, reminds us that people like their own ideas not those of others.
    • Actively listen, reflect, and promote exploration of THOSE (their ideas)

3. Lock-in empathy.

    • This is the cornerstone of both Love and Logic and proficient interpersonal relations.
    • This cannot be faked; especially with teenagers who are walking, living, breathing, polygraph machines.
    • For example, explore the Fruit of the Spirit Paul writes in Galatians chapter 5.  We can’t fake those.

4. Listen and confirm

    • Teenagers don’t always need to have their way, they do always need to have their way listened to.
    • We all crave a listening ear more than we do an open hand.
    • Teenagers don’t need us to do everything for them.
    • Erik Erikson’s Psychosocial Stages of Development.  Folks 13-18. Identity versus role confusion. Learn it.  It will bless you.
    • Listen and validate their feelings (not necessarily their behavior: Proverbs 15: 1 “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

5. Problem for teenager.

    • When we consistently rescue teenagers from the low to no risk challenges in their lives, we actually rob them of learning opportunities they need to develop feelings of agency over their lives.
    • Often, we as caregivers for teenagers, want SO much to reduce our perceptions of their struggles, we rescue them.  This sends a potent, damaging, and unspoken message that the teenager is incapable.  Who wants to teach the teenager in their lives THAT?  Adolescents learn from two vehicles only:  Experience and Example.
    • We focus on supporting teenagers through loving and empowering accountability.