Today, Dove (11 year old daughter) came to me crying saying that Seven (7 year old son) had called her a “stupid bully”. Our default is to have Dove express her feelings to Seven and then reprimand Seven and have him apologize. Today I tried something different.
I asked Dove if she, in fact, was a “stupid bully.” At first, she seemed taken aback. She then quickly reiterated that she told Seven not to say that and that he wasn’t doing it out of love. I said that I understood all of that but that she didn’t answer my question. I once again asked her if she was a stupid bully. I could tell that she didn’t know how to answer the question so I opened it up to a broader audience. I asked around the table if there was anyone in the room that was, or had been, a stupid bully. I rased my hand. I shared that I had a history of being a stupid bully. Kami also raised her hand and shared that sometimes she bosses the kids around in anger. Then…… Dove raised her hand. I was able to embrace her with a high 5 and say “Oh, I’m really glad your mom and I aren’t the only stupid bullies around here.” I then expressed how crazy it is that the Bible claims to love us given the fact that we are all stupid bullies at times and far worse. I told her she was loved and has full freedom to accept this and other parts of her identity that are hard to swallow sometimes. Then I suggested that she could actually thank Seven for being honest and pointing this out to her. (He was listening to this whole conversation). She then half begrudgingly/half smilingly/half seriously said “Thank you Seven for bring honest and pointing this out to me.”
Then we talked to Seven about love and his use of hurtful words.
In parenting, we’re learning that modifying behavior and controlling chaos is the easier and far more temporary solution to life. Moments that allow us to teach children about how deeply they are loved and accepted will soften hearts and change a child and a family from the inside out. This is permanent. So, I would like to take this moment to assure you that if you are, or have ever been a stupid bully it is ok. The Bible claims that you are fully accepted for who you are, because of what Jesus has done, and not based upon anything you ever do or anyone you pretend to be.
If we actually were able to embrace our identity as a fallen yet accepted people it would remove the power that we give to others to define our worth. Insults true or un-true will not matter. It doesn’t come from denying reality though, it comes from accepting it.
Yesterday my my two oldest girls and I talked for almost half an hour. They poured their hearts out to me and each other and at one point all three of us were crying. It was one of my proudest moments as a father but it wasn’t always this way. Among parents (and especially among religious, traditional, or intentional parents) there is so much pressure to raise good and obedient children. Our proudest moments are when we hear things like “Oh you’re children are so well behaved” or “You’re children are so quiet”. And, as a result, the majority of our energy goes into reinforcing this behavior and our biggest fears become the moment at the grocery store or in front of friends when a child freaks out or rebels.
But our proudest parenting moments should not be about obedience, they should be about intimacy. This was modeled to us by a God in the Bible who wanted to walk with his children in a garden. He brought them to a mountain to see them but they sent a representative. He wanted to rule them directly but they preferred a king. The more this happened obedience began to replace intimacy in our relationships with God. It has also done this in our parenting.
What’s the alternative? To begin to prioritize the type of relationship with children where we draw them to our hearts. In doing this we model how our God draws us to his heart. Instead of freaking out about disobedience start freaking about the patterns and moments where we resort to behaviors and wrote verbage to feel good. To begin to brag about how close the Heavenly Father wants to be with us and how close we want to be with our children. As our children draw closer to our heart and the heart of The Father they will become obedient. But they will also become more compassionate and humble. And a whole bunch of other things that just following rules never seems to accomplish.
PHOTO: Grandpa with grandkids on lap at Speghetti Factory.
Explanation of INFOGRAPH
If you are a parent of multiple children, your children tell on each other….all…the…time. It goes something like this:
One child comes and tells you that another of your children broke a rule. Then our immediate response is to play detective, figure out which rules were broken, and try and enforce the rule that was broken with the child that broke the rule ….when we have the energy.
I’m starting to believe that the majority of parenting should be directed towards molding the hearts of our children. I have also come to believe that the majority of our energy is spent modifying behavior and surviving situations.
We are teaching our children that the state of their actions takes precedent over the state of their heart. To take the story of the prodigal son we are rewarding our children for being the rule following older son who respects the rules instead of the rule-breaking younger son. It’s not to say that rules are not important or should not be taught but there is a much more difficult and valuable lesson that underlies it all. The far greater lesson of this story and each instance with our children is the opportunity to present them with the love of the Father God and the impact that this has in giving us compassion and a desire to pass this love on. How do we do this?
I’ve recently come to the conclusion that dealing the VERY common instance of tattle tailing is the quickest way to undersand and implement change. And instead of facilitating and even encouraging children to come and turn other children in on the basis of rules we should start to look at the hearts of both children; the one doing the reporting and the reported.
Here’s a loose framework of the process with some notes in yellow but it all begins with the question of trying to understand the heart of the reporting sibling by asking “Are you trying to help or just get someone in trouble?”
(CLICK TO ENLARGE)
For the last 3 years the biggest area of change in philosophy and action has been in regards to how Kami and I see family. This is a training discussion that we lead in our home with about 20 people sharing our story and the things that have had the biggest impact on us. In short, we discuss the difference between holding a more American or individualistic viewpoint of family vs a more historical or international viewpoint of family as a multi-generational team.
You may be interested if:
- You struggle with having enough time for work/family
- You or your kids struggle with sibling rivalry.
- As a working man you derive more satisfaction from accomplishments at work than family
- You have no idea why people would have kids.
- You feel bad sticking your parents in a nursing home someday but not as bad as having them stay at your house.
- You’re looking for an excuse to be self-employed.
You can DOWNLOAD the MP3 HERE
Also if you want to see the slide deck from the Keynote Presentation to follow along visually you can VIEW the PDF HERE
I am not against spanking. I am not against punishment. In fact the very reason why I do either of those is the same reason that is prompting me to stop. For me the purpose of parenting is to train my children. The reason why I spank(ed) them is because there is an age where I believe that is the best way to teach them. As the children grow so must the teaching methods. Over time we stopped spanking and started more “age appropriate” forms of discipline.
For the last 3 weeks I have been thinking about how I parent my oldest 2 daughters (Dove age 7 and Eden age 5). I have concluded that the majority of my parenting with them revolved around some form of punishment. Loss of privileges, time outs, etc. I have also realized that, not only do these forms of discipline distract from my goals as a parent, I think there are times when it conflicts with them.
The disobedience of a child is one of the best opportunities to teach. It is amazing how receptive children are to this instruction. Given this, I find it amazing that my first instinct is to resort to a 5 minute time out. I mean, think about it. You hear these stories of teenagers who are grounded for months. Have the parents talked to the children about how and why the crime was committed and really concluded that this is the most effective way to teach them the applicable lesson? This seems like a really bad way to teach most anything. Most of my memories of punishment produced a very strong desire to not get caught and almost no desire to grow, change, or learn. And yet, this is still my default parenting mode. After thinking about it, I think there are two reason why I do this:
- It is, by far, the easiest.
- I am somewhat afraid and intimidated by legitimately teaching my children
In the Bible there are so many references and examples of God punishing His children but there are far more references to Him teaching and instructing them. In our house, I fear that there are far more examples of punishment than there are teaching. This is perfect if we want to raise a military family in which the children learn to respect and fear the parents and any other authority figures. . But this is not our goal. We want to raise a family where the children fall in love with God and the other members of the family. I feel like this goal requires tools that are more complicated and difficult than punishment.
Therefore, effective immediately Kami and I are going to attempt the following. When a child breaks a rule, disobeys or does something that “deserves” punishment we will ask ourselves the following:
- What do we want our child to learn from this situation?
- What is the best way that we can teach them this lesson in a way that will have a life long impact and not just help us to survive the minute, hour, week, or month?
We’ll let you know how it goes. What are some things you have learned about teaching your children?
So Dove and I went on a date tonight. I could tell you about it but I think she’d do a better job. You can read about it on HER BLOG!
So these are a list of some of the things that Dove learned through blogging:
- How to handle and use a digital camera
- How to take pictures
- How to connect the camera to computer and upload digital pictures to iphoto
- How to delete, sort, filter and edit pictures for future use
- How to navigate to wordpress.com
- How to create a post and upload images.
- How to generate content using basic word processing skills
- How to type
- How to use spellchecker. she figured this one out when she asked what all the red dots under her words were. She still has a little bit of work for this one.
Dove will be spending time blogging daily, as part of her lessons in writing, technology, and communication. So, feel free to logon and send her a comment or respond to one of her posts.