In part two of this two part article, MCC Counselor, Lisa, talks about how good parenting doesn’t always mean putting your child first. Sometimes, it means just the opposite.
My husband’s “quick fix” policy on the sink, along with my shoving food down it to make it work, in the long run, didn’t work out so well for us.
When our kids go through “phases” and “stages” it usually means a lot of unease and frustration for the parent. This can create a temptation to start using some quick fixes like yelling, threatening, warning, and making excuses. Phases and stages are a part of seeing our kids hit various developmental milestones, but when the phases or stages have to do with negative behaviors or attitudes, if left to “quick fixes,” these can build into something that is much harder to handle. Behaviors can grow on top of each other and create a lot of stink and with children, even tragedy.
Susan Klebold, the mother of Dylan who was one of the young men who killed 12 students, one teacher, and himself in the Columbine shootings wrote an article for O magazine, sharing her feelings at not seeing the warning signs that had Dylan provided for many years prior to the tragedy. She reported that Dylan slept in a lot, spent a lot of time in his room, and played a lot of violent video games on a computer he had built. He lost his enjoyment for school/learning and hung out with friends he got into legal trouble with. His plans for Columbine were not made over night. Pages of suicidal thoughts were found in his room and he had turned in a paper at school that had chilling similarities to Columbine.
This may seem like an extreme example of the tragedy that can play out when we ignore warning signs from our kids. However, if it does sound extreme to you, I would encourage you to research suicide, pornography, and substance abuse use in the children and teenage population. It is happening and it is frequent. It is in Christian homes and secular alike.
So how can we keep the drain from getting clogged up? How can we keep things from backing up and creating a huge stink? I will propose one effective parenting tool that can be used from toddlers to teenagers and can be used to keep our parenting drains clog free and it is learned from a flight attendant.
I CALL IT THE FLIGHT ATTENDANTS PRINCIPLE.
Each day, all across America, flight attendants remind people, “In case of an emergency, masks will fall from the above compartments. For those of you with young children, put the oxygen mask on yourselves and then put the oxygen mask on your child.” Why do the flight attendants remind parents of this on every flight? Because, we can do nothing beneficial if we are not taking good care of ourselves. (read that again.) Living stressed out/over worked/over activitied/over deviced lives can only go on for so long before everyone suffers. Again, this is akin to continually cramming food down the disposal, and not realizing that this grime and grease will eventually clog the pipes. Find out what you can cut (throw away), cut it out and add in the important things that provide oxygen (or degreaser for your pipes), like prayer, Bible studies with your family, meals together, playing board games, sitting and talking. Remember, fooling ourselves into the idea that taking care of our kids is rushing from work to ballet, basketball, piano, cub scouts, math tutoring, and the homeless shelter, and grabbing take out on the way is like me fooling myself that just a little bacon grease won’t hurt a thing.
Side note: I would be amiss if I did not mention electronics at this point. Don’t allow this electronic world to take over you or your child. Our children are over-deviced in this nation. Video games, music, television, phones, I-things, are taking over families, parents included. Turn them off, manage them, use them appropriately, and don’t let them take your child. This can go a long way in keeping children’s thoughts and behaviors on track.
THE SECOND PART OF THE FLIGHT ATTENDANT’S PRINCIPLE IS A REMINDER THAT WHEN THE PLANE IS HEADING SOUTH, WE NEED TO FOCUS ON OURSELVES.
In other words, when our kids are trying out less than impressive moods and behaviors, the best thing we can do as parents is focus on ourselves. That’s right, get very self-absorbed! Why? We want to model taking good care of ourselves physically, emotionally, and spiritually, so that, our kids can learn to take good care of themselves and others. So when my kid puts forth nasty moods or behaviors, I focus on myself. I focus on our family values, on what I’m willing to do or not do, and what I have time and energy for. Jim Fay and Foster Cline, authors of Parenting With Love and Logic, talk about words we can use that are “enforceable.” These are words that start with “I” and keep the focus on what I am able or willing to do. “I allow kids to stay in this room that talk in a respectful way.” “I take kids to soccer that follow my directions without yelling at me.” In the above examples, notice the use of the general term “kids” as opposed to saying “you.” When parents do this, it takes the focus on the issue, which is the behavior or attitude that needs changed. It also provides the child with important information; what the adult is willing to do. This helps keep kids and parents from getting side-tracked on the emotion of the negative mood or behavior and allows the child to make choices for themselves that are in their best interest.
THIRD, JUST LIKE PIPES HAVE TO BE OPEN IN ORDER FOR THINGS TO WORK RIGHT, IF WE WANT OUR FAMILIES TO RUN SMOOTHLY, WE HAVE TO KEEP THE LINES OF COMMUNICATION OPEN AND WORKING.
With children and especially teenagers, this can be difficult. We say, “How was your day?” and what do we get? One-word answers. The more we ask, the more they shut down. The Flight Attendants Principle can help parents with communication too. If we want our kids to talk about themselves, we need to focus on ourselves. Instead of opening conversations with our kids by asking them questions, we start by sharing. Saying things like, “I had the craziest day today….” “I had a real downer today….” “I had a kind of boring day today…” Sharing the goods, bads (yes, even mistakes), and indifferents, with our kids, allows them to do the same. When we share, it takes the focus off of the child, and allows them to feel comfortable sharing. Bottom line, kids are more willing to share when they feel like it is a conversation and not an interrogation.
Other ways to ensure communication lines stay open:
1. Talking while doing an activity like playing basketball, playing a board game, or riding bikes, is a way to keep the child from feeling focused on.
2. Use the power of touch. Positive touch, this can include everything from hugging and snuggling to wrestling and bear hugging (any age kid!).
3. Be in your kids business. Parents want to respect their child’s privacy so much sometimes that they are totally oblivious to major issues. In the world we live in, privacy can leave our kids vulnerable to be taken hold of by all kinds of evil.
4. Get help from professionals if you believe the moods or behaviors are not typical or are lasting too long. Don’t be afraid to seek help. Sometimes what a child is dealing with can be deep. To be frank, if you rely on quick fixes, it may blow up in your face.
Living in “survival mode” is sometimes a necessary part of life, but if it becomes the way of life, there will be consequences. My husband could only ignore the sink problem so long before it cost us. Sometimes taking a little extra time to root out the problem can curtail major consequences later. Pay attention to the signs your kids give you! They are usually loud and clear if you are willing to listen instead of ignore, warn, threaten or deny them.
Lisa is a Licensed Profession Counselor for McGuire Christian Counseling and the creator of Positive and Powerful Christian Parenting, a curriculum that provides practical parenting skills to effectively handle day-to-day struggles, while focusing on the long-term goal of raising mature Christians. To find out more about Lisa or to schedule an appointment or find out more about Positive and Powerful Christian Parenting classes, call 417-866-7773 or write to us on our Contact Us Page.
 Cline, Foster, and Jim Fay. Parenting with Love and Logic: Teaching Children Responsibility. Colorado Springs, CO: Piñon, 2006. Print.