A Parenting Secret that Makes a Difference

10:56 AMHeather

Parenting isn't for wimps.  No doubt.  I've thought this all along.  It's not for the lazy and selfish.  And if you weren't insecure before, you just might face some insecurity as you learn how to care for another human being. Because, I for one, find myself facing this question a million times over--am I doing this the right way? 

We've entered a new season of parenting here at my house.  And it's brutiful, fitting the word described in this blog post.  It's amazing to watch my kids enter middle school and high school and to see them grow and mature and become incredible young people who love Jesus and make wise choices and share Scripture through text messages.  It's heart wrenching to give them space to spread their wings and to try to know when to let go and when not to.  And, as any parent of teens and pre-teens know--it's quite a trick some days to even know when to dialogue and when to just give them space.  

Ugh.  Sure, no one follows me to the bathroom anymore.  But, this season is exhausting in new ways.  Emotionally.  Mentally.  Spiritually.  And, I find myself shooting arrow prayers directed at heaven on a very regular basis.  It was in one of those moments that I felt a gentle nudge.   I leaned in and gleaned a parenting secret that I am finding makes a difference.  

So, of course, I'm not going to hold out on you, bloggy friends.  Perhaps you, too, can benefit from this God granted wisdom.  It's a subtle switch in perspective.  

It's keeping my eyes laser focused on this one word--connection.  Instead of focusing on correction, as I tend to do in my natural bent.  If I can approach my interactions and decisions and prayers on connection with my kids as the center from which I correct or encourage or engage, then I think I'll have a leg up.  No, scratch that.  I KNOW I'll have a leg up.    

I seem to find myself in exasperating moments of dealing with an egocentric young person whose pre-frontal cortex is not fully developed.   Meaning that part of the brain that controls mood swings and decision making and processing.  And, this is what I want to do.

Disclaimer:  That is not actually me.  Nor is that a child of mine. 

I want to point my finger in their face and say, "What were you thinking?!"  Unfortunately, I often do just that.  And, I know it's fruitless to ask such a question--because they usually have no idea WHY.  Nor does the why matters as much as the what they need to do instead and how they need to right their wrong.  But, I do it anyway.  I'm personally offended.  Because, you know, it's personal.  I'm the mom.  I'm the authority.  C'mon now--haven't I taught you anything?


It's in the moments that I see myself doing what I know won't be effective yet I do it anyway.  And my mind wanders back to two little books I read that are, by far, the books I recommend the most often.

I am NOT overselling it to say that if you read one parenting book (or two, if you have children of both genders) then THIS is the must read.  Dannah Gresh offers understandable secular research to support Biblical parenting principles with practical and easy tips.  And the overarching take-away that I got from these books was the idea of connectedness.

That connectedness, as research indicates, is highly regarded as the most effective means of preventing poor decisions and problems for your children.  Simply put, the more connected they are to their parents, the better they do.  More than the type of education they received.  More than the success they achieve in sports or extracurricular.  CONNECTEDNESS is where it's at.

Yes!  I can do that.  

But, in this season of parenting my growing children, I sensed that day that God was challenging me to take this one step further.  To not be offended that my children seem to be pushing me away in this time of peer influence.  To not just remember the importance of connectedness, but to see the wisdom of choosing connection AT TIMES over correction.  Pick your battles, in other words, for the sake of relationship.

Listen--I'm not saying I'm trying to be my kids' best friends instead of disciplining when necessary.  But, here is what I am saying.  When I find myself in that downward spiral of clashing head-to-head with a child that leads to what feels like constant friction, I need a lifeline.  I need a life preserver to pull myself out of it, bringing my child with me to the surface.  These are the times or days when I find myself feeling like a picky, broken record.  And my child feels like a picked-on failure.  

And somethings gotta give.

THIS is where I feel God challenging me to look at connection.  Look at the big picture.  Is there a way to quickly deal with the discipline and find connection with my child?  Can I choose to applaud their small victories and challenge them to use their maturity to find a better solution?  Instead of just scolding them?  A lecture divides us.  A few words, consequence, and relationship building go a long way.  

I can choose to get wound up over the offenses.  Or, I can choose to ask the Lord to show me how to connect with the heart of my child while moving them gently in the right direction.  Yes, parenting is exasperating at times.  But, I'm the grown up.  So, I'm really, really, really working on intentionally praying for God to give me eyes to see my kids as He does.  To see their small victories and be encouraged.  To turn the tide of my frustration and fatigue and remember His big capable hands that hold them.  To silence the voice of the accuser whispering impending doom.  And to instead remember the truth that God is able.  

What does this parenting secret of connection look like?  It looks like driving them for the billionth time somewhere they want to go and intentionally making conversation along the way.  About things I may not be that interested about.  But, if it's important to my child, I need to make it important to me.  It is asking their opinion on something and sitting back to listen without interruption.  It's giving them my full attention--no phone in hand.  It looks like taking a deep breath or dropping to the floor for a quick prayer, and going in their rooms to sit on their bed to calmly and succinctly discuss an issue rather than flying into their room to point down at them.

It means applauding progress and sometimes, just sometimes, letting go of a tiny setback for the sake of connection and to keep the focus on the progress.  Yes, it's picking my battles.  No, it's not neglecting training and discipline.  But, it is indeed remembering that how I parent them and talk to them is the voice in their head.  It's their picture of their Heavenly Father.  

And He assures us that it's His lovingkindness that draws us to repentance.  It's remembering that He knows our failures and faults and He deals with us gently.  Because He is all about relationship. It's remembering the challenge to be a picture of God, as described by J.R. Vasser:

God goes not evaluate us, He enjoys us. 
He rebukes us, but does not reject us. He
corrects us, but does not condemn us.  He does
not audition us, He adopts us.

So, how am I doing with being a picture of that kind of love to my child?  If you read between the lines in those statements, the recurring theme is indeed connection.  It's a picture of our Abba Father approaching us through the lens of connection.

Which is what I believe God is challenging me to do more often and to do better.  When we are just in one of those funk days and we cannot seem to move beyond clashing, I have a choice to make.  Keep on my tirade and my agenda to make them understand.  Or, there in that pit, to lay it aside for a bit for the sake of finding a way to connect.  It's laying the battle aside for a time before I alienate them or push them away.  And it's planning times to regularly take them to grab ice cream.  Or a movie we can watch together.  Or playing a game of their choosing.  Because the monotony of the tedious task of correction is best broken through connection.  It's the gentle sway in the right direction.

Here is the pivotal question I now try to ask myself.  In five years, will this be a hill worth dying on?  Will I even remember this infraction?  Do I really need to use a sledgehammer when a simple tap of a small hammer might do?  Right now, do we--child and parent both--need a break of all this disciplining and do we need a "happy," a chance to laugh together?

Preventative maintenance, I am convinced.  

To take a step back.  To remind myself that they are not yet grown.  Not yet there.  And while they may not always act like it, they need to know I'm there to catch them.  Not just to discipline them.  They need to know that I love them no matter what.  That I can have grace on their foolish mistakes as I train them.  That to make the effort to connect through time together and meals together and even doing things they want to do is filling up their love tanks.  It's making those connections.  It's investing in our future and our present.  

It's always worth it.  Because I want my children to leave my house and fly with their wings spread wide open and to remember, more than anything, that their Mama loved them.  Intentionally.  Unconditionally.  Completely.  To know, more often than they know the sound of my stern voice, the sound of me cheering them on.

Heaven help me.  This parenting stuff isn't for wimps.  Thank goodness I have a Perfect Parent to guide my way.     

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