There is an overwhelming wealth of resources available regarding parenting. Whatever age or stage your children are at, there is guidance out there—but sometimes it’s hard to know which guidance to follow! Our plan has evolved through the years as our children have grown (and we’ve grown as parents!) but part of it has always been to seek wise counsel from books or loved ones that have been down this road already. On that note, I would recommend Grace Based Parenting by Dr. Tim Kimmel to any new or veteran parent looking for a place to start. The book is broken up by age and I find myself going back to reference it often. If you read my last parenting hack post, Avoid The Fight for the Front Seat, this idea was born from Dr. Kimmel’s theory that if a child’s behavior is threatening the happiness of the home, something must change. In essence, we chose to eliminate the fight for the front seat to avoid starting my day off on the wrong foot. Hopefully, no fight means a chill morning, which means a productive day for everyone! Not every day is sunshine and roses, but at least you are giving yourself a chance. After implementing the front seat hack based on Dr. Kimmel’s theory, we started finding opportunities to incorporate this concept in other places. Currently, the big three focuses in our home are accountability, responsibility (punctuality, grooming, etc.), and how we correct behavior.
Normally, we find ourselves scrambling at the end of a quarter to “help” our kids find missing assignments, complete a project, or correct work for half-credit to bring up a struggling grade. It was a real problem last year, when Whitney was finishing her book and I was trying to keep up with a remodel. We decided this year would be different. We committed to checking grades every Thursday. Our fabulous teachers are great about posting grades and we can access them through an online portal or through an app. The thought is, if we can catch missing assignments early and keep an eye on grades throughout the year, we should eliminate the end of term hustle to catch up. Also, the kids know what happens on Thursday evenings and beam when we congratulate them on working hard at school. The proof is in the grade book.
Whitney and I had the pleasure (for the first time in a long time) of sitting through three parent-teacher conferences and leaving with glowing reports for all three kids. Usually, there is at least one frustrated teacher who “just can’t figure out how to motivate your son/daughter.” Which, we all know, is the lead up statement to all the missing work from class or how to bring the daydreamer down from the clouds or what additional effort will be required from the child (which, let’s be real—also means effort from me or Whitney) to get the child back on track. However, we were thrilled to hear only minor corrections need to be made for a couple of chatty kids.
While driving home, Whitney and I realized how the little changes WE made going into this school year have impacted THEIR performance at school! One of our parenting goals has been to help our kids succeed while also allowing them to fail. Character is created in failure and usually post-failure, improvement is immediate. It’s hard to see your kids suffer when they fail but it’s exciting to see what they become because of it!
Sunday mornings around here can be a struggle. Five people hitting snooze a couple of times, then scurrying to dress for church can quickly devolve to fights for the bathroom and a hunt for clothes. Which, in the past, has led to me standing at the bottom of the stairs yelling at the top of my lungs and crying kids still half-dressed with bad breath. This is no way to start any day, much less a day of worship. One Saturday evening, Whitney declared we would not start our mornings like this any longer. Whitney has the gift of setting expectations and is very good at it. The expectations are that you will get yourself out of bed and dressed. She recommends (key word) the kids lay out their clothes and bathe the night before to eliminate another potential hurdle. Once dressed, you will brush your teeth, and properly groom yourself for church. Lastly, you will be in the car or ready to get in the car by 8:30am. If all these expectations are met, we will stop for donuts on the way to church. Holy cow, we had no idea how effective donut bribery would be! Normally, we try to keep the sweets to a minimum and try not to use food as a reward, but donuts on Sunday morning are now a family thing. So far, no one has been late, but the kids know we will skip the donuts to make it to church on time. The kids quickly figure out if you mean what you say, even if it comes at a cost to the innocent sibs. Believe me, when donuts are involved, the sibs will come together as a team to make sure everyone is ready to go! Our kids know we mean what we say because two kids have been left home from school for sleeping through an alarm and were graced with the pleasure of doing the worst of the worst chores along with whatever schoolwork they missed. It happened once and hasn’t since.
Shockingly, we aren’t perfect parents. We have lost our tempers, gotten frustrated, and raised our voices, all the same as you, I assume. However, over time we recognized the effect our failure to keep our wits about us has on the kids. When we have no patience for them, they start acting out with no patience for us or each other. It doesn’t feel good, and it isn’t good for familial relationships. Our friend, Bob Goff, wrote Love Does and when I read it, the thing that really stuck out to me is that loving encouragement goes a lot further than yelling and lack of patience.
Encourage your kids by telling them how good they are at sports or how much better they have gotten this season. Show empathy by sharing with them how you struggled in math, too. Tell them you are confident they will succeed, like you did, with hard work, determination, and asking for help. When they mess up, ask them open-ended questions that will help them figure out how to do better next time. When you relate to your kids like this, watch how they respond. I bet they will either glow or portray a new confidence you’ve not seen before. Compare that vision to how they’ve responded to yelling and frustration.
I saw an example of this at the doctor’s office yesterday. We were in for the 11 year well check and that comes with four shots. Poor kid. As soon as he heard the plan, he started to get really upset. Tears flowed when the nurse came in with an arsenal of syringes and I knew I had to do something. There have been times when I let frustration outweigh empathy and haven’t said the right thing. This time, I channeled my inner Whitney and got down eye to eye with him (it’s Whitney’s go-to move). I grabbed his hands and kept eye contact. Lovingly, I encouraged him, reminding him that I had been through this, too. I told him it may hurt a little, but it would be over fast, and I expressed how brave he was to get these last couple of vaccines. Just like that, his tears were gone and he sat up straight. BRAVE! He turned his attention to the needles and one, two, three, four. It was over. A few Band-Aids later, we were out of there.
The thing about loving encouragement is that it comes at a cost. It takes longer, it’s usually messier, and won’t be done per every instruction every time. We all know kids learn by messing up. However, I’ve learned that how I choose to respond will dictate both their willingness to try again and the quality of my relationship with that child.
I would love to hear about your successes (or struggles) with raising kids. You may either comment below or reply to The English Edit email you received.