5 Practical Parenting Ideas: A Few Things That Worked Well (Wait…6)

27 01 2012

After I posted, “Before Discipline,” the other day, I was thinking about some things we did from the start with our kids that I feel really good about; these are things that proved to be effective over the years and are probably things that could be used and customized by other families. So here are 5…

1. Family Values

Early on we established a list of family values for a few reasons. First of all, it is really good to know who you are as a couple and as a family and to agree on those things. What are things that are really important to you? What are things, if violated, would feel wrong in your family?

The great benefit in defining these is that when you correct your child, you can appeal to something deeper than simply an “off behavior.” Instead of saying, “Don’t say that!” You can say, for example, “You know that as a family one of our values is that everyone will be respected. How you just spoke, showed a lack of respect for one of us, and that isn’t who we are. This is supposed to be a safe place for everyone and so speaking that way is just not acceptable here.”

It gives you a platform to speak from that is from the heart, and shows that you are protecting something that is core to your community. It is to their benefit to correct their behavior because they are part of the community you are guarding.

We have condensed our family values to 3 things:

1. Jesus Centered Home – Josh 24:15
As for me and my house we will serve the Lord

This doesn’t mean we are telling our kids what they have to believe. It is telling them what we believe. As long as they are with us, under our roof, Mike and I submit to a higher authority who greatly affects how we raise our kids. Kids will always compare your home to someone else’s and having this value has given us the chance to say, “That’s great. But this is how we run our home…”.

Our kids are teens now and they are trying to figure out their own faith. We leave a lot of room for our kids to do that, but we are sure going to show them the way rather than hope they stumble across it. We are presenting it, being authentic in our own lives, and trusting that God loves them even more then us and will make Himself known to them as we raise them in a house that serves the Lord.

One of our values is that one day a week we gather with others as “the church.”  This is not about religion, but about relationship. Even if our kids choose to not embrace this as a part of their life, we want to set a good foundation for them, to show them the value of this. We have said, “Even if you don’t know what all of this means for you right now, this is a positive, healthy place for you to be, among people who love you and care about your story. ” And don’t we all need that in our life?  It is one day a week to reconnect and recalibrate – to learn about the love of Jesus, to serve others in loving relationships, and to find out who they are in the bigger mission of life.

2. Love and Respect for everyone – Eph 4:32
Be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another

This is a huge part of day to day life.

  • If someone does something to make another person in our home feel less valued
  • If they physically or verbally hurt them
  • If they are holding grudges
  • If they are dishonest

That’s a huge violation of what we are about. The home should be a refuge. The safest place for everyone who is a part of it.

3. Generous in all we do – Acts 2:46
Sharing with each other with glad and sincere hearts

If I ask my kids to empty out the dishwasher, should I really be met with a huge sigh and complaints?  The fact is,  generosity and helpfulness is a value in our home. It is easy to speak to when the value is made known.

If a child needs help and another refuses to help them, that is absurd. They are breaking one of our three values and it stands out! This is a hard value to hold them to, because they (like us) are naturally self-serving. But we keep waving the flag; it’s that important.

And this value extends outside of our home too. We don’t just do things for what we gain from them, we do things because we are called to be generous; that’s our value. So if someone is all whiny because they actually have to spend some time doing something practical for someone else? Come on — our value is generosity, live up to it.

p.s. if your kids are pre-teens, get the book “Do Hard Things” — it will really change your mind about what kids are capable of. Sometimes our expectations are so low, all we end up getting are lazy, uncompassionate, selfish teens. They are capable of so much more, and we need to give them opportunity to be more!

2. Family Meetings

We always held “a meeting” at the front end of the school year, for a time to remind everyone about how things would work in the Fall, and to be able to encourage each child in “this next leg of the journey.” And we would call meetings throughout the year to address random things as well when we found

  • Sometimes we were saying the same things to our 4 different kids in 4 different ways…repeatedly. When we saw this pattern happening, we knew we all had to get together and get on the same page.
  • Sometimes we found our values slipping and we knew it was time for a review
  • Sometimes we saw an issue happening in our outside our home that we knew we had to speak to and it would be good to do it all together
  • Sometimes our kids were having issues with one another, and it deserved a public forum.

We addressed things like friendship circles, internet use, the way we were relating to one another, things that were going on in our world as parents that might be raising questions with the kids, frustrations I was experiencing as a mom in our daily life, etc.

Mike and I came prepared to the table with a list of things to discuss, and sometimes we planned things out word-for-word when we knew we were hitting a contentious issue (maybe I will find one of those talks and print it out in the future). It gave Mike and I the chance to have a united front, and it also left room to have a great discussion with our kids (we would tell them ahead of time that a meeting was coming and they could also bring things to the table if they had something to raise).

Family meetings stopped everything for an hour; slowing things down made what we were saying important and gave us a forum to bring a course correction to the “whole organization.”

2. “The Book”

This, by far, was my favorite form of “discipline” with the kids and my only regret is that I didn’t start doing it sooner with all of them. It grew primarily as a response to the boys misbehavior’s. You know when your kids say “sorry” and it doesn’t mean anything? They rattle it off and walk away and you know they have found the legal loophole to just move on.

One day, in a moment of inspiration (or frustration, I can’t recall) I took out a notebook and wrote out 4 things:

1. What I did that was wrong

2. Why it was wrong

3. Apology

4. What I will do differently next time

A little note about discipline: if a child doesn’t feel something, it probably isn’t going to work. Low grade pain, if we are wise and pay attention, will save us from devastating pain down the road. Discomfort, from the hand of a parent passionate about their child, is a gift.

Writing, for many, is not a form of punishment. For my boys, however, it was. If I told them they had to write out a paragraph, you’d think I had sent them to the Tower of London.

The requirement was this. In an exercise book (you know the kind that is about 8 inches tall), they had to answer my four questions, writing one full page, single spaced, neatly. Titled, dated, with their name. I didn’t care how long it took, it had to meet those requirements. And if they turned in something that was not thought through, I would make them do it over. Mean, hey? 🙂

My goal: to get them to THINK. I wanted their “sorry” to go from their head to their heart. I wanted some understanding to come.

When they were done, we sat down and we talked it all through. It was the talking that brought the win. It is always the talking that brings the win. Ah, but this takes time. Do you have the time?

If I had a do-over, I would start with the book as soon as they were old enough to have a “reasoning” conversation. I would write for them, I would ask them questions to get them to think, but I would get them to think! I would get a nice, hardcover book because I am telling you…what kids confess is actually hilarious and their little “book of sins” becomes a pretty great keepsake. At the time, it is serious, but down the road, when they are older, you are like, “Haha, remember that time you pushed your brother into a ditch?”

Also, because this was a new idea to me, my boys found pretty funny loopholes to my requirements. For example, what if in the apology part you wrote out “Sorrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr” with about 50 “r’s” to take up space? I never specified that they couldn’t do that…and, in the end, I had to admire their creativity.

3. Mental Health Days 

We will never win the prize for “Perfect Attendance” at school. We have been pretty generous with pulling our kids from school and there is nothing better than a day you drive past the school instead of to the school to take your kids out for breakfast. There is nothing like telling your child who is having an emotional day, “I think you need a mental health day” (as we call it).

Breaking the rules gives you huge points with your kids. Take the time on that day to really connect, to listen to them, to speak into their lives; to love them.

p.s. And I should add, have a great relationship with your kid’s teacher. Do your part to catch up on work missed and don’t create extra work for them. And honestly, if our kid got a lower grade on something, but we had a phenomenal day to put in our memory bank and they learned a ton about life and relationships that day…so be it. We would take a little time to study what they missed and… alls well.

4. Change In Your Pocket and other word pictures

There is this thing called “change in your pocket.” If you are just correcting, correcting, correcting your child, you need to stop everything and put some deposits into them. Every time you feed your child with encouragement of some kind, when you help them, when you work out a problem with them, when you listen well, you are putting change in your pocket.You need change in your pocket, parents, because at some point, you will with certainty, spend it.

Parents can easily think because “I am the parent,” investment doesn’t matter that much. But that kind of controlling attitude only works so much. Yes, there is a time to put your authoritative foot down, but that is the exception, not the norm. You need change in your pocket with your child, like you do with your spouse, like you do with your friends.

When the tough conversation has to come, a few coins from that pocket are spent, but you have invested well in your relationships, you still have lots more left, so it isn’t like your relational bank has been drained.

We use that analogy a lot because kids have a pocket too. If they are just taking from you and not giving back, help them to understand this: they are responsible, if this is one of your values, to give back too. If they have been pushing it hard, they need to know that they have taken all the spare change, so if you are drawing some hard lines at that point, they can see what their behavior has led to.

Change in the pocket: it goes both ways. It is a word picture that has helped our see the taking and giving side of relationships. It is also a great picture to use when you talk about building trust with one another.

Another picture we used with our more sensitive kids was a big ball and a little ball. Sensitive kids need to know that they are AWESOME but that there is still room for them to mess up.  Sensitive kids need to know you love them like crazy, but part of love is also bringing correction.  So…get the biggest ball you can and tell them that this represents all the things they do right. Then grab a ping-pong ball and say, “but this is something that you haven’t done right and I need to speak to you about it.”  Giving them a visual, helps them put it into perspective.

I found, when bringing correction, if I took the time to try to paint a word picture for them, or to actually have a “visual” to use…it helped them connect with what I was saying.

5. The Projects

One thing I feel really great about, looking back, is how Mike and I partnered in tackling “issues” with our kids. We would get alone in our room and one of us would raise an issue and we would talk about it until we were in agreement with how to handle it. Sometimes it was just about the right course of discipline, or discussing what we thought was going on in someone’s head (comparing notes, so to speak) and other times we would decide that for a certain period of time, we were going to hit an issue as if it were a project; it was he and I as a united front, and we were all in for a period of time that we set.

Let me explain, sometimes we ran up against a pattern with one of our kids — maybe it was “being rough” when they were little, or maybe it was pouting, or maybe it was an attitude later on…whatever the pattern was, it wasn’t going away. That’s when we made it a project.

The best time to hit a project is when you can have a few days off, so maybe a long weekend, for example. What you do is zero in on a bad behavioral habit, and you both are eyes and ears to that issue for several days in a row. I find that, as the mom, I am often the one who is dealing with these things as I have more time with the kids. But there is something GREAT that  happens when a dad is all-in too. When dad picks up the project, and you are unified, the child gets the point.

I know this takes energy and commitment (what else is parenting other than energy and commitment?) I know you might want to just come home and not deal with it…but you will deal with it, by choice or through the consequences of not having made the choice to.

When I look back at our “projects” I always saw such good results and it made our home a much better place to be when the project was over.

If you are single parent, this is a tough one for you; it can still work but I can imagine that it is hard to find that “reserve energy” to really lock onto one issue or to find partnership in doing so. For you it would take a more creative approach, maybe pulling in a grandparent or uncle.

Those are 5 things we did that I feel great about; it is good to be able to reflect and pick out five because I’ve done a lot of things I DON’T feel great about, in the heat of the moment. For that, the greatest tool a parent has is two words: I’m sorry.

Ah…maybe this is the 6th thing I feel good about

6. You Can Take Another Run At Things

It’s ok to admit you blew it. You are just human, and you don’t have all the answers immediately. Whoever says you don’t get to redo things was wrong…you do. Kids are very precedent setting, I find. They say, “But you said…” or “But you let them…” and you feel like you have been pushed into a corner.

Be humble and admit that it wasn’t the best decision you made and that you, like them, make mistakes. Tell them, “It’s hard being a parent, it is hard always figuring out who was right, who was wrong and what the best thing is to do. When you are a parent, you might choose to do things very differently than I have. That’s your choice. As for me, I have to do my best and so, I am taking another run at this…now…” paint the picture for the new reality and don’t let them blackmail you 🙂

Be creative. Be courageous!

— Teresa Klassen




2 responses

28 01 2012

This is a really good post. If there was a way a tab for “really liked” I would have done that. I like the idea of the book. My kids are a little young 1 & 4. But for my 4-year old I can definitely have him come up with the answers- even if he’s still learning to write.

28 01 2012

I was doing some de-cluttering yesterday and was looking through “The Book” with my 14 year old and had such a good laugh about some of the things he wrote when he was little. There is one particularly self-righteous one on the left hand side of the page where he says “sorry, but I wasn’t really wrong”…and then the redo on the right after he “saw the light” — many hours later, as I recall. Glad the post was useful to you.

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