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Archive for the ‘Parenting’ Category

Teaching Your Kids How to Have Hard Conversations

SOURCE:  Mark Merrill

If we want our kids to become stable, healthy, well-adjusted adults, we need to do a good job when they are young of teaching them to have hard conversations. It’s hard enough for spouses to do this, so our kids need our help before they leave the nest. The advent of social media and mobile devices has made communication easier but has also made effective communication more difficult, where messages are easily misunderstood, incomplete, or inflammatory.

So before they have to break off a relationship with someone, apologize for a wrong, ask for forgiveness, or share some difficult news with someone, make sure they have understood these important principles for having difficult conversations:

Communicate in person if at all possible, not digitally.

We need to avoid using social media, direct messages, emails, or texts for difficult conversations. We’ve become so reliant on electronic communication that we are tempted to use it at the worst times or in the most delicate situations. These tools are great and appropriate for quick info, encouragement, and brief connections, but should be used sparingly, if at all, for emotionally-filled or important situations. Here’s why:

  • You can’t fill in the emotional, relational gaps in 140-160 characters.
  • You cannot communicate nuance and context and emotion in written words.
  • People fill in the blanks without context. For example, what you meant to sound sincere may be easily misinterpreted as fake.
  • Digital communication can also lead to impulsive, and regretful, communication.
  • Digital communication is easier to ignore.
  • In digital communication, complex issues have to be reduced to unhelpful levels of simplicity. That’s not wise.
  • Digital communication tends to elicit reactive, not thoughtful, responses.

Bottom line: Nothing can replace face-to-face, especially when having hard or challenging conversations.

Practice the conversation with them.

This is a time when role-playing can be helpful. Take turns playing the role of your child, or the person they are talking to, and give it a go. Help them think through the strong emotions that come with the conversation, to anticipate the reactions, to process and respond to such a conversation, and to get through any awkwardness.

Think through the best time, place, and environment for the conversation.

We know from marriage that there are good times and very bad times to bring up sensitive issues. But our kids may not realize how important the setting and frame of mind can be. Help your child think through the best situation and environment that would be most appropriate to have the conversation.

Just by working through some of these basics, we can help our children be better at resolving conflict and relating to others.

We Don’t Need “Mother” and “Father” Anymore?

SOURCE:  Amy K. Hall/Stand to Reason

The Huffington Post celebrates the idea that non-traditional families are breaking down our understanding of gender differences: “We aren’t mother or father anymore; we’re just parents.”

Gay and lesbian couples and single moms and dads by chance or choice embody changing ideas about sex and sex roles, they are also transforming the gender based definitions of parenting. They are challenging us all to reevaluate the terms of marriage. Along with single parents raising children, they are also transforming the nature of parenting — and showing how Americans have transcended the gender-based definitions of parenting. We aren’t mother or father anymore; we’re just parents….

Yes, the terms “mother” and “father” do still usually convey a biological distinction between who inseminates and who gives birth, but the rise of donor insemination and surrogate pregnancies open debate even on that.

Whether we acknowledge it willingly or not, the differing social roles the mother-father nouns once designated are rapidly converging. Certainly, there are still things that fathers undertake more than mothers, such as teaching a child to ride a bike. Some things often seem to fall more to mothers, such as arranging childcare. But each parent can, and does, tend to everything.

The differences between the sexes are more than just biological. And they certainly go beyond preferences for particular tasks. All you have to do is reflect on your own experience to see that this is so.

Did your father tend to enforce standards? Did your mother encourage emotional intimacy?

Did your father push you to mature? Did your mother tend to nurture?

The list could go on and on because the differences between the sexes are as deep as who they are, what they value, and how they relate to people. These differences show themselves not merely in the tasks each sex chooses, but in how each approaches any particular task. Of course either parent can do any task, but what they teach their children in and through the completing of each task will be different.

Men and women are complementary. The lessons learned from both parents are valuable and unique to the strengths of each sex, and children are in desperate need of both. The obscuring of this is not something to celebrate. But it’s exactly what must be done in order to promote same-sex marriage, so you can expect to see more of it.

10 Insights of Remarkable Parents from a Family Therapist

SOURCE:  Angela Pruess

At any given time you’ll find four or more parenting books on my Amazon wish list, a few by my nightstand, and an email box chock full of insightful parenting theories and approaches.

Granted, child development is my career, but I speak with plenty of parents in my practice who find themselves in similar circumstances. With information around every corner and our culture projecting constant messages (many times contradictory) regarding how we should raise our kids, feeling like a confident and intentional parent can seem out of reach many days.

In my 12 years as a family therapist, I’ve seen many well-intentioned parents mistakenly employing strategies that aren’t meeting the emotional or developmental needs of their children or families. I’ve also observed an increasing number of parents who are successfully mapping out new and healthier ways of raising children.

These insights, collected over time and gleaned from experience, parallel what we know from current brain and behavioral research about what kind of parenting is most likely to contribute to the healthy development of children.

1 | Know that kids will act like kids.

Often parents forget that the way a child’s learning begins is by screwing up. Making mistakes. Behaving immaturely. The ‘magic’ happens when a supportive caregiver then steps in to steer them in the right direction. We get frustrated and impatient, becoming annoyed with whininess and ‘back talk’ when really, this is how kids are wired.

The part of the brain responsible for reason, logic and impulse control is not fully developed until a person reaches their early 20’s. Immature behavior is normal for immature human beings with immature brains. This is a scientific reality that helps us to be patient and supportive in order to guide our children when they struggle.

2 | Set limits with respect, not criticism.

Due to the fact that our kids need to learn literally everything about the world from us, they will require many limits throughout their day. Without proper limits in their environment, kids will feel anxious and out of control.

Limits can be delivered in the form of criticism and shaming, or they can be communicated in a firm but respectful way. Think about how you appreciate being spoken to at work and go from there.

3 | Be aware of developmental stages.

Have you ever questioned where your easy-going toddler disappeared to as he was suddenly screaming bloody murder while getting dropped off at daycare? Hello separation anxiety!

There are literally hundreds of very normal, very healthy transitions kids go through to become adults. Being aware of these puts their puzzling behaviors into context, and increases the odds of reacting to them accurately and supportively.

4 | Know your child’s temperament and personality.

It seems pretty obvious, but if we are in tune with the characteristics that make our child unique, we will have a better understanding of when they may need additional support, and when and where they will thrive.

Once you know the basics of what makes your child tick, many important areas become much easier to navigate, such as pinpointing the best environment for homework, or understanding why your daughter needs to come home from overnight summer camp.

5 | Give your child plenty of unstructured play time.

Unless you studied play therapy in school, most adults will never fully understand and appreciate the power of play.

Play is how kids learn all the things and develop all the stuff. This means leaving time each day for straight-up unstructured, kid-controlled, exploration of the world kind of play.

6 | Know when to talk and when to listen.

Kids learn to be pretty good problem solvers if we let them. Because we love the life out of them and want them to succeed, it’s hard not to jump in and solve problems for them by virtue of lecture or criticism.

If parents more often held their tongues and waited it out, they’d be shocked at how often their children can successfully reach their own conclusions. Being heard is powerfully therapeutic, and it allows us to think things through and reach a solution.

Kids want and need to be heard, and feel understood. Just like the rest of us.

7 | Have an identity outside of your child.

Many of us often claim that our children are our world, and this is certainly true in our hearts. In terms of daily life however, parents need to have more. We need to nurture the friendships, passions and hobbies that make us who we are as individuals.

Doing this can feel like a battle, as our protective anxieties try to convince us our children can’t be without us, and also that we can’t be without them. But we can be, and need to be, in order to stay sane, and avoid saddling our kids with the task of meeting all of our emotional needs.

8 | Understand that actions speak louder than words.

The way you interact with your child and live your life will be your child’s greatest teacher. Kids are incredibly observant and way more intuitive than we give them credit for. They are always watching.

This can be slightly inconvenient for parents, but if we’re able to keep it in mind, knowing our children are watching our actions will not only teach them how to behave, but it will make us better people.

9 | Recognize that connection, fun, and creativity are the best ways to promote positive behaviors and a cooperative attitude.

Fear and control aren’t effective long-term teachers for our kids. While those dynamics may appear effective in the short-term, they won’t equip our kids with a strong moral compass, or effective problem-solving skills.

If our child feels valued as a person based on our interactions with them, they will naturally learn to value others and have the confidence to make good choices.

10 | Set the overall goal to shape a child’s heart and not just their behavior.

We often get the impression from the world around us that the goal of parenting is to produce a compliant, well-behaved child. While these are certainly desirable qualities for most parents, they are not core qualities that contribute to a happy and healthy human.

Helping our children understand the importance of their thoughts and emotions gives them coping and relationship skills. Skills that will protect and guide them throughout their lives.

Changing our parenting habits and styles is never easy, but if it’s truly in the best interest of our children, it’ll always be worth it.

How to Love Your Kids Unconditionally

SOURCE:  Rick Warren

One of the most important things we can do for our children is to teach them that God loves them unconditionally.

It’s extremely important that we teach our kids that they are loved, not because they earned our love or are good enough to be loved, but that they’re loved because God put them into our families to be loved.

This is hard for many of us because we have had a hard time receiving God’s unconditional love ourselves. God wants us to spend some time with him, letting him love us, and in turn giving that unconditional love to our kids.

How can we show God’s unconditional love to our families? Here are two practical ways:

1. Forgive your kids as God forgives you.

Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be kind and loving to each other, and forgive each other just as God forgave you in Christ” (NCV).

I love that God forgives me, but I’m not always ready to give that same kind of forgiveness to other people. Parenting requires massive doses of forgiveness. You’re in a position all the time to forgive your kids for things that they do.

2. Never give up on your kids.

We’re told in 1 Corinthians 13:7a, “If you love someone . . . you will always believe in him, and always expect the best of him” (TLB).

From the Phillips translation, that same verse says, “Love knows no limit to its endurance, no end to its trust, no fading of its hope; it can outlast anything.”

We can face just about anything if we know somebody believes in us. Families are supposed to do that. We’re to give that kind of love to our kids.

Nothing can separate us from the love of God. It’s unconditional. It’s a forever bond. No stupid mistake on our part, no dumb decision, no period of rebellion, no overwhelming doubt — nothing can separate us from that forever bond with God, our Father.

As parents we are to develop that same kind of love for our kids. No matter what stupid thing our kids do, no matter how many times they walk away, we believe in them.

God wants you to treat your kids the way he treats you.

Parenting is an emotional roller coaster. One minute you’re so proud of them, you can hardly wait to squeeze them. The next minute you’re frustrated with them and fed up with their behavior.

You may be worried about your kids. You may be frustrated with your kids. You may be fearful about the direction one of them is going. You may be discouraged. If the truth were known, you may be disappointed in one or more of your kids.

Maybe the deepest hurt in your life is when you think of your child or your children. You feel like giving up sometimes, but you can’t resign as a parent. You signed on for life.

If you try to parent in your own power, you’re going to fail. It takes God’s love. Human love runs out. There is a limit to how much you can handle. There’s a limit to how much you can take.

There are days and there are nights when you don’t have any more to give, and you know it. You want to say, “Take care of yourself!” Because human love does run out.

What you need to do is get plugged into God. God is love. He’s the source of all love. When you’re plugged into him, he’ll give you power and energy and love that you didn’t know you had.

God will also give you the wisdom you need. So no matter how you feel emotionally about your kids today, Jesus is ready to help.

The key to becoming a great parent is to become a godly person. How?

First, you invite Jesus Christ into your life. “Lord, become the manager of my heart.”

Second, you pray and say, “God, I need your help daily. I need the wisdom and the love and the patience to be a wise parent.”

Third, you ask your kids to pray for you. I pray for my kids so I ask them to pray for me. Say, “I want you to pray that I’ll be a good parent.”

It may have to start with an apology. There may have to be a little reconciliation first. You may have to contact them, call them on the phone and say, “I wasn’t always the parent I should have been. I feel bad about that. But I want things to change. I want to be the kind of parent God wants me to be and that you need, so I’m going to ask you to forgive me. I apologize.”

It’s never too late to start showing God’s unconditional love and forgiveness to your kids. God never gives up on us. So never given up on your kids!

10 Signs You May be an Authoritarian Parent

SOURCE:  Amy Morin, LCSW/verywell.com

 “My Way or the Highway”

Authoritarian parenting is one of the four main parenting styles recognized by researchers. It’s characterized by rigid rules and high demands. Authoritarian parents have high standards and can be highly critical when those standards aren’t met. They also tend to offer less emotional warmth compared to authoritative parents. Read on to find out if you exhibit any of the characteristics of an authoritarian parent.

  1. You have little patience for misbehavior.

Authoritarian parents don’t want to waste energy explaining why something isn’t a good choice and they’re not likely to spend much time discussing feelings. Instead, when a child breaks the rules, they’re more likely to remind him that he should “know better” without any room for discussion.

  1. You try hard to control your child’s behavior.

Rather than teach children to control themselves, authoritarian parents exert their control. Kids have fewer choices and fewer opportunities to practice self-discipline. The focus is on obeying the rules, with little room for creativity.

  1. You try to shame your child into behaving.

Authoritarian parents are very critical. They may say things like, “You aren’t a good listener,” or, “How many times do I have to tell you the same thing?” They aren’t concerned about building or preserving a child’s self-esteem. In fact, they often think that shaming a child is one of the best ways to motivate him to behave better next time.

  1. You don’t hesitate to use corporal punishment.

Spanking is used liberally in authoritarian households. Parents may use other forms of corporal punishment – such as making a child do push-ups or assigning manual labor – as a consequence for misbehavior.

Read More: Is Spanking Effective?

  1. You don’t believe in ‘exceptions to the rule.’

You won’t catch an authoritarian parent negotiating. Their children certain don’t get any type of vote and it’s made clear that the household rules aren’t up for discussion. Parents often leave little room for any “gray area.”

  1. You’d rather use punishments than positive reinforcement.

Most authoritarian parents don’t believe in rewarding kids for good behavior. They think that kids should behave well and don’t need to be praised or rewarded simply for following the rules. But as soon as a rule is broken, a consequence is swiftly handed out.

  1. You value discipline over fun.

Authoritarian parents are more likely to be nagging or yelling rather than playing with their kids. They tend to want kids to behave in an orderly fashion and they expect them to “be seen and not heard” most of the time.

  1. You have a lot of rules.

While permissive parents have few rules, authoritarian parents thrive on having rules about everything. In addition to household rules about safety or morality, there are often unwritten rules about how to do things “right.” Authoritarian parents often micromanage their children. They may hover while their children do their homework or complete their chores to make sure that everything is done in the manner they want.

  1. You don’t trust your child to make good decisions.

Authoritarian parents have interesting expectations of their children. Although they have high expectations, they don’t allow for enough freedom for kids to show that they can be trusted. They’re quick to enforce their demands and prevent children from making mistakes and facing natural consequences.

  1. You often say, “Because I said so!”

Authoritarian parents don’t waste time explaining the underlying reasons why certain rules need to be followed or why they’ve set certain limits. Instead, they’re famous for saying, “Because I said so!” They expect that to be the end of the discussion and don’t invite a child to weigh in with his opinion about why he disagrees or why he thinks the rules are unfair.

 

The Consequences of Permissive Parenting

SOURCE:  Amy Morin, LCSW/VeryWell

No rules and few consequences could harm your child for life.

While the evidence is clear that helicopter parents can interfere with children’s development, children of permissive parents may not fare much better.

Permissive parents have few rules and little structure. They rarely give kids consequences and they don’t spend much time preventing behavior problems.

They tend to be loving and affectionate, but they take the idea that “kids should be kids,” to the extreme.

They allow their children to do most anything they please and research shows the consequences can be devastating.

The Dangers of Permissive Parenting

Researchers from around the world have studied what happens to children who grow up with little discipline. Studies have identified many drawbacks associated with permissive parents’ overly laid-back approach to parenting. Here are some of the negative outcomes of permissive parenting:

  • Children who don’t receive enough guidance don’t learn problem-solving skills that help them learn to make good decisions.
  • Low expectations often lead to low achievement. Kids are less likely to strive to become better when parents don’t encourage them to challenge themselves.
  • Children may be at an increased risk of obesity when parents don’t set limits on food intake. Permissive parents also aren’t likely to enforce healthy doses of outdoor play and exercise.
  • Permissive parents don’t monitor screen time which can lead to excessive television and computer use. Kids with permissive parents are five times more likely to watch over four hours of TV each day.
  • Preschoolers with permissive parents may be at a higher risk of mental health issues including depression and anxiety.
  • Children may behave more aggressively when their parents are permissive. When children aren’t taught how to deal with their emotions effectively, they tend to show more aggressive behavior.
  • Teenagers with permissive parents may be at increased risk of a multitude of behavior problems. Studies have linked permissive parenting with increased alcohol use, higher rates of school misconduct, and lower levels of academic achievement.

How to Be Less Permissive and More Authoritative

If you tend to be a pushover, you may want to take steps to become more authoritative. Sometimes that means developing more confidence in your parenting skills and at other times, it means learning to tolerate your child’s distress.

Here are a few strategies that can help you become less permissive and more authoritative:

  • Establish a list of household rules. It’s important to create rules and expectations to help your child learn what type of behavior is acceptable and what isn’t.
  • Decide on the consequences for breaking the rules ahead of time. For example, determine when you’ll use time-out and when you’ll use logical consequences to address misbehavior.
  • Link privileges to good behavior.  Only allow your child to watch TV or play his favorite game if his behavior warrants those privileges. Teach him that he needs to earn his privileges.
  • Follow through with the limits you set. If you say you’re going to take away a privilege or you tell your child he can’t go outside, it’s essential that you honor your word. Provide consistent and firm discipline to show him that you’re going to take necessary steps to help him learn.

With healthy discipline, consistent rules, and increased structure, you’ll give your child the skills and tools he needs to become a responsible adult.

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Sources:

Jago R, Baranowski T, Baranowski JC, Thompson D, Greaves KA. BMI from 3– 6 y of age is predicted by TV viewing and physical activity, not diet. International  Journal of Obesity. 2005; 29(6):557–564.

Underwood MK, Beron KJ, Rosen LH. Continuity and change in social and physical aggression from middle childhood through early adolescence. Aggressive Behavior. 2009 Sep-Oct; 35(5):357-75.

Williams LR, Degnan KA, Perez-Edgar KE, Henderson HA, Rubin KH, Pine DS, Steinberg L, Fox NA. Impact of behavioral inhibition and parenting style on internalizing and externalizing problems from early childhood through adolescence. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology. 2009; 37(8):1063-75.

Parenting Styles: What They Are and Why They Matter

SOURCE:  Kendra Cherry

The Four Styles of Parenting

Developmental psychologists have long been interested in how parents affect child development. However, finding actual cause-and-effect links between specific actions of parents and later behavior of children is very difficult.

Some children raised in dramatically different environments can later grow up to have remarkably similar personalities. Conversely, children who share a home and are raised in the same environment can grow up to have very different personalities.

Despite these challenges, researchers have posited that there are links between parenting styles and the effects these styles have on children. During the early 1960s, psychologist Diana Baumrind conducted a study on more than 100 preschool-age children (Baumrind, 1967). Using naturalistic observation, parental interviews, and other research methods, she identified four important dimensions of parenting.

These dimensions include disciplinary strategies, warmth and nurturing, communication styles, and expectations of maturity and control.

Based on these dimensions, Baumrind suggested that the majority of parents display one of three different parenting styles. Further research by Maccoby and Martin also suggested adding a fourth parenting style. Here are the four parenting styles they identified.

Authoritarian Parenting

In this style of parenting, children are expected to follow the strict rules established by the parents.

Failure to follow such rules usually results in punishment. Authoritarian parents don’t explain the reasoning behind these rules. If asked to explain, the parent might simply reply, “Because I said so.” These parents have high demands but are not responsive to their children. According to Baumrind, these parents “are obedience- and status-oriented, and expect their orders to be obeyed without explanation.”

Authoritative Parenting

Like authoritarian parents, those with an authoritative parenting style establish rules and guidelines that their children are expected to follow. However, this parenting style is much more democratic. Authoritative parents are responsive to their children and willing to listen to questions.

When children fail to meet the expectations, these parents are more nurturing and forgiving rather than punishing. Baumrind suggests that these parents “monitor and impart clear standards for their children’s conduct. They are assertive, but not intrusive and restrictive. Their disciplinary methods are supportive, rather than punitive. They want their children to be assertive as well as socially responsible, and self-regulated as well as cooperative.”

Permissive Parenting

Permissive parents, sometimes referred to as indulgent parents, have very few demands to make of their children. These parents rarely discipline their children because they have relatively low expectations of maturity and self-control.

According to Baumrind, permissive parents “are more responsive than they are demanding. They are nontraditional and lenient, do not require mature behavior, allow considerable self-regulation, and avoid confrontation.” Permissive parents are generally nurturing and communicative with their children, often taking on the status of a friend more than that of a parent.

Uninvolved Parenting

An uninvolved parenting style is characterized by few demands, low responsiveness, and little communication. While these parents fulfill the child’s basic needs, they are generally detached from their child’s life. In extreme cases, these parents may even reject or neglect the needs of their children.

The Impact of Parenting Styles

What effect do these parenting styles have on child development outcomes? In addition to Baumrind’s initial study of 100 preschool children, researchers have conducted numerous other studies that have led to a number of conclusions about the impact of parenting styles on children.

Authoritarian parenting styles generally lead to children who are obedient and proficient, but they rank lower in happiness, social competence and self-esteem.

Authoritative parenting styles tend to result in children who are happy, capable and successful.

Permissive parenting often results in children who rank low in happiness and self-regulation. These children are more likely to experience problems with authority and tend to perform poorly in school.

Uninvolved parenting styles rank lowest across all life domains. These children tend to lack self-control, have low self-esteem and are less competent than their peers.

Why is it that authoritative parenting provides such advantages over other styles? “First, when children perceive their parents’ requests as fair and reasonable, they are more likely to comply with the requests,” explain authors Hockenbury and Hockenbury in their text Psychology. “Second, the children are more likely to internalize (or accept as their own) the reasons for behaving in a certain way and thus to achieve greater self-control.”

Of course, the parenting styles of individual parents also combine to create a unique blend in each family. For example, the mother may display an authoritative style while the father favors a more permissive approach. In order to create a cohesive approach to parenting, it is essential that parents learn to cooperate as they combine various elements of their unique parenting styles.

Limitations and Criticisms of Parenting Style Research

There are, however, some important limitations of parenting style research that should be noted. Links between parenting styles and behavior are based on correlational research, which is helpful for finding relationships between variables but cannot establish definitive cause-and-effect relationships. While there is evidence that a particular parenting style is linked to a certain pattern of behavior, other important variables such as a child’s temperament can also play a major role.

Researchers have also noted that the correlations between parenting styles and behaviors are sometimes weak at best. In many cases, the expected child outcomes do not materialize; parents with authoritative styles will have children who are defiant or who engage in delinquent behavior, while parents with permissive styles will have children who are self-confident and academically successful.

“There is no universally “best” style of parenting,” writes author Douglas Bernstein in his book Essentials of Psychology. “So authoritative parenting, which is so consistently linked with positive outcomes in European American families, is not related to better school performance among African American or Asian American youngsters.”

Parenting styles are associated with different child outcomes and the authoritative style is generally linked to positive behaviors such as strong self-esteem and self-competence. However, other important factors including culture, children’s perceptions of parental treatment, and social influences also play an important role in children’s behavior.

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References

Baumrind, D. (1967). Child-care practices anteceding three patterns of preschool behavior. Genetic Psychology Monographs, 75, 43-88.

Baumrind, D. (1991). The influence of parenting style on adolescent competence and substance use. Journal of Early Adolescence, 11(1), 56-95.

Bernstein, D. A. (2011). Essentials of psychology. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Hockenbury, D. H. & Hockenbury, S. E. (2003). Psychology. New York: Worth Publishers.

Maccoby, E. E., & Martin, J. A. (1983). Socialization in the context of the family: Parent–child interaction. In P. H. Mussen & E. M. Hetherington, Handbook of child psychology: Vol. 4. Socialization, personality, and social development (4th ed.). New York: Wiley.

Maccoby, E.E. (1992). The role of parents in the socialization of children: A historical overview. Developmental Psychology, 28, 1006-1017.

 

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