Let your child feel disappointed

One of the great challenges we face as parents is watching our children suffer or struggle. It is easy to want to make everything comfortable for them. Disappointment is a part of this life on earth. We have expectations. When reality doesn’t match up to our expectations, the discrepancy is disappointment.

I think the very first thing that we must do is let our children feel disappointed. We live in a culture that believes everything should feel good. Disappointment is a bad feeling. Often as parents, seeing our children uncomfortable makes us uncomfortable. We say things like, “You shouldn’t feel that way.” Or “Look at the bright side.” The problem with this is that they don’t learn to live with or in the disappointment. We tell them to change their disappointment.

Jesus provided a beautiful example of sitting in disappointment when he wept for Jerusalem. He was very disappointed. He sat in the disappointment and cried. His Father didn’t come to him and say, “It’s okay, Jesus. I’ll make it better. Don’t feel that way.” His Father, our heavenly Father, let him cry.

So how do I teach my children to deal with disappointment? The first thing I do is model what it is like to deal with disappointment. If I am disappointed because something didn’t go my way or someone hurt me, I tell them how I am feeling. I don’t want to hide it from them. I want them to see that I get hurt. I want them to see that I pray in the midst of it. I ask them to pray for their momma as I struggle.

As challenging as it is, don’t try to fix their disappointment. Talk through it. We talk about the expectations and the reality of the situation. Were our expectations too high? Did someone not meet our expectation? Is this an opportunity to show forgiveness? Even if the expectation was unrealistic, the feeling of disappointment is very real. Teach children to put words to their feelings. Let them hear you say you are disappointed. Have them say out loud that they are disappointed.

Finally, let them grieve the situation. Let them be sad or hurt. Invite our God into the hurt and sadness. Let the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit do the true healing.

 

Does looking like a Christian parent hinder my parenting?

How does Christianity affect my parenting? How does it not? Maybe there’s a bigger question for me, though. Maybe the question is: How does looking like a Christian parent hinder my parenting?

If you have been a lifelong Christian like me, you may have a mental picture of what good, Christian parents look like. I did.

My picture: They are married. They have respectful and well-behaved kids. If they have to discipline, they do it with love and logic. They send their kids to the Lutheran elementary school. Their children are active members of the youth groups—not only for themselves but for the example they set for the other youth. You could probably put a few more in there. I could too.

If you look at my list, it paints a pretty picture. My husband and I worked hard at painting it. It’s not a bad painting. However, striving for this painting started to overshadow real Christian parenting.

What did we look like to the other families of our congregation? What kind of example were we to our neighbors? These questions aren’t bad questions, but they became more important than questions like: Are we loving God? Are we loving others? Are we modeling those things to our children?

Stripping away our concerns of how we think others view our parenting gives us freedom to live under God’s grace. We find that focusing on our own relationship with Christ compels us to love others and therefore model that to our children. Sound familiar? “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33).

Tad and I have since made choices that may not look like what good, Christian parents would do. For example, we just finished our sixth year of homeschooling even though we have a wonderful Lutheran elementary school. We take very seriously the command to “Bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). Our choices are prayerfully deliberated with this as our goal. Because Tad accepted a call to be “The Youth Guy,” he is gone nights, weekends, and chunks of summers. Fridays are his day off, which is when the kids were in school. How can Tad be a part of “bringing them up” if he isn’t home when they are? We realized how much impact we could have if our kids were home with us.

Finally, I learned to be careful of my opinions when others painted a different picture. Just because it doesn’t look like my painting doesn’t mean it’s wrong or even not as good as mine. I know there were people who questioned our decision to homeschool. I appreciated the people who asked me about our decision process or why we chose what we did. Those people sought understanding.

Seek God first. Bring them up in the training of the Lord. Let’s encourage parents, as our picture is always changing.

Defining respect

People want respect, and yet it looks different for different people. We think we deserve respect, and yet Jesus, who truly deserves our respect, never demanded respect from anyone. I am realizing that I use the word “respect” often without much thought to what it really means.

Some very wise women in my circle of friends describe respect this way:

“I believe that respect is attached to value. If you can understand that someone is valuable, whether you agree with them or not, you hold them in high enough regard to allow them to be who they are.”

“Fearless submission. Honoring others above one’s self. Knowing you do not have to protect and defend your ‘self’ but rather live outrageously free in relationship with others because God is on his throne. Respect is not trying to control the outcome but rather letting it unfold.”

“Respect is love in plain clothes.”

“Recognizing the value God placed on another person because of his Son’s life and sacrifice (Jesus died for that person) and deferring to them because of their value to God.”

“I think respect grows from the seed of humility that you plant in his light and care for lovingly.”

Pretty profound if you ask me.

So how do we teach these concepts to our children? Follow Jesus’ example. Model giving respect to others. Jesus showed respect to those he encountered—from the woman at the well to doubting Thomas.

Paul tells us, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” What does submitting have to do with respect? Re-read the answers my lovely friends shared about what respect means. It is submitting. It is putting others ahead of ourselves. It is not demanding. It is loving.

Show your children what respect is by respecting them, by respecting your spouse, by respecting our leaders, by respecting the referees at their games. Showing them how to respect others melds into showing them how to love—even the unlovable, even our enemies, even if we think it’s not deserved, even people with whom we disagree and even those who disagree with us. Respect can and does go a long way.

“Be a light!”

It seems like the world is getting darker. Maybe it’s that as my children get older and they are in the world more, my eyes are more sensitive to the darkness of this world. What is the world saying to them? How is it being said?

We know that our children have to be in the darkness. In fact, Jesus says, “My prayer is NOT that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth” (John 12:15-17, emphasis added).

The evil one is very crafty. He uses so many regular things, and often good things, to cast shadows. Stress, movies, relationships, books, family, video games, peers, conflict are just some examples of sources of shadows.

It would be nice if we could keep all the worldly darkness out of our children’s, and our, lives, but that just isn’t possible. As parents, we can be intentional with teaching them how to hear God’s voice and see his light. Reading scripture, prayer, and solitude time with God are rhythms we do in our home that still us enough to refresh our light and hear God’s voice.

Not only do we want to teach our children these things, we want to model it as well. It isn’t just our children who are in the world. We are too. We want to be as prepared as much as they are, if not more so, to stand and be a light in this world. When, as a family, we hear God’s voice, we can be a light of His love in this world.

Whenever my children leave to go into the world you will always hear me holler my tagline, “Be a light!” I have found this to be a good reminder for our family to be in the world but not of the world. Light looks different. Light shines. Light attracts. Light warms. Light shows direction. Light reveals.

So the encouragement I give to my children I also pass on to you. “Be a light!”

Our discipline flows from love

Discipline. The past 14 years of Tad’s and my parenting adventure have included many trials and errors. Just when we thought we had it down, a different child, with a different personality—and, therefore, different needs—showed up. But here are a few basic, underlying things that we strive to do.

We start early. The battles when they are little may seem difficult at the time because who doesn’t want to give that cute two-year-old whatever she wants? The earthly consequences when they are little aren’t that big so it is easy to cave. However, that same behavior looks much different when they are in their teen years—and the earthly consequences are much greater. The truth is, disciplining when they are little is much easier than when they are older.

We follow through with consequences. Sometimes that means we, as parents, miss out as well. Although, Tad and I are getting better at picking consequences for our children that don’t punish us in the process.

As our children get older, we let them have a say. As much as possible we share with them why we have the rules and consequences that we do. If they can understand and be part of the process, we believe this helps teach them discernment. This wisdom will be with them even when we are not with them.

We choose what hill we’re willing to die on. Our house rules really fall into two categories: love God and love others. If a rule doesn’t fit under one of these, then we look at the reasoning behind it. Is it because of our personal preference? Because that’s the way we’ve always done things? Because we are concerned about how the outside world will view our parenting?

We let our creative 10-year-old girl go out in public with the most unique choices of clothing. We let our older boys grow their hair out way, way longer than we’d like. If it isn’t a character issue, we won’t die on that hill. If it involves how we love God and/or how we love others, that’s a hill on which we will stand, fight, and die.

We try to model our heavenly Father. He disciplines out of love for us. He wants the very best for us, which is a relationship with him. Our discipline is out of love for our children. We want the very best for them with Christ as the center of their lives. None of this works if we don’t have a loving relationship with our children.

As much as we know these concepts work for our family, we still struggle with our own flesh, our own agendas. Only by God’s grace are we able to implement these things out of love for our children. We know the work pays off. We enjoy our children as they grow in God’s grace.

Which wolf are we feeding?

God’s timing is always perfect. I received an e-mail asking to write about jealousy among siblings right after I received the call from the director of the upcoming young actors’ production. The news came in; Micah didn’t receive a part and his brother Silas did. Micah is the one who has been in a number of productions where he has been in the ensemble as well as main characters. Silas has only auditioned once before. This was setting up to be the perfect scenario for a great article on jealousy. All I had to do was watch and see what happens.

The first day of rehearsal came. Silas got ready to go. Micah got up from his video game, walked him out and said, “Have fun, Silas. You will have a blast.” Wait, what? Where was the drama? Where was the anger? And most importantly, where was the jealousy?

When I had a chance to talk to Micah one-on-one I asked him, “How are you doing it?”

“Doing what?”

“Every day you are watching Silas do something that you love. And you are being so gracious and encouraging. How are you doing it?”

He replied, “I don’t know, I guess I just focus on him more than myself.”

Our conversation led to the old Cherokee legend that talks about the battle going on inside each one of us. In the legend there is the battle between a good wolf and an evil wolf. The battle is won by the wolf that we feed.

As Christians we know this battle. It is the battle between our flesh and the Spirit. One is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, pride, superiority, and ego. The other is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Which one wins? The one that we feed.

Micah knows who he is in Christ. He gets what it means to love others. He gets what it means to put others before himself. The fruit of this child shows his relationship with his Heavenly Father is living and active. Ah, if only I could “get it” like my 12-year-old son.

This doesn’t mean that tears have not been shed. It doesn’t mean that Micah doesn’t struggle when he thinks about seeing his brother on stage while he will be in the audience. What it does mean is that in these struggles, he knows he has a choice; a choice to walk in the flesh or to walk in the Spirit. Our most important job as parents is to cultivate our children’s relationship with their Savior. The more they know who our God is, the more they know his voice, the more they walk with him.

If only . . .

I remember telling my dad, “My prayer is to never have to say, ‘If only . . .’ when it comes to parenting.” I’ve been parenting my children for a little over 13 years now. I’ve had to say, “If only,” more times than I’d like to admit.

One such time was last summer when I backed into my 10-year-old son with our van. “If only I had checked.” “If only I wasn’t in a hurry.” “If only . . .”

By the grace of God, my son was fine. The fact that he had known I was leaving shortly after I dropped him off didn’t get in the way of his desire to play with his Legos, in the sunshine, in the driveway, behind the van. When I backed up, I felt the resistance and stopped. It was like a slow motion movie scene as I rushed to the back of the van to first see scattered Legos and then see my son.

When I saw him, I screamed, “I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I am so, so sorry!” He was crying too. I looked him over and over. His legs were scraped up pretty badly, however he could stand and nothing looked broken. He then began apologizing to me. He knew he had made a bad choice. But I knew I was supposed to be responsible. I was the mom. I had just hit my son with the van! What mom hits her son with a VAN?!?!

This mom. This mom had to call the doctor and explain to the receptionist that she needed to bring her son in because she hit him with the van. This mom had to call her husband and tell him that she hit his son with the van. This mom had to explain to the nurse, the doctor, and the X-ray technician that she hit her son with the van. This mom had to explain that she hit her son with the van to friends, family, and curious/nosey people who could see the bad scrapes, scratches, and bruises on his legs.

That day I had made an obvious mistake in my parenting. But I had made a not-so-obvious mistake as well. Up until that day, I had put much of my value in my own parenting. I had felt like I was a pretty good parent. Because of that, I had put my self-value, my self-worth into my being a good parent, until I did something characteristic of a bad parent. Then what? I was crushed. In my mind I had lost a big part of my self-worth. But what if I had put my value in being a beloved daughter of the almighty God?

Being a dearly loved daughter who had made a horrible mistake—who could crawl in the lap of her Creator and ask for comfort and forgiveness—changes everything. The same is true for every Christian parent. Our value isn’t in our own parenting skills, but in the God who gifted us with children and loved us enough to forgive our failings. If we find value in who we are as dearly loved children of God, we never have to be good enough. We are enough because God made us so.