5 Ways to Help Prevent the Dreaded Meltdown

I like this statement: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

It’s so true in so many areas of our lives, but it’s hard to think ahead, get ahead of the game, and take steps to prevent whatever problem we’re trying to avoid.

I’m learning with my little one–and let me tell you, I’ve gotten loads of opportunities in the past few months to learn and practice–how important preventative measures can be against meltdowns. And don’t get me wrong. There are things going on that preventative measures can’t always fix! But I do believe them to be very restorative and connecting, and some days that is going to have to be enough.

Here are a few things I am trying to add into my day, a mental check list if you will, of intentional steps:

1. We give hugs, back rubs, holding hands, and quick little back scratches. Even laying down and snuggling, looking into each others eyes. All of these physical touches calm the brain, bring happiness, and say without words that we love and are there for them.

2. A lot of our kids are –it’s okay if you don’t agree with this of course, or if you call it something different — under the attack of the enemy. Particularly adopted children have silent whispers in their ears of “you weren’t really wanted and you aren’t now either” and “there’s going to come a time that they won’t forgive you or love you anymore”. Our battle is not with the child when they are acting out due to these lies! Our battle is with the enemy of their souls. We are fighting for them, friends! So we PRAY God’s Word for them and over them, silently, out loud, whisper it, yell it! Before the crisis of the day happens, we pray. Then we pray through it. Then we pray after it.

3. We also speak truths to counteract the lies they are hearing. All day, before there’s a problem or during a problem, we’re saying: “You are such a gift.” “I can’t imagine my life without you!” “You are so special and so precious.” I may tell my little one the story, in just 5 sentences or so, of how she came to be in our family. I tell her God has a wonderful plan for her life and that HE rescued her for a high purpose. I tell her she is dearly loved and chosen. I remind her of all the families she is a part of: Ethiopian, ours, and Gods!  I ask for discernment from the Lord about what truth she needs to hear, and then I speak it out loud to her every time I think of it, which needs to be more and more often.

4. We praise them separately for doing things right. “Look how you obeyed so quickly! Wow!! Great job!” “Give me a high five, look how well you finished that homework!” There’s a difference between statements of worth (#3) and statements of praise for accomplishing tasks (#4). They need BOTH.

5. We make sure their needs are met before they get too cranky and bent out of shape. Some kids are just not as flexible as others. Keeping blood sugar stable by eating a healthy snack every 2-3 hours is helpful. Having a built-into-the-schedule nap/quiet time in beds even if they are already in school (so we do it after school) can ward off disaster. (We are still working on this one!) We may have to say no to certain things if it means they are out too late and are not getting enough sleep, or if they are just busy and pressured to fit into a tight schedule. It probably won’t always be this way, and it’s hard on both the parent and the kid, but they will need us to sacrifice the wants sometimes in order to fulfill the needs.

Respecting Your Kids (Part Two: Why)

So in the past two blogs, we have talked about how respect is one of the most important ways we can put action to the words “I love you”, what types of behaviors we see in our kids, how we tend to respond, and some of the ways our hearts need to change for better relationships.

It’s not easy and it may feel uncomfortable. It may feel like you’re focusing on the wrong thing and letting bad behavior slide. But here’s why parenting with respect is so vital:

1. They’re human beings. If you’re a boss of an office full of adults, there are certain ways you go about getting them to comply and certain ways you don’t, and those “ways” have everything to do with general courtesy and respect. If you’re the boss, you set the tone in the office for how people are going to interact. Same for a parent. If we want a house with no yelling, no muttering mean things under breath, no hurtful sarcasm, no interrupting and talking over each other, no harsh judgment or interrogation, and no heightened negative emotions brimming over in our speech, it’ll start with us. We live in a world right now where being a human being isn’t enough reason to show love and respect to one another. We have to change that! We will see respect if we set the tone for it with our own words and actions.

2. We need to learn to show respect to our kids because respect opens up their heart and mind. Lectures and punishments literally shut down parts of their brains, and we can see it in their eyes! They either lash out or retreat in, but either way, we see it, and we keep going because we don’t know what else to do to make a bad behavior stop. Respect, shown by listening, gentleness, affection, and other efforts to show unconditional positive regard, relax their mind and heart (literally!) and give us a way in. The heart is where the real change happens, and respect is an open door into their heart.

3. Respect raises a child’s self-image and what they think of themselves. When we show them and say out loud to them, “You’re worth my time and attention, you are not a problem”, that becomes a part of their identity. We want others in their lives to see their worth, right? When they are grown we will expect them to even demand that from their spouse or co-workers, right? We have to recognize their worth ourselves and teach it to them now.

4.  Respect builds trust. They begin to believe that whether they’ve messed up or not, whether they’ve done something acceptable or the opposite this time, they still belong. Instead of always feeling like they have to strain to achieve that secure spot, they begin to believe they are already living in it. Then their choices and actions will reflect that status.

Kids (and adults) hear a lot of lies in their heads about not being good enough, not being loved, not belonging. In so many people, that’s just there…a sense of it always there. It really breaks my heart. We have the chance and the power to speak against those lies with everyone we come in contact with, and especially our children, through showing them respect that is unrelated to what they do or don’t do.

 

Respecting Our Kids (Part One: The Struggle)

Okay, let me paint a picture for you and then you can see if you’re reading the right blog 🙂

One or more of your children seems to need more attention than you think they should require at their age. They have one or more of these characteristics: They tend to be destructive. They lose, break, cut, and color on things. They tend to whine or fall apart at instruction. They are opinionated and don’t go with the flow. They lie sometimes, and their response to being found out is one of confusion. They have a hard time looking you in the eye and staying focused on more than one sentence at a time. Certain things really bug them, like socks being too big or noise or even hugs.  They don’t remember something they seemed to have grasped last week. They get anxious about learning new things. They aren’t compliant sometimes with simple things like putting on shoes or finishing their drink. They seem to disregard instructions, either forgetting or not prioritizing them. They’re often in a bad mood even when their lives seem quite fun and easy.

Even if these aren’t characteristics of any of your children, do you recognize any of the following characteristics in yourself?

You don’t know how to respond when your child did something irresponsible or flat out disobedient or is throwing a loud fit. Your first move is to give a lecture and a punishment. Your main priority is that they simply never do that behavior again. You ask “What were you thinking?” a lot. You holler from across the house what they need to be doing. You threaten time-outs and spankings without actually getting up from your chair. You feel angry, aggravated, and powerless. You give mean looks. Your expectations are rarely met.

Well, I’ve been there, I admit it. In fact, in order to implement the changes I have been learning about, I needed to grow in humility and have a major heart change. Here are just a few pieces to the heart-change puzzle for me:

  1. I had to recognize I don’t show love and acceptance to my children just as they are, right smack in the middle of their problems, and that’s not okay. I had to realize I was holding back smiles and warm, kind eyes from them when they disappointed me, and that’s not okay.  I was saying, “We’re your forever family, you belong with us, we love you!” but acting like “You better shape up, kid, and I’ll be keeping you at arm’s length until you do.” I truly had to repent.
  2. I had to let go of my expectations of them based on their age or what “should be” their maturity level. So many of my angry moments were spurred by this thought: “You should know better. You should do better.” I had to let go of the “shoulds” and accept what is, choosing to rise to the challenge. (P.S. None of us like to be “shoulded”…either we achieve something or we don’t, “shoulding” just makes people feel less.)
  3. I had to realize children are unique little people with quirks, idiosyncrasies, struggles, habits, and opinions, just like me, and they deserve the same acceptance and unconditional kindness and respect that I expect from others. They’re complex! They aren’t my canvas to paint on, they are their own, and we don’t really even know them until we make the effort to stop changing them.
  4. I had to understand there are real biological or psychological reasons behind some of those behaviors and difficulties, and grow in knowledge and compassion.
  5. I had to accept that it was my responsibility to set a new tone, make a new plan, and bring healing through our interactions instead of hurt and distance.

 

Respecting Our Kids (Intro)

Wow, my thoughts about this topic are completely commandeering my morning. If I sound especially passionate in my writing today it’s because God is digging deep in the garden of my heart…and because of my spiritual gifts of teaching and encouraging, I feel like I have to share.

First of all, my ideas of parenting changed completely through attending an Empowered to Connect seminar in April 2015 and then continuing to study and practice their teaching all summer. This training is specifically for parents and caretakers of children from hard places, whether that’s a foster care situation, trauma at an early age, or adoption. It’s for families who are raising kids who have experienced loss at a time they needed attachment and someone they could trust the most. But as I listened and as I have learned this summer, I have grown to believe this way of relating is for EVERYONE! It has revolutionized my home and now is revolutionizing my heart, affecting every relationship, beyond my children…and the real key to it all is respect. Yes, love, of course. But one of the ways love is shown is through the multi-faceted concept of respect.

Every person wants to feel respected, like they matter, like they are an equal, and like their voice is worthy of being heard. Every person needs to be able to share how they are feeling without fear of punishment. Every person deserves this and innately desires this, because we’re made in the image of God and by the hands of God! Whether we struggle at times with this concept of self image or not, something inside of us is always pushing us to know we are special and precious.

Is it possible that we teach our kids they are fearfully and wonderfully made, as Psalm 139 tells us, and expect them to grow up to have a great self-esteem, but then talk to them on a daily basis like we would talk to no other human being on this planet? I say every child needs respect whether they come from hard places or not, whether they’re fragile in the area of feeling like they belong or not, because it doesn’t matter how steady and strong your foundation is, none of us appreciate a lack of respect being shown to us and when there is a lack of respect we struggle to respond correctly in that moment. When the cashier says in an exhausted, sarcastic tone, “Are you gonna swipe your card or what?” When your spouse says, “I know I told you I would do this, but I did this instead…I’ll do your thing later.” When the person you were in a fender bender with yells, “What is wrong with you?” The three attitudes behind these examples…I have had them all with my children at times and that makes me sad.

It is possible to raise children with respect without them thinking they are in control and equal in regard to running the household. Here’s the good news: They don’t want to be in control and they don’t want to run the household. They simply want their ideas and words to be listened to, their feelings and desires considered, and to be spoken to and treated with unconditional positive regard.

This week I’ll be sharing blogs about this topic and will give examples of how we can change disrespectful habits into life giving, connecting interactions with our kids. I hope I can relay to you how imperfect I am at this, yet how much reward I already am receiving — I can see it in their eyes.

Being respected is being loved.