Thursday, April 4, 2013

REAL LIFE PARENTING IN GRACE: PRACTICAL IDEAS

From Beth:
Whenever we speak about Parenting in Grace we get responses from parents asking for examples-- how does this look in "real life" you wonder? I love those questions because it seems to me that if we can't flesh out the gospel of grace in the day to day lives of our homes, if it is constrained to
sermons, bible studies, and the occasional outreach event or mission trip, then we are surely missing something! So, I am with you on wanting examples and practical help. We've shared some about the helpful idea of Time In and Taking a Break (rather than the traditional Time Out), and explored Parenting in Grace from many different angles, so today I thought we would take a look at practical ways we can train our child in Grace, bringing an affirming resolution to our discipline.

By the way, these ideas are simply that, ideas. Let the Holy Spirit lead you as you face a negative behavior or habit pattern. He is speaking to you and will give you insight and revelation as you need it. How faithful He is to us parents! 
We have really appreciated the folks at Biblical Parenting for practical strategies to try in your home. They speak about the Positive Conclusion, some of which I am sharing with you in this post. 

Follow Up and Resolution:
We all want to train our children and help them mature in godly behavior. We all want to get the the heart issues, don't we? As we move past the consequence to address the heart issue, then we are parenting in grace I think. Having a time of follow up, or Resolution, is key to training and maturity. It brings clarity for your child while strengthening your relationship. We don't want to stop at simply correcting a bad behavior; we want to take the opportunity to train in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). 

Not Just Don't, but Do!
We are all pretty quick at knowing what to tell our children NOT to do-- that's easy! "Don't run in the house," "Stop hitting your sister," "Don't talk to me in that tone of voice," etc, etc, etc!! Stephen and I learned (even before our adoptions with our three birth daughters, but especially after we brought home our 5, 7 and 10 year olds who learned behavior in a Russian orphanage) to focus more on what we wanted our children to do than on what we wanted them not to do. When trying to put an end to a bad behavior or habit, it is most effective to replace it with a good behavior, which hopefully will develop into a good habit. We are equipping our children with tools for life when we do this. 
So, "don't run in the house" can be followed by, "but you can walk like this" (showing a brisk walk), or "if you'd like to hop on one foot though, that is great!" And rather than simply saying your son's tone of voice is not ok, follow up with an example of what the same sentence would sound like in an appropriate tone of voice. 

Let's Pretend You are the Mommy and I am the Child!
When you are talking about an incident, using role play is a great way to train in righteousness. Ask your child what it would look like if things had gone differently? If your child is in a playful mood, it can actually help to play act her behavior from earlier in the day. "Let's pretend you are the mommy and I am the child!" You might, for instance, let her play mommy and you be the one who speaks disrespectfully. Sometimes the shock factor in this approach is really effective. I remember once throwing myself on the kitchen floor in a mock fit to the great astonishment of my girls. We were able to talk about another way to handle not getting the snack they wanted at the time after that! Play acting the scenario empowers your child when the next inevitable situation arises. You are replacing the bad habit with a good one. 

Time and Place is Key:
I feel pretty confident in saying that the "heat of the moment" is never the best time to deal with the heart issues behind an action. I've tried it and it doesn't work! I like to see things resolved right away and find it very hard to let an issue go unaddressed, but I've had to get over that for sure. A child who is anxious, angry, hurt or ashamed is simply not able to receive training, much less have a helpful conversation. This is true with any child, but we have seen that with many adopted children there are deep places of fear that get "triggered" by what would normally be an easily dealt with behavior or heart adjustment. Much has been written about how past trauma affects our children so I will just say that, bottom line, wait to work on this type of resolution and training when your child is no longer in fight/flight/freeze mode.
So, here are a few ideas regarding the when and where of your follow up and resolution that have worked in our family:
  • Bed times are wonderful times to connect. The tender moments when you sense the Lord's peace is ideal to say something like, "Sweetie, do you remember when you got so angry yesterday when I said you couldn't watch a movie......?"
  • Similarly, first thing in the morning is also a good time. Crawl in bed and snuggle, or just sit on the side and rub her back or put your hand on his head as you talk. 
  • For older children try going for a drive and talking. As important as eye contact is, your teen may be less defensive if you are not looking right at her/him.
  • We have found that taking a walk is also an effective time to bring up heart issues. Stephen has used this many times and literally always had good results in connecting. And don't let your child's initial negative response throw you! Ours often said something like, "It's too hot," or "I just started this game," etc. Press on and see if this works for you!
  • Avoid addressing an issue in front of others. If your child feels self-conscious or embarrassed, your window of opportunity will slam shut most likely.  
Stay tuned-- next time we'll talk about using this follow up time to help your child understand what he/she did wrong, why it was wrong, and to ask for and give forgiveness. 





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