ParentingThoughts

Thoughts that inspire, challenge, and help increase your influence

Is this Why I’m frustrated as a Parent?

“Sometimes I feel like superman.  Sometimes I’m just recuperating.”  — Bob Schneider

That song lyric rolls around in my head often, but during this season of life it has become the theme.  In our life with kids some days it’s all we can do to survive.  Some days we are knocking it out of the park.  Then, of course, there are the days we think we are at the top of our game, but as soon as we relax, satisfied with ourselves, well…you know the rest of the story (something breaks, someone gets sick, kids fight, all hell breaks loose).

The main question I seem to be asking myself everyday is, “Can I make it until the kids go to bed without coming unglued or am I going to lose it today?”  

Sometimes I feel like Superman.  Sometimes I’m just recuperating.

Now, many are quick to say this season with young kids in the house is the most demanding. They also say it’s the toughest time for marriages and individuals, so we should give ourselves (and our spouse) a ton of grace.  It’s just a season and it will pass.  This is absolutely true and I know this is part of what I’m about to say.  However, for me personally, I think I’ve discovered something else going on.  Something a bit deeper.  Something hiding out behind the scenes.  Something that I need to confess.

I’m discontent.  I’m tired of the rhythms of my days.  I’m frustrated with my state of my life.

This has been bubbling up in my mind for awhile, but I was reading an article recently that helped me process my discontent.  Paul David Tripp was being interviewed and his response to this question got me:

In what ways can the trials of the teenage years reveal what is really going on in the parents’ hearts?

“I wish I could say that the only time I got angry was when one of them broke God’s law!  However, the truth is that often I wasn’t angry because they had sinned, but because their sin got in my way.  And what often gets in the way of parenting teenagers are the idolatries of the parents.”

And there it was.  I want comfort, success, respect, control and these have become idols in my life.  I’m not discontent with my kids.  In fact, I’m having the most fun I’ve had as a parent in this current stage.  The problems is not them, it’s me!   Why else would I take the fact that my 4 year old doesn’t respect me in a particular moment so personally?

Here’s my complaint:  The morning routine isn’t giving much space for the personal quiet I need.  School dropoffs and pickups are getting in the way of my work and productivity.  Bedtime routines are stealing any head space or emotional capacity I have left at the end of the day to share with my spouse.

Bottom line:  I’m trying to work hard and get ahead in life and they’re trying to be kids and enjoy life.  Go figure.

“God-given Ministry Opportunities”

For those of you who are parents of teens, I think this is HUGE!  It’s hard and it requires an honest look at yourself, but to me it feels like if I can get this, I will save myself, and my family, a lot of heartache. 

Paul Tripp goes on to say if these things (idols) rule our heart, then in a moment of normal teen trouble, we will overreact.  It will be more about the fact that your teen “has stopped you from doing or having what you really want” than what they actually did.  In the those misguided moments, we just want to get the situation over with, we get frustrated, and we seek the quick fix.   In doing so, “we turn a God-given ministry opportunity into a moment of anger”.

Did you catch that?  What a transformational idea!  Moments of trouble are God-given opportunities and a unique chance for us to connect to the heart of our child.

Hitting a Rock

This reminds me of a story in my life.  There was a troubled teenager I was working with and I was taking him home one evening.  He was the last kid being dropped off and I could sense there was a lot on his mind.  It was a school night and his parents wanted him home quickly or I would have suggested going to grab a bite to eat and talk.  I tried to draw it out of him, but nothing was coming.  As I dropped him off, I was backing out of his long, narrow driveway just praying and wishing I had a chance to encourage him at some point.  As I began to turn into the circle to head home, I hit a bump and the car stopped moving.  I was pretty sure I just flattened his mailbox.  Either way, I was stuck.

I had run my bumper over a decorative rock at the end of the drive and it was stuck between the wheel and the bumper.  I wasn’t going anywhere.  I went back to the house.  The student and I rigged a way to get my car off the rock and laughed about the situation.  The laughter led to deeper conversation and I was able to encourage him in his current struggles.  Without the rock, I’m not sure we would have had the conversation we had that night.

Is it possible that some of the the bumps we encounter are holy moments waiting to be discovered?

Finding Contentment

As I reflect, my moments of anger are clearly revealing the idols of my heart.  The main problem in these moments of anger haven’t been my kids wrongdoing, it’s been my idolatry.  I’m discontent because they are getting in the way of what I want most – namely, the idol of comfort.

To find contentment, I’ve got to deal with my own heart.  I’m not there yet, but I can tell you that I can’t wait to go home tonight and look my kids in the eyes and tell them how incredible they are.  It’s a start!

Does this resonate with you as well?  As you reflect on recent “moments of anger” with your kids, what do they reveal about your heart?  How can you remind yourself in times of disruption and trouble that this might be the God-given opportunity you needed to connect with the heart of your child?

You can read the full article quoted above here.

“Cultivating a heart for God in teenagers is the hardest work a human being could ever do.  We must realize that there is no hope apart from Christ.  If I could turn the human heart by the force of my voice, the strength of my personality, the logic of my argument, or the wisdom of my parenting strategies, then Jesus would never have needed to come.  As a parent, I’ve hit something I can’t do by myself.  It makes me angry.  It frustrates me.  It discourages me.  I want an “instant fix”.  Just give me the three steps to producing godliness in kids.  But the Bible doesn’t do that.  It doesn’t give us a system of redemption; it gives us a Redeemer.”   –Paul David Tripp

A Quick Look In the Mirror

And that’s when I knew I had a problem.

My 2 year old was running towards me in a panic, “Daddy, Daddy!  You’re Phone!”  “What’s wrong?”, I asked.  “You need to put it in your pocket!” she emphatically responded.

My daughter had, through observation of my behavior, come to the conclusion that I was not complete without my cell phone attached to me in some way.  It was as much a part of me as anything else she observed.  It was a deep concern for my well-being that told her an immediate reaction was necessary when she found my phone on my nightstand and I was in the other room.

This became a consistent pattern and had me thinking about what I was modeling to my  very new-to-the-world daughter.  What have I already shown her about the way the world works?  Did I just screw myself for the teenage years?  Now when she has a phone attached to her and won’t pay attention to her family, is there where it all began?  

The folks over at Fuller Youth Institute just shared some research I think you will find worth your time to read.  They interviewed “50 amazing parents” and published a book based on their findings in relation to what they call “Sticky Faith”.  Basically, faith that stands the test of time.  Faith that sticks long after the kids leave the nest.

If you’re interested in the book, you can find it here: The Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family: Over 100 Practical and Tested Ideas to Build Lasting Faith in Kids

Here’s a portion of what they found when it comes to technology use in the home:

One of the most dominant themes in our fifty parents’ descriptions of their homes is that they limit their kids’ use of technology.

These boundaries are needed because of the way young people today are marinated in media.

Let’s consider together a generation whose lives are heavily flavored by technology:

• Fifty-eight percent of this generation possess a desktop computer.

• Sixty-one percent own a laptop.

• Eighteen percent use a tablet or e-reader.

But the real king of all technology is the device in their pocket. Almost 90 percent of this generation carry a cell phone. 1

When asked to describe their cell phone in one word, this generation answered, “Awesome,” “Great,” “Good,” “Love,” “Excellent,” “Useful,” and “Convenient.” 2

You might be thinking that some of those words don’t sound very adolescent. Especially the words useful and convenient. That’s because the generation I’m describing isn’t teenagers. It’s adults.

Are young people avid users of technology? You bet. But the data suggests that while teenagers may be digital natives, we adults are fast-adapting digital immigrants. Before we judge teenagers for their quick-texting thumbs and seemingly permanent earbuds, we adults need to put down our smartphones and think about our own media consumption.

Eighty-three percent of young people are involved in social networking. So are 77 percent of their parents. 3

– See more of the article here:  Parents’ Smartphones:  Sticky Faith Builder or Breaker?

When I read this article, it was just like my 2 yr old running up to me again.  For a time, I was very cognizant of how I was using technology.  My wife and I even discussed a “technology basket” where we dropped our phones or iPads when we were in the family room with the girls.  This is especially important when we get home from work and they so greatly desire our attention.

I hate to admit it, but the conviction has waned and the old habits resurfaced.

What about you?  Do you feel like you have adopted the same practices you complain that your children have?  Do you feel like technology is hampering your communication?  Or you may feel like technology has improved your communication?

Either way, I think it is important to evaluate our relationship with technology from time to time.  I know I need to.  I encourage you to take some time this week and evaluate the role of technology in your home to see what you find.

If you feel the need to make some changes, I’ve written on ideas for restricting technology use and you can find those thoughts here:  Raising Kids in the Digital Age – Part 3

I would encourage you to read part 1 of the series as well, so you can understand the heart behind the restrictions.    (I mention the use of a family agreement in the restrictions.  Here’s an article with an example of one family’s contract with their son – http://fulleryouthinstitute.org/blog/cell-phone-contract)

Feel free to share how you’ve navigated these waters in your own family in the comments below!

One Last Call for Hope

“The nature of human beings is to be inactive unless influenced by some affection:  love or hatred, desire, hope, fear, etc.  Those affections are the ‘spring of action,’  the things that set us moving in our lives, that move us to engage in activities.”  — Jonathon Edwards

“We have this (hope) as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul…”  –Hebrews 6:19

I never intended to write more than one post on fear and hope, but as I’ve gone about my days I’ve found that many people need hope in a very real way in their lives right now.  I need hope.  Let’s be honest, we live in a world where fear can easily be an influence in the way we live our daily lives.  If it’s not personal fears specific to your day, it’s Ebola or the Islamic State!

Currently, as a youth pastor and a dad of two young girls, I need hope.  I’ve seen enough and been in enough counseling situations to know what this world is capable of.  I’ve seen the students who are truly good kids get swept away in the currents of adolescence.  And here’s where it gets tricky:  If I allow fear to rule the day on this as I think about my own kids, I will go crazy!  I mean that as genuinely as possible.  I would go crazy.

I have no choice but to surrender to God my worries and fears and declare that I ultimately have no control over the future.  But this isn’t a passive surrender, it’s a daily surrender, it’s a ‘spring of action’ that allows hope to grow into confidence and confidence into rest and trust.  It becomes an anchor that can handle the realities of this world, knowing that God can influence the future and ultimately already has!

“Happy is the one whose hope is in the Lord” (Ps 146:5) isn’t just a scripture to be memorized, it’s a real state that motivates how we live our lives.  Sure, Ebola and ISIL gives pause and cause for concern, but “I have this hope that anchors my soul.”  I will not be shaken.

An Exercise to Determine Your Motivations

In the above quote, Edwards states that we would all be inactive if it were not for our “affections”, as he calls them.  What motivates your actions – love, hope, fear, hate or a softer version of hate?

TRY THIS:

Examine your actions, simply writing down the things you do without any judgement.  At the end of the week sit down and pencil in a probable motivation for each action.  Try to be honest as you examine why you did what you did.

I would love to hear what you discover!

(Exercise taken from a great book I’ve been trying to wake up and read before the kids wake.  If you are looking for a book to stir your affections in your spiritual life, this book is a great option -

 

Hope, Not Fear – Part II

In the last post I shared a story of the struggle my parents had in sending their high school son to a third-world country.  My mom shared that when she dropped me off at the airport and watched me walk off, she quietly prayed, “Well, he’s yours anyways.  He’s always belonged to You.”

Your Kids Are Not Your Own

Isn’t there great comfort in knowing your kids are not your own!  I remember leaving the hospital with our newborn child and thinking, “Are the nurses sure they can let us go?  Are we sure we know what we’re doing?  I don’t know that we can be trusted to do what is needed to take care of this new life.”  Despite all this, the nurses let us leave the hospital and we began our journey as parents.

In that moment, we had no choice but to ultimately hope that God was with us.  Our child was entrusted to us by a loving God who promises not to leave us or forsake us.  There is peace knowing that for as much as I love my kids, their Creator loves them with a more perfect love that I could ever muster.

You’re child is not your own.  Let that be of comfort to you.  Let that truth sink in and push fear to the sidelines.

“May the God of all hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

–Romans 15: 13

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

–Philippians 4: 6

Sharing the Hope

Now that we realize God is and will always be God and we have incredible reason to hope and dream for our children’s future because of who He is, let’s get practical.

If we listen to ourselves we often verbally share our fears with our kids.  We let them know what we worry about or what we are anxious about.  We let them know the dangers out  in the world and rightly so!  BUT, what if we also shared our hopes with our kids as well.  Here’s an example:

Your kid has the keys and license, now what!?

They know all your fears for them.  You’ve shared them with them.  Now share your hopes for them!  “You know I hope that when you have your car, you really grow in independence.  I’m excited for you to have some freedom and I hope that you find someway to be involved in what God is doing in this world.”

Ask them questions around what you hope for them.  Invite them to dream about what is possible.  Now that you have some freedom, what is something you’ve always wanted to do or be a part of?  How can you honor God with your new found freedom? 

We have some high schoolers in our community that have decided it’s worth it to wake up at 4:30am on Thursday mornings to go feed the homeless!  These students are choosing to do this on their own, often without their parents help.  Through their independence and ability to drive they are finding out they can significantly contribute to God’s kingdom and their community.

We’re going steady (Or whatever kids say these days) 

Or how about dating?  Again, they know your fears as they begin to date.  They’ve probably heard them for years.  I currently (and consistently) give my 4 and 2 year old daughters lessons on dating, because you can never start too soon!

But, what are your hopes when your kids are dating?  “I hope that in this relationship you find out more about yourself and it helps you become a better person.  I hope that you are respected and you respect this person.  I hope this relationship helps you grow into the person God is calling you to be.”  (I think you can have this same conversation in a negative tone, but the idea is to inspire them with your belief in what is possible for them.)

Keeping the Conversation Going

I have to believe that our sons and daughters will appreciate and engage in these conversations.  Maybe not to the level we hope, but don’t you think they will continue thinking about them after they leave our presence?  As they drive off in the car, won’t they think…man, my parents really believe I can do something significant!

We all know how fear can shut down a conversation.  “Mom, I know.  I’ve heard this a million times.  I will be careful, ok?!”.  Our goal as parents is to keep the conversation going.  To keep inviting our kids to dream about what they are capable of and who they are becoming.  To use their freedom responsibly and grow towards adulthood.

Will this work?  I wish I could say yes, but we all know their are no guarantees.  However, I will always try to keep the conversation alive and keep pointing my kids towards a God who gives us nothing but reason to hope.

What do you think?  Do you think your kids will respond to this type of conversation?  Do you think sharing your hopes will lead to a different outcome?

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