Tag Archives: Parenting

Learning from those you’ve taught

When our children were young it was hard to imagine them taller than ourselves, driving a car, waking up to their own alarm clock without our knock on the bedroom door as the back up, getting to work, on-time, 5 days a week, paying rent, deciding where to live and with whom without your time, effort or approval.  It’s hard to imagine them as an adult separate from yourself, living a life that is full, vibrant and apart from your care.   And even harder to imagine that they would be my teacher, my  mentor and a model in areas of my life.  Inconceivable in the early years.  Getting a daily shower was inconceivable in the earliest years.  I find myself beyond the disbelief of imagining my children as adults.  I am there.  And what I’m finding is that I’m learning from them.  They are going places in their lives I never dared or dreamed for in my own.  Perhaps I was never brave enough to risk because of my own insecurities.

How often do I admit I don’t know how to do something, I need help and then ask the one person that I have alienated for that help and in so doing build a bridge of relational restoration?  Watching a child, my child, my emerging adult child take that step of vulnerability, risk and humility I will not soon forget.  This was a moment when I was challenged by the example I saw in my child to examine my willingness to humble myself with those I need to rebuild a bridge of relationship with.  I don’t recall ever teaching or modeling this myself.  In fact I have said and done things in his presence that would have led to the opposite behavior.  How did he get farther than I have ever been in this arena?  He is humbly leading me now.

I hear a young adult navigating their way through a world of needs, hurt, pain and sadness in the lives of those around them.  Speaking words of compassion, truth and comfort into their lives.  I see the tangible acts of love and care extended through simple ways of listening, remembering, including, seeing the dignity in the most needy all around them.  Where did she learn that?  I was quick to dodge and ignore the needy, for fear of my safety, for fear of  her safety, for a host of selfish reasons.  She was there to watch and observe those things in me.  And yet she’s taking a different path.  Stopping to listen and engage the stranger, including the weak and frail.  How did she get farther than I have ever been in seeing, really seeing, others?  She is teaching grace and compassion to me now.

Each week they are hosting coffees, deserts, dinners, bbq’s, impromptu gatherings of the newly formed relationships in their home.  They are practicing a way of life that includes others, generous with their time and resources and willing to continue to expand their relational circle beyond the familiar and comfortable.  Their home is a bright spot on their street, where others come uninvited to join in, and they are welcomed.  Where did she learn that?  The home she grew up in did not feel this way, though now I wish it had and did.  The standard she sets is high, maybe more than I can see for myself.  She gently coaches me with her encouragement, experience and wisdom.  She is modeling generous hospitality to me now.

Our children come to us as babies and we teach them everything.  How to eat, walk, play nice, clean up, read, spell, work hard, forgive, speak truth, be honest.  As a parent when I was caught in the day to day of teaching, leading and coaching them it was hard to imagine that they would someday out pace where I was.  But they are.  I wish I had known then that perhaps all my shortcomings would not “ruin them”.  I wish I had rested in knowing they were not destined to be limited by my own limitations.  I wish I had known then to be easier on myself and my expectations for them and for me.  But I am learning now.  From them.

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August 1, 2013 · 1:52 pm

Alarm bells are ringing – get out the tool box

. . .when the alarm bells go off, we want to put out the fire. We assume — understandably — that we can make a child feel better by making her problem go away. Parents are habituated to this from the moment of a child’s birth: feed when they’re hungry, sleep when they’re tired, hold when they cry. We bypass empathy and go straight to the problem solving.

But as your daughter grows more independent, and her peer culture becomes more influential, it becomes almost impossible for you to make her problems “go away” (in my experience, most girls come to accept that long before their parents do). In fact, peer aggression is one of the first moments many parents come to that painful realization: I’m not going to be able to control her world. I can’t fix it.                    – Rachel Simmons

This excerpt from an article by Rachel Simmons today in the Huffington Post stopped me in my tracks.  She described one of the toughest realizations of parenting.  I can’t fix it.

I can’t fix it.  I can’t control his/her world.  And, I can’t be their God.  Ouch.

The article goes on to say that one of the things that evades parents when their girls are bullied is empathy. Listening, reflectively to their feelings, seeking to understand their pain.  It’s a tough place to be as a parent. In a position of empathy, sitting on the sidelines with your child, rather than as their champion going out to fight the fight for them.  There are times when you do step in for your child.  When a 4th grader was punching kids in the stomach on the bus when 1st graders didn’t give him their milk money, we stepped in. But when friends were spreading hurtful lies and rumors, we couldn’t step in, we couldn’t fix it.  Sometimes I think I listened and empathized.  Sometimes I jumped in head first with solutions and bypassed empathy all together.  And along with that came a large dose of righteous anger and ‘we’ll see about that’ attitude. Not the most helpful attitude for a parent to share with their child or teen.

I find fixing to be more fulfilling for me.  But perhaps empathy, listening and understanding is more fulfilling for the child.  My ‘children’ are now 20-somethings.  But it’s still the same.   Now more than ever they need someone to listen, understand and reassure.  Not fix things for them.

The scriptures say, Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.  Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!

Don’t think you know it all.  Perhaps another way of saying, you can’t fix it.

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Japan – how it impacts your children

This week’s disaster in Japan has brought grief, tragedy and death into our homes.  If you have children they are discussing this disaster at school and among themselves and you as a parent need to enter that conversation.  I remember the tragedy of the Oklahoma City bombings (where I grew up), 9/11, the Katrina hurricane, last year’s earthquake in Haiti and the questions that those world events brought to our dinner table and bed time routine  when my children were younger.  As they’ve grown to be young adults these events will impact our conversations in the coming days.  In the midst of our own emotions we are modeling how to cope, think and respond to our children, no matter what their age or stage of life.

Take a moment to read the following article from LifeWay.  It has some great reminders for parents.  Little eyes and ears are watching and listening to you.  Be intentional about your parenting during this disaster.

From time to time I read a blog by a children’s pastor in Canada, Henry Zonio. He recently started a parenting blog that has peaked my interest.  He addresses the age-old question “why did this bad thing happen” in his recent post.

I think we get so caught up sometimes in trying to explain why bad things happen. We forget that question is more of a distraction sometimes. The real question is, “How can we help God’s Kingdom come in the midst of pain and disaster and darkness?” We need to empower kids to take a look at the world around them and all that is broken around them and ask, “God, how can I be light? How can I be a part of your story of redemption in this situation? How can I love you and love others in this?”

Those are two great question to ask ourselves and our children this week.  How can I love God and love the people of Japan during this?  And while you’re at it, love on your kids too.

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Courage

Parenting is a long process. Most of what I’ve learned along the way has come through missteps, doing it the hard way and sorry to say to my kids, at your expense. And I’m sill learning. An early morning breakfast with a friend today included a few minutes talking about protecting our children from what we consider pain, harm or difficulties for their own good. What seems like good parenting might actually not be good at all.

And not an hour after my conversation this morning I read the following post by Carey Nieuwhof at OrangeParents.org. It’s well worth the read.

Choose to instill courage in your children today. But first you must have the courage to trust. Check it out.

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A look back – Mom, I have a question

As I look back over my first year of blogging I started with the one below.  Only 12 months ago, but so many questions have come since then.  This post from last December is a good reminder for me as the troops begin to gather for Christmas,  to listen and heed my own words . . . .


Dec. 24, 2009  –  Mom, I have a question.  Over the years this has been a frequent opening line from our children.  It can precede a request for a friend to come over, money for a movie, tonight’s dinner menu or something much deeper.  It’s their way of saying, I’ve got something on my mind and I don’t quite know where to start.

As the years have come and gone the topics have gone from requests for a friend to come over, help with a game or toy, to relationships that are hurting, major decisions or help with struggles on an adult scale.  And, no surprise, I don’t have the answer.  Oh, I have the answer to tonight’s dinner menu, well, maybe, but when it comes to the tough questions, I’m as stumped as any parent. Some questions have nice, simple, clear answers. But usually the most important questions seem to jump up out of nowhere and almost take your breath away.  They’re the type of question that gets answered from your heart, your experience and from your own hurt or disappointment.  It’s so easy to start talking before you think.  Those questions deserve more than a quick answer.  When I’ve been slow to speak and quick to listen it’s been better not to answer at all but ask a question in return and let them share in the discovery of thinking through the possibilities.  I think those have been some of the best Q & A times we’ve shared.

The questions still come even though our 3 are hundreds if not thousands of miles away.  Only now, they come by text, cell, email or whatever the latest language might be. And I hope they keep coming for a long time.

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Doing Nothing

Doing nothing seems easy.  But when you’re a parent doing nothing can be very hard.

My friend’s daughter wanted an ice cream cone tonight.  They were freely being handed out at the other side of the room.  She wanted one.  Desperately wanted one, but wanted help.  “Dad, will you come do it for me?”  He wisely replied, “No, honey, you can do it yourself.  Go ahead.”  My friend was not being lazy or trying to take the easy way out, he was trying to instill self-reliance, moving her along that continuum of dependence to independence and letting her know he believes in her.  He was doing the hard thing – nothing.  Letting her do it herself.

When your children don’t want to do something themselves it is very easy to step in and do it for them.  It’s quicker, less messy, the end result is much more to our liking and sometimes there’s much less hassle involved (yelling).  But the end result is not the task at hand.  The end result is a child that is learning to take another step for themselves, learning that we believe in them and realizing that they matter.  The pout on their face and the whine that exudes from their mouth does not agree with that last statement but they don’t see the big picture, we do.  But when we get tired, crunched for time, out in public or short on patience we forget, rush in and just get the ice cream cone.  My friend didn’t.  He reminded me that parenting is encouraging them and then doing nothing.

As I drove home I realized that the asks from my children are bigger now than going to get the ice cream cone.  With late adolescents and emerging adults in the family the stakes are a bit higher.  For both of us.  Perhaps at first glance the task itself might not seem any different from an ice cream cone but they are still on that continuum of dependence to independence.  And our goal is ultimately interdependence, where we can depend on each other.  And as long as I am impatient (we have been at this a long time now), in a hurry or frustrated – I rush in when maybe I should just do nothing.  Thanks for the reminder tonight Mike.

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Haiti and Helping Your Children Cope

This week’s disaster in Haiti has brought grief, tragedy and death into our homes.  If you have children they are discussing this disaster at school and among themselves and you as a parent need to enter that conversation.  I remember the tragedy of the Oklahoma City bombings (where I grew up), 9/11 and the Katrina hurricane and the questions that those world events brought to our dinner table and bed time routine when my children were younger.  In the midst of our own emotions we are modeling how to cope, think and respond to our children.

Take a moment to read the following article from LifeWay.  It has some great reminders for parents.  Little eyes and ears are watching and listening to you.  Be intentional about your parenting during this disaster.

From time to time I read a blog by a children’s pastor in Canada, Henry Zonio. He recently started a parenting blog that has peaked my interest.  He addresses the age-old question “why did this bad thing happen” in his recent post.

I think we get so caught up sometimes in trying to explain why bad things happen. We forget that question is more of a distraction sometimes. The real question is, “How can we help God’s Kingdom come in the midst of pain and disaster and darkness?” We need to empower kids to take a look at the world around them and all that is broken around them and ask, “God, how can I be light? How can I be a part of your Story of redemption in this situation? How can I love you and love others in this?”

Those are two great question to ask ourselves and our children this week.  How can I love God and love the people of Haiti during this?  And while you’re at it, love on your kids too.


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