Reduce fear-based discipline

Old habits are hard to break – this is true for our children and true for us. In my family coaching ministry, I propose to make 2018 the year to tackle some of our parenting habits that are not working long term. I say long term, because sometimes parents only look at the immediate benefits of a particular parenting practice. And believe me, I can relate, especially when it comes to discipline practices. I mean, I raised 7 children, with an age span of 10 years and let me tell you, crowd control was big on my list. If a method of discipline offered immediate results – namely, stopping a behavior I wanted stopped, then I used that method without thought for any long-term ill-effects. I often lived in TODAY’s moments, because I was often overwhelmed TODAY. Can you relate?

There’s a dark side of fear-based discipline. This is true for all children, but even more so for our children who experience any of the 6 risk factors for behavior issues. By inadvertently triggering the stress response in our children by our discipline method, we disconnect from them and become their adversary, not their ally. Children who are in fight, flight, or freeze mode are stuck, and can not process that we are trying to do right by them. Instead, what they experience in their bodies is that the very one who is supposed to help, is actually hurting and scaring them. Of course we don’t want that for our children, when it’s put like that!

I have been able to identify some wrong beliefs I used to have, which fueled my own fear-based parenting, back in the earlier days of raising my children.  Each of these ‘myths’ could have a blog post all their own, and I might try to do that in the future. Some of these for me were religious beliefs that I had just accepted, but never examined on my own. I am content knowing that I seek to forsake man-made doctrines of all kinds which don’t really reflect reality.

My Myths:

*power grabs: child tries to take power from parents and parents job is to prevent that from happening at all costs.

*a child’s will is rebellious and must be broken by parents.

*spanking removes rebellion and increases obedience.

*not spanking leads to more rebellion and bad behavior.

*Instant obedience to parents leads to instant obedience to God.

The good news is that there are corrective methods you can employ to guide your child’s behaviors, which do not lead to disconnection with your child. In fact,  TBRI has some amazing ideas for shaping behavior which actually lead to more connection with your child. Watch this short video as Karyn Purvis of TBRI describes one such technique, called the I.D.E.A.L. response to your child’s behaviors. I am available to coach you on this method, if you want to incorporate it into your own parenting. 

I welcome your thoughts and comments!


Building Biblical Resilience in our Families

When I was a younger Christian parent, I wanted to believe that having faith in my strong and capable God inoculated me and my family from experiencing the trials and struggles common to humanity. I had hoped to think Christians existed in some sort of spiritual Goshen, sheltered from the plagues that befall ‘them’ – those who stand outside the Kingdom. And while it is true in many cases that our lifestyles founded on biblical principles give us protective qualities from many of the storms of life, our experiences tell us that even Christian homes have stresses and events that can be very disruptive to the functioning of our families. Jesus’s prayer to the Father is “ not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one”,  so honestly, we have been forewarned that we’ll face difficult situations from time to time.

Every day your child faces stress events can cause them to feel vulnerable, anxious, afraid, sad, frustrated, or lonely. As parents, we’d like to think we can shield our children from these things, but the truth is, there are always going to be events that can cause stress in our children’s lives – a parent’s sudden and unexpected job loss, health issues of parents or family members, events happening in the world that impact the family directly. The good news is that starting right now and today, you can help them build resilience, so they are equipped to take on the challenges that come with life and growing up.

What is resilience and what contributes to it?

The word resilience started in the physical sciences as the capacity of an object to return to its original shape when stretched; think of a spring or a rubber band. I’m going to date myself here,but in my own childhood I remember my brothers, sister and I playing with  “Stretch Armstrong”. See the source image

Do stores even sell these anymore? This was like a large GI Joe toy with hard plastic body but with these pliable stretchy arms and legs. My three siblings and I would each take one arm or one leg and together we would see how far the ‘ol guy could stretch. But he always bounced back. That is resilience.

The concept of human resilience became the ability to adapt well to adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats and stress; it’s what we use to bounce back from the hard things in life, or as I like to say, bounce forward. I say forward, because it’s unrealistic to expect families to bounce back as easily as Stretch Armstrong’s limbs do, especially when faced with serious life challenges. With serious issues, it may not be possible to go back to the way things were, but instead resilience forges new pathways; it becomes a way to look at life as a series of ‘moving forwards’. For Christians, in any talk about resilience, we must look at it through the lens of Biblical Truths: Jesus told us we would always have tough times, but He also told us that the Father would always be with us, strengthening us for the task set before us.

“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God,the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40: 28-31

 How can parents promote resilience in their children?

There are several ways that parents specifically can support resilience development, such as acknowledging your child’s feelings; keeping your child safe while allowing him/her to explore the environment; modeling what empathy and caring look and sound like; and encouraging your child to do things on his/her own. These work together as ingredients in the soup of resilience but one of the most significant influences on resilience has to do with family belief systems.

Brain research tells us that strong faith and prayer can promote health and healing and reduce stress. When your biblical values are lived out with your children (you practice what you preach) and when you create meaningful shared family practices, the whole family is better able to withstand challenges. I am going to highlight two biblically based practices that you probably already know are important parts of the Christian life, but maybe did not know that they encourage greater resilience in your children and yourself too.

  1. *Give God the glory in all things.

Habakkuk 3:17-18 Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!

Children are strengthened in resilience when they know that even though they (or you) may not be able to control the outcome of events, that does not mean the family has been forsaken by God. This is the time to be thankful for family and for what you do have, even in the middle of the challenges. When you give God the glory as a family, the perspective changes from what you can’t do to how you can get through it together. Who says thankfulness needs to only be on display during November? When facing struggles, make a thankful tree or banner as a family, listing (or making pictures of) all the things you have because of God in your life. Read bible stories of God’s provision in times of struggle. Focus on His power and strength.

  1. * Pray not only for help in trials, but pray also for more resilience.

Exodus 14:14 The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”

Philippians 4:19 My God will richly fill your every need in a glorious way through Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7 Do not be anxious about anything. Instead, in every situation, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, tell your requests to God. And the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

 When we teach our children that God is with us in the trials too, we promote the idea that we are all in this together, with God; that He is there to sustain us through the trial. When parents show how we trust God in our own lives, we give our young children the building blocks to trust God for themselves too. Children are better able to handle adversity with that bounce forward attitude when they sense an abiding loyalty and faith in one another that is rooted in loyalty, faith and trust in God.

No, we can’t be taken out of the world, never having to face adversity and hardships. But we can learn to reframe the scary or uncertain things for our children, to show that we can get through it as a family and after all, God is still on the Throne.




Looking Through New Lenses


We all look at the world through the ‘lens’ of our beliefs and worldviews. Often, our  these beliefs and ways of thinking about parenting have been handed down to us by our own parents in subtle ways such that we don’t give much thought to them, they are just there. That is, until something challenges the old ways of thinking. Then we might hold on to the old ways only because it feels more familiar, not even because it works anymore.

I experienced this when my husband and I brought home 6 year old twins from a Russian orphanage back in 2005. I just assumed the traditional, very authoritarian way I had been parented, and the way we had parented our 5 bio kids would also work for our new sons.  My view of their struggles was colored by the lens through which I viewed their challenging behavior – willful disobedience, lazy,  attention-seeking, controlling, manipulative, limit-testing, rebellion. Thankfully, I listened when God showed me I needed different glasses. 

So much research has gone into what we now know about kids from broken places. No wonder what my husband and I were doing with them wasn’t working – it was counter productive in so many ways to what they really needed – more connection with us, not more discipline or structure. We needed to first know that there is a perfect for us balance between structure and nurture; then we could work on the balance designed just for our family.

So much of what parenting hurt kids can do for us as parents is motivate us to find that new pair of lenses in order to see the needs of our children who became traumatized before we began parenting them. With any new growth on our part as parents and caregivers, we must be willing to trade out a lot of old thinking about what is driving the challenging behaviors of our kiddos, and  put on new lenses of compassion. This is harder than it sounds.

I suggest that we let our mantra be Kids do well if they can: if my children could do well, he would do well. That right there was revolutionary for me, who had been taught that I need to be strict on the kids so they don’t get away with anything. What hurt children need are skills of adaptive behavior, not some kind of external motivation to behave well, without the heart change. Often, your child won’t know how anyway, and even when she does know how, her little body is in such a fear state from past trauma that she is unable to follow through. Our kids need our help.

At the core of God’s heart for all of us, and the basis of TBRI is the idea that connection is the most important thing you can offer your child. We are created to connect. I work with parents to show you the tools to guide your child’s behavior while maintaining an emotional connection with them.  That was a completely new lens for me. Part of what this means is no yelling, shaming, or sending them to their rooms in isolation. Instead, everything you do for your child is through the lens of creating, maintaining and repairing connection with then. This is how you will begin to see improvements in your child’s behavior, and more joy in your family.

Start with your lens. How do you feel about this statement?  Kids do well if they can. The link takes you to a 4 minute video clip of Dr. Ross Greene explaining this idea. 

I welcome your thoughts and comments.