Tag Archives: Parenting

Love is Helping Build Identity

I love the quote by William James that says, If the young knew how soon they will become walking bundles of habits, they would take more care to make good choices while in the plastic state. That isn’t verbatim, but it’s close. (Have you seen the commercial of the 14-year-old boy vaping and saying “It’s just what I do”?)

James goes on to say one of the best things parents can do for children is help them set good habits, so they are free to be creative, not having to waste energy on making decisions about getting enough sleep, exercising, eating good food, brushing their teeth, washing their hands and faces, manners, not vaping etc. It makes life much easier, happier, and more creative. And that means confidence.

But this is important: helping your kids is not doing it for them! Or in the other ditch, assuming they will learn what they need. Love is helping them gain skills to build a foundation, a confident identity.

I had a client years ago who was helping her daughter with her homework–mostly doing it for her. When I learned how much she was really doing I confronted her about what she was doing to the child. “You aren’t really helping her, you are crippling her. She isn’t learning what she should be learning and she isn’t building confidence. Unless you want her handicapped for the rest of her life, you need to apologize that you didn’t realize what you were doing to her and stop. She’ll whine and plead for awhile and then she will adjust.”

The mother immediately took my suggestion and implemented it. A year later, the daughter was doing much better. And two years later was thriving and three years later excelling. The mother is grateful; the daughter, now a woman, is even more grateful for her confidence and independence.

We love our children and want to make life easy for them, and that is natural, but helping is such a tricky arena. A healthy two-year old says, “I do it by self!” and hopefully we let them try with guidance. We are teaching them to harness their energy, and gain skill. This is critical. They all get bumps and bruises.

Later on we will teach them to choose. Good choices make a good life. People who haven’t developed the skills for making good choices have difficulty. But we don’t start by letting them choose what they eat or if they wear a jacket when it’s 50 degrees. We make decisions their brains aren’t prepared to make.

My daughter now has her first teenage son who has his first girlfriend. Now there’s a delicate situation for parenting. She’s doing a lot of communicating–listening and sharing. There are few life skills that are more life-determining than learning how to treat the opposite sex, and the choices you make while dating. She has been aware for years that what they see at home, and her relationship with them sets the tone for how they treat girls and the girl they will choose to marry.

Writing the Bible has been very revealing about the importance of identity and foundations. Now finishing Joshua, I can feel the angst he feels in dying and leaving these people, fearing they still aren’t ready to make good decisions when he is gone. Will they follow Adonai? It takes more than two generations to overcome the effects of Egyptian slavery. He would feel so much better if he knew they would follow God’s plan to take out all the inhabitants in their country. But they take the easy way, and it takes many of them out.

Adonai tells them He will fight for them but He doesn’t make them take their land. He lets them choose. They evidently rationalize that mercy is better. But it didn’t prove better for them. Most lost their identity as His people–and His protection. So sad.

God knows what we need. He wants the best for us. Doesn’t want us to miss being  our true selves. That’s what it means to be jealous for us. Too bad we don’t have the confidence to listen.

While proof reading this, I heard a great quote on KLOVE, “Be weird, be random, be who you are, because you never know who would love the person you are hiding.” C.S. Lewis

 

 

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Love is Not Perfection

My mother never had a question that her children would be perfect! Yes! Really! She really told me that once.

She said it in answer to my question, “Where did your perfectionism come from? Was Grandma a perfectionist?” It didn’t seem like it to me, but then…

“She taught us the right way to do things, and when I learned there was a right way and a wrong way, I wanted to do them the right way. And I never even thought about my children doing anything other than that. I was just sure you would all be perfect and do things right.”

I was amazed. Because I could relate to wanting to be perfect and always do things right, but I wasn’t very old before I disagreed with her that her ways were right! In fact at nine years old I was sure her ways were not right.

I had mopped and waxed the kitchen while she was at work, and all she had asked me to do was the dishes. I was so excited I couldn’t wait for her to get home. I must have always been seeking praise or approval by then, because I was sure I would get it.

The rub came because I didn’t see any reason to dry dishes that would dry by themselves if you gave them a little time. That was a waste! (I guess I thought I needed to prove it. Why wouldn’t I have figured out I should put them away before she got there?)

You’ve probably guessed the rest of the story. She came home and asked me why I hadn’t finished the dishes. (It’s so what I did with my kids–it kills me! I always noticed what was wrong before I noticed what was right.)

I had to point out that I had done the floor, but I don’t remember if I did that right away; I was so deflated and so angry that I vowed never to do anything nice for her again. (That’s why I think I was an approval seeker–to get so crazy so fast, I must  have had some need I was trying to fill or some lie {false belief} I was trying to manage. “Not- good-enough” was a huge one of mine.) And if you think that reaction was over-the-top, you are right. However, I don’t find it is all that rare.

And the dark side loves vows we make in anger. That’s great software for them to play with, emphasize, make spin-offs of, and manipulate for their use. Also get other people to trigger! I just learned that this is called “soul play.”

Expecting perfection is a real relationship breaker, emotional crippler, and way to set up failure or over-achieving in your kids. I probably don’t need to say anything more, but you may need to look hard at yourself to know if you expect perfection from your kids. We have such blinders when it comes to ourselves. Ask your kids–kids are usually great responders and sources of truth if they aren’t afraid of you.

And then there is the opposite. You may have thought this blog doesn’t pertain to you at all because you are laid-back and non-demanding. But there are two other ways this affects your kids.

The mom or dad who demands perfection from themselves may let there kids get by without helping and try to do everything themselves. After all if you want something done right, do it yourself is a fairly common thought. Or it’s easier and quicker to do it myself than to fight with them, is another common parental pitfall. They need to learn basic life skills. They need to feel needed and important to the family. It’s important to their development and success.

Or perhaps you are the parent who didn’t learn to help at home. Didn’t learn how to make your bed, or keep your room neat, or pick up after yourself, or do your own laundry, and you are cool living in a mess. It doesn’t bother you and probably isn’t important to teach your kids. But has it caused stress to you or your relationships, or your spouse? Your children? And you don’t know it!

There is a happy medium, a middle of this road. Give your kids chores, but don’t fight with them or yell at them or abuse them over chores. You are the parent, the authority, you don’t need to yell or fight.  Just make reasonable consequences and follow through. No need to get emotional  and stressed, just enforce consequences, every time, before you get angry.

Structure, boundaries, skills and community are important things to learn and teach. Orderly life makes everyone feel better and function better. We see that in God. Families who are healthy enjoy each other’s company. They actually enjoy being together, and they build each other up. But it is definitely something that is taught and modeled.

Don’t expect perfection. You aren’t perfect, and they aren’t going to be either. Grace is more important. God doesn’t expect perfection. He knows there is no way we could ever meet his level of rightness. We don’t think like He (They) do. And there is no way we can, we are broken. But His covenant with us is to put His (Their) ways into our hearts so we want to think like Them. Someday They will heal our brokenness and then right will become natural to us.

I can’t wait! But until then. Love is not demanding or expecting perfection. But neither is it expecting nothing. As long as they are under your roof, you need to offer structure and education. It makes love and happiness easier.

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Love and Affection

While being too soft, as in permissive with your children, is a bad thing, there is another kind of softness children require and thrive on, and that is affection. You don’t have to be continually hugging and kissing them, though kisses and hugs are important;  everyone needs touch in order to thrive. Babies need it to survive. Failure to Thrive Syndrome is from an absence of touch and attention. Infants have died from it. But another important kind of affection is the reflection children see of themselves in your eyes.

Eyes are great communicators. They are how we know and are known. Amazing how important connection is. Eyes are our first connection along with smell and sound. Even before our brains recognize Mommy and Daddy, are senses do. We come out of a normal birth revved up with hormones for bonding. Isn’t that just the coolest thing! We are made for connection. Programmed for love relationships.

A poignant illustration of this came to me through a graduate teacher. We became friends and stayed in touch until she died. One day we were on the phone and she asked me what I thought about a girl she had met. Her mother was blind, and this poor girl had no sense of self–she hadn’t gotten the reflection of herself in her mother’s eyes. (I don’t know where her dad was.) How sad. She had a mother who loved her and cared for her. But she couldn’t see that she was loved, couldn’t get a sense of who she was from looking into her mother’s eyes–through no fault of her mother.

Kahlil Gibran wrote, “The eyes are the windows of the soul.” Maybe he wasn’t the first to say it, but he brings to mind lovers gazing into each other’s eyes. Eyes are important for children too. I have worked with clients whose mother’s were Narcissistic Personality Disorders, and they also struggle to find a sense of self. I’ve also seen it come from a narcissistic father or an alcoholic father, and a mother who is so preoccupied with him, that it makes her emotionally unavailable. Her children struggle with identity. Both boys and girls are affected, but a girl is even more so because women are more relationship-oriented than men.

 Children need relationships to grow up healthy, and relationships built on love and trust, affection and boundaries are the best. Especially when the parents are healthy and their children can see love in their eyes.

Parents who are emotionally unavailable are often too busy to look into their children’s eyes. Or they are too uncomfortable themselves, or too shut down to reflect love. A child given minimal or no eye contact arrives at adulthood with crippling deficits.

Another parent who often fails to give eye approval is one who feels badly about herself or himself. One who has what I call “walls behind the eyes”–eyes that can see but are afraid to let anyone see inside them. These eyes don’t reflect love or admiration either. We sense that people can see into us through our eyes, and so we avoid eye contact. We don’t want to be vulnerable. But vulnerability is good.

Sometimes the love is there but we are afraid to have it seen. I developed this as a child. I had an older brother that I thought was the best! This was after my little brother came along, no doubt. My dad had a new baby to hold; I was four and I was looking for approval elsewhere. But my open-faced, wide-eyed expectation of approval didn’t get what it was looking for. This was about the time my sister and I became friends and he was left out. So I became the object of his rejection or anger. And my eyes began to close inside.

I could feel it as an adult, but had no idea where it had come from until I began to do my own internal work. Sadly, I was already a mother. Gladly, she was still young. I know I had enough self to give her the love and eye contact when she was tiny. I remember being so in love with her. Those God-given hormones that prepare us for bonding are amazing! They can overcome a lot!

But as children become more challenging it takes much more thought and choice to be present with them, especially in meaningful ways that build in healthy self-worth. They still need affection, even when it gets harder to give, and they become harder to love. And with step-children you can’t rely on the bond established by early hormones. They take more choice and commitment and thought. But that’s love. It is commitment more than feeling.

We can ask God to give us love for the people around us so they can see the love they need in our eyes.  Think of it! God’s love flows through your eyes! Yesterday we were celebrating our loving pastor we lost to cancer. God had healed her so obviously, and then He allowed it to come back and take her. I mention her because she had such a gift of love and it seemed to come through her eyes so naturally to young and old alike. What a gift! There is nothing to be afraid of here. I believe we can ask for that gift and get it.

 

 

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Love is Kind


Kindness is making a comeback for people who care. We  are thinking about it, maybe because we have had so many mass shootings and school-shootings this year, that they are happening every week. I heard a stat on their frequency that I didn’t even believe! People are becoming traumatized, scared, desensitized, and sensitized towards kindness.

We can think this evil comes from people with big issues, whose minds aren’t working properly, and dismiss finding a reason. And say if we weren’t closing mental hospitals and institutions, it wouldn’t be happening.

Some of that may be true. But I’ve started to wonder about kindness in families. Are we taught it? I’ve already talked about how permissiveness is not love; it is weakness. There may be more desire for kindness, but kindness has strength.

Kindness is a choice, just like love is a choice, and tends more toward giving what is needed than what is wanted. And I think our permissive parenting from the past 20-50 years comes from weakness more than strength; and it has produced adults who value independence, but don’t necessarily value kindness, and don’t have the strength to carry it off.

Did your parents make sure that your siblings were kind to you? Did they teach you to be kind to each other? Did they stop rudeness and meanness? Did they value kindness? Were they kind to you?

Don’t confuse kindness with permissiveness. There is a big difference. A permissive parent doesn’t want to deal with the hard stuff of teaching values, and giving appropriate, respectful discipline by setting and holding boundaries. They want you to learn by trial and error, and only discipline when they are angry (punishment). A kind parent cares what you value and realizes that we aren’t born caring about others, we have to learn it. We are born with both good and evil tendencies through our epigenetics.

If we are loved well, we get it. If we have personalities that tend toward kindness we are fortunate. But most of us at least need modeling in kindness. The opposite can bring it up too–we see evil happening in meanness and it pulls up kindness and justice from deep inside.

Kindness can be excited by unfairness, and that is why it is a strength and needs strength. But it must be balanced. It is not rushing in to rescue someone who needs to work through their own process of learning. That kind of rescue is called enabling and it is not kind. But neither is letting kids be mean to each other as a way of learning to stand up for themselves. One of my adult clients struggles from the pain of childhood because his dad pitted them against each other.

I wasn’t “taught” kindness at home. It wasn’t modeled between my parents, however, they were kind to others, especially my mother. But I was so picked on by an older brother, and so afraid of being taken advantage of, that not much of it was “caught” either.

It is such a deficit to grow up not consciously valuing kindness! And I know I was taught it in church and school! Being bullied can make you defensive or kind–it can go either way. I organized my identity around self-protection.

I still remember the shock of reading in scripture (when I was 40!) that God didn’t value self-protection. That He wanted me to trust Him and be vulnerable. He might as well have said jump over the moon! But I couldn’t get away from it. It was everywhere. And it became very important for me to see that God is kind. (I just realized that might be why I am writing the Bible as a story of God’s goodness in Their family. My master’s project was seeing Him as a parent. Wow! Never realized this before.)

And yes, I have found that God is kind–even when He appears not to be. There are two words in Hebrew for God’s will: one is Their preferred will, and the other is Their allowed will. Guess which one They get to use most often?

Right! Their allowed will. All through scripture, most of the time, They are deferring to human will. That is why it is so important to look at God’s story from a cosmic perspective with the backdrop of a war between good and evil–especially with our broken viewpoints!*

But Spirit heals our brokenness–makes our hearts whole–helps us manifest God’s character of kindness–gives us joy! Many of us talk about Spirit and Jesus, but don’t receive help because we want to be in control ourselves–we never surrender. And surrender gives us ability to receive!
But if we want to manage ourselves, God will let us.

 

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Love is NOT Getting Everything You Want

So here is the rest of my story. Alone, and adjusting to a divorce, I knew a small group was what I needed. Somewhere to feel safe and loved. So I called a friend and we started one.

One night we met at my friend’s house, and afterwards he took me aside and said, “You are turning your daughter into a monster. She is obnoxious and it isn’t her fault. You give her all your power, and very soon no one will want to be around her.”

Ouch! But I knew Herb to be caring and honest, to say what he thought without glossing it. Of course I said, “You don’t understand…”

But he replied, “She needs to know that you are in control.” I actually don’t remember what else he said or how long it took me to change my behavior, but I know his words had a profound effect.

I remember telling her (I think she was five) that from now on things were going to be different. That I had made a mistake, and I was sorry and was going to correct it, that I would be making our decisions and she would be expected to obey, so she could relax and enjoy being a kid.  And from then on I really struggled to make all of our decisions.

What scares me now is that in doing that I think I changed our relationship. I must not have known how to stay affectionate, available, and loving while setting and holding firm boundaries. How sad.

I think that because a couple of weeks ago, before leaving her house, I asked her (now 38) what feelings she has of her childhood. She said almost none–a scary thing. But she did remember me feeling distant. So I shared what I have just shared here, and she said “Maybe that’s when it started.”

I know when I became a stepmom five years later that I tried very hard to be the same with all three of them, so they wouldn’t be jealous of her. Of course they were anyway, so all I did was rob her. Too bad I couldn’t have just shown more affection to all of them. I didn’t know how then. I came from a non-demonstrative family, and my processing and decision-making took me to self-protection instead. But I thought I was protecting her and them! Sad!

I’d been noticing a distancing in our relationship, and had learned over the past two years that I hadn’t taught her how to be sweet and affectionate. I guess I just always thought she knew what I felt. I only just realized this. I backed off of everyone.

But what I saw at her house was a three-year-old painfully favored and in need of boundaries from a dad doing the same as I had as an early parent, unfortunately getting the same results. However, he was doing the opposite of my behavior as a step-mom, and I thought well, I’ll get to see how this works.  I confided in my daughter and they are addressing it.

I am so glad our relationship is a sharing one. At the same time it was very scary to ask the questions I needed and wanted to ask about our relationship. And it was hard to hear, but nothing changes until it becomes real. And the reality of seeing yourself, especially in parenting, often comes too late to spare the damage to your child.

I hope you have a friend, mom, spouse, you can ask, who will confirm your need to change, if you are on this same trajectory and can’t see it. And God will give you the strength and wisdom to see yourself. Your child deserves it.

It is way too hard on a child to have all the power in a system. Your limits or boundaries provide them with security. They can relax and develop the way they are meant to, and with respect. By seven we need to realize that we are no longer the center of the universe. Some people never do. We call them narcissists. It’s so sad for them.

I actually witnessed a mother asking her three year old if she could visit us, and confirming it twice that he was ok with it. It was all I could do to keep my mouth shut–not the place or time to correct. I felt sorry for that three-yr-old too! It is way too much responsibility to be responsible for your parents! It makes children crazy.

And we are seeing more and more of it. Poor parenting tends to duplicate itself becoming either harder or softer. The ditches on either side of the road are very full. The road is love that is both hard and soft–firmness with gentleness.

Firmness and gentleness provide a great balance. It allows all the affection they need and requires the respect they also need to develop. You are the parent, you make the rules, and you follow through. You don’t have to be harsh, that is not required or desired, you only have to make sure that your word is law. No anger is required either. You shouldn’t allow yourself to discipline in anger. They are learning, they will make mistakes, even defy you. But you matter-of-factly hold the boundaries, letting the consequences follow naturally and appropriately for learning not hurting. The best consequences are losing something they want and making the connection of cause and effect. Delight follows obedience.

Obedience should be established by two years old. It is important to their growth and development. And it hopefully comes from a desire to please you so that it is forever linked with delight. God defines obedience as delight. And only asks it of us to protect our happiness. A broken world offers many confusing choices to inexperienced people. And being in a war between good and evil where deception is rampant makes it even harder.

Till next time…

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Trending Easy III Ugly is OK

Wasn’t there a song once, “Parents don’t let your kids grow up to be cowboys”? Is that because cowboys do whatever they want? Because they grow up rebellious?

They used to be rebelling against over-controlling or absentee parents. Researchers call it authoritarian (high control, low nurture) and neglectful (low control, low nurture) parenting. The last one can be parents who are there but not engaged. Often because they weren’t taught how to engage. Both types were coming from what was given them, they just didn’t know how to parent and didn’t know how to get help. Often men say, “Well, I turned out ok, so they will too.” When their kids and wives are saying to themselves Uh, you are not ok!

Those are the two most undesirable forms of parenting. The other two are the most desirable. Best is authoritative–High control, high nurture, second best is permissive–low control, high nurture, according to the study done by the University of Minnesota, (one of the leaders in education).

It’s hard to look at ourselves, but it is really important. How are you inside? We are all products of where we came from; no, you won’t be perfect, but you could be interested, communicating,  present and strong enough to set limits and hold them.

I’ve said before that boundaries make a kid secure. They constitute fences that the child or teen can push against and know they won’t move. It makes the child feel loved. Someone cares enough to stand up and fight with me and for me–my true self. That means a parent has to be strong.

What has inspired this blog on parenting, yet again, is kids programming. The shows that I see movie trailers and previews for are scary for values. They are rude and crude, not to mention they move too fast and are too loud and too bright. That was my experience of kids TV with my grandsons a couple of years ago. Nickelodeon, and another I don’t remember now, were really bad for that. After watching it for 2 hours in a motel room with them I felt like I had ADD or ADHD–way over-stimulated, exhausted and a little crazy. But the rudeness in all the shows was really objectionable and supposed to be funny. It wasn’t funny at all.

I was telling my daughter about it and she said that is why she never lets them watch those. I was glad to hear it.

This week my husband and I went to see Guardians of the Galaxy just for something fun. Someone had told me it was light and fun, and her value system is pretty close to mine, so we went for a fun date. It was pretty much like kids programming–loud and flamboyant, rude and crude. It took me a while to figure out what the values encased in it were. Here’s what I came out with: the galaxy is full of a bunch of bad dudes of various colors and ugliness, all fighting each other, and Ego describes himself as “a god little g” who seems to be good but ends up wanting to make everything like him, and so has to be destroyed, and the bad guys turn out to be good guys in the end–that was a little troubling. Their saving grace was caring about others. So not terrible, but there wasn’t much value on life. One of the “good” characters says, Let’s go see if he’s for real and if not, we’ll just kill him.” Some of the dialogue is pretty rough and a lot of killing. And at first I thought they were saying evil is good and good is evil, but then decided it was–not everything is what it seems.

I wonder how I will feel if my grandsons went to see it and liked it. I guess I would want to know what they liked about it. The guardians of the Galaxy certainly aren’t someone I would want as role models for them! As I said last week, it seems our country is getting a lot more rude and crude.

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Trending Easy – Part 2

Last time I wrote about how tricky it is to focus on a child–even in love. It is often stored in them as anxiety–the parent’s angst says to the child that he/she is not adequate.

So how do we build resilience in our children? Why must we let them suffer? Does that even make sense?

Yes! An over-solicitous parent is an anxious parent. A wise parent trusts the natural course of development and God. Struggle is how we grow. Is it easy for a child to learn to crawl or walk? No. But they are so motivated, and we are so motivated for them to learn, the struggle doesn’t seem bad. Is it bad if we keep a child from crawling? Yes. It eliminates a developmental task which affects how the parts of your brain process together.

It isn’t easy for them to learn to talk or run or read or anything we value for them. Do they misjudge? Constantly! Do they fall? Of course, and if we are overly concerned we create fear of trying.

We want to build resilience in them: the belief that they can do it, and falling is a normal part of learning to walk and run. We don’t want to push them before they feel ready, but neither do we want to replace their effort with fear or doubting their ability. Struggle is trying something new. It’s necessary to development all through life. And easier if you have a sense of I can do this.

That doesn’t change even though the tasks get harder to accomplish, and your questions and fears as a parent grow.  And that takes us to boundaries. They are so important for the child’s security. Feeling safe is critical to development. Safety comes from knowing you have parents who are in charge.

I role-played the child in a class once where a parent was leaning over me screaming to clean up. I knew I was in charge because the parent had lost control. It was a profound experience. And it didn’t feel safe.

For a child to know they are in control makes them feel crazy. It is way too much stress. I know a child who isn’t even 1 year old who runs her parents. You probably do too. It’s an epidemic wearing out our children and making them insecure and angry. It is too much power. Too much responsibility. A child needs to hear “No.”

A client told me this week that her friend who owns a daycare said people who work in daycare are being taught to tell parents not to say “No” to their children! I about flipped. There goes their children’s security. You don’t have to say it in anger or harshly or even loudly. But you need to say it AND make it stick. You have to follow through. That gives safety, security, and rest to your child. It makes a happy child. Of course they will throw fits, that is their job, to push you and see if you mean it. You are the parent. You are the adult. You are in charge–they need you to be, so they can relax.

This poor little girl who runs her system because the parents can’t say “No” comes to her babysitter exhausted every Monday morning, and seems relieved. And she turns one next month. Her mom just went on anxiety meds. Isn’t that sad? We are so afraid of ruining our children it has gotten crazy. The pendulum has swung WAY over to the other side. Children need boundaries!

I wish I could shout it from the rooftops! You are making your children crazy with all their power and decisions and lack of boundaries and consequences. Please give them some loving discipline. We have made a generation of entitled adults. Everyone wants their rights. What will it be like when these children are adults, insecure and demanding? When freedom is interpreted as no law?

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Trending Easy – Part 1

I don’t know if parents have always struggled with this or if it’s a new phenomenon, but I’m seeing child idolatry mushrooming by people I respect, admire, and believe in their spirituality.

In fact, I was guilty of it, and might now question my own spiritual hardness if I hadn’t just had an epiphany on it.

I have a dear friend who I think is an amazing mother, she is doing a lot right that I did wrong–taking time to be present and enjoy her daughter. She is also a great encourager, and does have boundaries, but she is creating an anxious child by her own anxiety. What anxiety? Being afraid to let the child suffer or struggle. I watched as she on two occasions anticipated the child’s discomfort and managed it instead of letting the child learn the rudiments of coping.

The 2 yr-old started to squirm in her highchair in a restaurant and the parent took her out and sat her on her lap. It happened again the next day at home. The daughter started to squirm and the mother asked if she wanted down without requiring the child to learn containment since the meal was still in progress. And she allowed her to keep eating. Another golden opportunity lost.

We are close friends and I have explained that the child’s security comes by knowing that the parent is in charge. I have explained that the task for age two is trust–that it is easier for a child to trust a parent who sets limits and follows through with them. That is just common sense, and she agreed. But she can’t stand for her child to be disappointed, cry, or suffer in any way. I’ve watched as she tries to make sure that everything is completely risk free, and happy; disappointment is avoided. It’s almost creepy that the child is learning fear–the opposite of her mother’s intent. (She has already read and ok’d this.)

I also watched a father with his 2-yr-old son, the father got worked and the son got his way. The little boy didn’t want to sit in his highchair in the restaurant we were at. The father started by telling him to sit down repeatedly, to which the son said, “No,” and the father put him on his lap.

I know him well also, and I know he has no trouble saying “No” to his older sons and requiring hard things of them (I sometimes wish he was gentler). I knew he didn’t want to be hard to the 2-yr-old, didn’t want the child to start crying, didn’t want to give him a swat; and suddenly a scripture came into my mind. “The kindness of God is meant to lead you to a change of heart.” (Rom 2:5)

The thought warmed my heart, and I began to wonder, does that work on broken people? especially children? It has to, or God wouldn’t use it. I do believe it’s His first plan of action, if we would (could) respond to kindness. And I do think it works on some people (obviously better on adults), but probably not most of us. Why not?

Some of us weren’t able to accomplish trust as our first task. Our parents or others abused us before age two, or our parents were two weak or afraid to keep others from abusing us. Other parents were too wrapped up in their own feelings and needs to set any boundaries, and let us do whatever we wanted. Some parents were absentee by addictions, and their little ones didn’t learn trust either. But isn’t it sad that the ditch of too much love is just as bad as the ditch of abuse!

Favored children often end up in addictions of various kinds, or just being highly anxious and dysfunctional. My own father was one such person. The anxiety of the parent is passed down to the child for various reasons. In my dad’s case he almost died of pneumonia as a toddler. So I guess we can’t really say it’s too much love–it’s really too much anxiety–too much fear! Fear of losing the child, fear of abusing the child, fear of ruining the child, fear of failing the child (being a bad parent), and the worst one: fear the child won’t love us. These are problems given by indulgent, loving, (anxious) parents.

Having said that, I think it’s better to over-love than neglect or abuse. But wouldn’t it be better to face your fear so you don’t hand it down to your child? A parent who is willing to face himself/herself will learn a wealth of information that will allow his/her own healing, and make them more open to God’s love. He will help. You only have to ask.

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What God is Like

I’m on vacation at home. It has been a wonderful week with two of our grandchildren! I haven’t worked like I usually do, and have focused on just relaxing and enjoying them. It’s been a great experience. God helped me realize one morning that most of my life I have been focused on making people right rather than knowing and enjoying them. It’s the way I viewed Him for many years.

Now I see Them(One God–three persons) as wanting us to know Them and walk with Them in relationship through the process of every day, no matter what others do or what happens. To experience Them every day–Their love, Their kindness, Their goodness, Their laughter, Their joy, just Their presence, in all of everyday life, no matter what others do or what happens. And it is beginning to make me see and treat others differently. It’s about time! Safety and control were always so huge.

Our influence for good in the world comes from drawing not pushing (God told me that), from making God look good because we are so good to be around and we are clear and comfortable about identifying ourselves as Theirs. I really can’t even comprehend that yet!

Could it really be that powerful? Do I know–see–encounter–experience enough people that it would really make a difference if I was just full of God’s goodness? If I just lived with Them and soaked in Their love? If I just focused on the good in everything and everyone?

I’m not put together that way, but God seems intent on me getting this. Right now I’m thinking of people who raised their kids erring on the side of love, people I thought should provide some discipline. I’m not talking about giving-in or neglect, but truly focused love, and in adulthood the kids turned out well.

I think of Jesus who drew people to him, inviting. He never told us to go make Christians, he said go make followers (disciples). The only way you can do that is by drawing, making them want to follow. It seems to work for the dark side. Isis plays on the desire for power and revenge, expressing discontent, anger, and hate AND in the name of God! They draw many malcontents from our society.

And what does it take to experience God’s goodness that way? The only thing I know for sure, at this point, is choice. The second thing I suspect is some time alone with God, getting to know Them. Ruach (Holy Spirit) is closest, and Jesus is the easiest place to get to know God. That’s why this year I’ve added to the titles of God-in-a-Box, “Know God in a Year #…” because this may be the most important choice you will ever make.

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Obama Trumped?

~Soft? Too easy on atrocities? A police state would be an atrocity, where fear dictates that government knows every move we make and every motive we have. Was Obama Trumped? I don’t think so.

People want strong leadership, but Obama’s “Don’t let this affect the way you look at and treat others, especially Muslims; we must treat everyone as God’s” (not an exact quote, but what I remember) is actually stronger than, “We should stop every Muslim from entering the U.S.” (again not exact) because it appeals to reason and not fear. Freedom is not easy to preside over.

God could easily have a police state, but He doesn’t, and He could. He has the power. He knows every move and motive, and yet what does He do? He gives us freedom to develop, to choose good or evil, to decide to live or die forever. So I’m guessing it takes a lot more strength to govern freedom than to dictate.

Freedom requires risk and personal responsibility. And sometimes it gets painful and messy. When we are in pain because of someone else’s choices, we want justice, somebody stronger to do something. Nobody wants to be a victim. But everyone of us is a victim of evil–inside and outside.

What concerns me is the choices we make. Choices are critical. When violence becomes entertainment, it’s easy for victimized people to take that path. And I don’t know about your house, but there is an awfully lot of violence on the screens in this country. We become what we watch, but especially if we enjoy it.

And yes, I think it’s crazy that anybody can buy an assault weapon. But I think it’s crazier that nobody lobbies against violence. That no one seems to get energized over how much violence our kids watch. Many of them exposed to it in their homes, and not on a screen! Many of them are recipients of violence. But nobody is campaigning against child abuse. Whose platform includes teaching how to make good choices?

If you enjoy violence, will you choose good forever?

In my devotional this morning was this, “Only what is done in Love lasts, for God is love, and only the work of God remains.” (God calling, 11-22)

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