6 Things to Improve Your Parenting
Family life can be tremendously rewarding while at the same time remarkably frustrating. Every child is different and comes with their own strengths and challenges. That’s why God gave them parents. We believe that parents are the best counselors for their children, if they have a good plan. At the National Center for Biblical Parenting, it’s our goal to help your child thrive by providing you biblical strategies that touch your child’s heart.
As you consider your own growth in parenting, you might consider these six things. They are just a few of the principles parents are learning in the eight-week Biblical Parenting Coaching Program. At the bottom of this tip you can read about an amazingly difficult family we coached last fall. As you can see, the mom worked hard and saw amazing changes.
1. Be Firm without Being Harsh
Firmness is needed in every parenting plan because firmness builds character and teaches children limits. It’s like the guard rails of training. Some children don’t realize the dangers of their disrespect, lying, anger, or bad attitudes. Firmness teaches children limits and helps them build the character they will need for the rest of their lives.
Some parents believe that firmness requires harshness. But using emotional intensity to communicate “I mean business” does more damage than parents often realize. You don’t need the harshness in order to be firm. Just be firm. Kids need it.
Each time you see yourself being harsh, stop and look for ways to be firm without the harshness. You’ll keep your own composure and help your child more.
2. Build Relational Connectedness
Kids can only take as much pressure as the relationship allows. So, keep relationship high as you teach and train your kids. The best kind of relationship building takes place on a heart level. That means getting to know your child and looking for ways to connect emotionally.
It might be playing a game, partnering in the kitchen, rubbing a child’s back before bed, snuggling on the coach, or just looking in the child’s eyes during a conversation. Relationship is the vehicle through which values and convictions pass. So, deeper and longer lasting change takes place when relationship levels are strong.
Don’t minimize the power of connecting emotionally. Relationship softens the heart and has a huge impact on the influence you have with your child.
3. Look for Misbeliefs in the Heart
Jesus listed a number of sins in Matthew 15 and he reveals that those behaviors come from wrong thinking and that wrong thinking takes place in the heart. Children often believe strange things about life such as, “If my brother is annoying, I have the right to punch him,” or “I have the right to get to the next level of the video game before following my parent’s instructions,” or “if I’m not happy with what’s going on, then I have the right to make everyone else miserable.”
When parents recognize the heart issue, they are often better able to address the thinking errors. The behavior is a symptom of something deeper. Children often believe that life is about tasks such as making their beds, doing their schoolwork, or cleaning up the dishes. But the real issues in life have to do with attitude and character. When children realize this, tasks take on new meaning. Diligence means working hard. Thoroughness is attention to detail. Honor means adding a good attitude even if you don’t feel like it. The heart should be the focus of our parenting, not just the tasks.
4. Think Strategy
Many parents are trying to move too quickly and their thinking becomes short term when it comes to their children’s challenges. These parents find themselves reacting in ways that aren’t as helpful. Reactive parenting is weak.
The alternative is to have a plan for long term change. The child who resists often when given an instructions needs a plan for cooperation. Practicing following instructions can go a long way to strengthen the internal qualities necessary to build the long lasting quality of cooperation. Strategy looks at the bigger picture and even helps kids see the importance of working on a particular area of weakness.
When you think about strategy don’t focus on what your child needs to stop or overcome. Rather, focus on where your child needs to go. What qualities, when developed, will help your child to overcome that weakness. This one idea turns your parenting more positive.
5. Use More Training than Correction
If you rely too heavily on correction then your parenting takes a negative turn. Although correction IS an important part of a parent’s responsibility, there’s a more positive approach that can maximize your efforts.
The child who can’t accept no as an answer needs a plan. Maybe that plan is to say “Ok Mom,” on the outside and say “I need to let this go,” on the inside. Then maybe you as a parent need to say no more often in order to allow the child to practice this new plan.
Separating kids who fight might produce temporary peace, but equipping them with a plan to deal with each other’s selfishness and then monitoring their interaction can train them for the future.
Practicing following instructions in a cooperative manner can actually reduce selfishness and raise the bar for cooperation for a child. Training trumps correction most of the time and is truly the key to lasting change.
6. Get Parenting Support
You’re likely doing a lot of good things in your parenting. But sometimes the good things you’re doing just aren’t enough. We often help parents choose other good things to do to bring about lasting change in their kids. The Bible says in Proverbs 20:5, “The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out.”
Working with children can be complicated. Every person’s heart is different and it can be confusing to know which solutions will work the most effectively. Having a toolbox of resources can provide you with greater wisdom. Keep in mind that it’s what you don’t know yet, that might help you be more successful in your parenting.
If you have some time, read this inspiring, real and true story of a parent who found help through the Biblical Parenting Coaching Program.
I, Scott Turansky, train parenting coaches. Each coach goes through an eight-week training class and during that time works with a parent to practice the tools and strategies.
In all my years training coaches both in my role as a professor at Concordia University and at the National Center for Biblical Parenting, I have only once personally talked to one of the parents being coached. I do get involved in each case and give the coaches a lot of advice and support about the problems the parent is facing, but in this case I did have one phone call with the mom. You’ll see reference to that phone call and the training in her testimony here.
First, let’s go back to her initial request to be coached by a trainee in the program so you can see her presenting challenges. Then you’ll appreciate the change in her testimony. I have removed names to protect the privacy of the family members. This story is real and painful. I have not edited out the description so that you can feel the pain as we do as we help families who experience all kinds of challenges.
Mom says: I have 7 children (5 adopted from foster care and 2 biological) ages 10 yrs. old to 3 mos. old. (I will note that my husband and I are currently separated.) My primary challenge is my 8 ½ year old son (though all my children will benefit from what I would learn from the course). He has been in our home for over two years now (along with his biological brother, age 10 ½, and sister, age 5) and we completed their adoption in 11/2016. His behavior has been an issue from the beginning. [He has ADHD, ODD, a mood disorder [NOS], attachment disorder and adjustment disorder, though we were not made aware of any of this when we took placement of them out of another foster home were they had been for 15 mos.] We had hoped that his behavior would get better following the adoption, however it has gotten worse since that time. He goes to play therapy once a week and sees a psychiatrist every two months. The only recommendation I have received from the professional support that we have is that perhaps he needs another type of therapy.
He bullies and hurts his siblings on a daily basis (pinching, hitting with a fist, kicking, scratching and occasionally biting) and is verbally abusive towards me. He rarely ever accepts a consequence for his actions. He has had meltdowns that have lasted up to 5 hours before, at which point anyone, including the pets, becomes a target for his aggression. He has runaway a number of times by climbing over the fence and walking down the street. He is not doing chores or contributing positively to family life, however he wants all the perks of being part of a family. Twice last month I had to call the police for a welfare check due to his aggression and destructiveness in the home. He ended up going to a mental hospital for three or four days.
At the start of this school year he didn’t take a shower for about 15 days and wore filthy clothes to school every day because he refused to fold his laundry. He has been refusing his medication (for the ADHD and mood disorder). He is not doing his homework and most of his class work shows poor grades so far this year. In the past few days he has changed from being in my face defiant and oppositional to simply making a mockery out of everything that I say or request. He is teaching “bad” language (i.e. stupid, hush up!, butthole, etc.) to my toddler and has recently been caught pulling his pants down and showing the toddler his private parts and encouraging him to do the same.
Simply put, he is resisting and even refusing to be parented and the parent/child relationship has deteriorated greatly. It is negatively affecting my relationship and my parent status with my other children. He is a toxic element in our household and shows no regard for anyone but himself. He acts with no remorse and takes no responsibility. The hope that I had for a positive turn around with him continues to be chipped away each day.
Thank you for your consideration.
So, I assigned her to one of the coaches in training. They worked hard together and in the midst of all of their work, I had one conversation with the parent. The rest of the work happened with the coach and the online Parent Portal where much of the teaching takes place. I received the following email from her three and a half months after being involved in our program.
Hi Dr. Turansky, I had a three-way conference call with you and my parenting coach in training on Wed. Nov. 15th. I’ve been meaning to email you to say “thank you!!!” for your time that day. That week was a huge turning point for me. Just two days earlier, I had the opportunity to meet Ed Miller at a Thrive Now presentation/meeting he had in Austin, TX and I then had the amazing opportunity to have the three-way conference call with you. It was a week full of faith renewing information and charges to stay the course and carry through.
Just months before I was looking for a way out. A legal way to have this particular child (adopted from foster care) no longer part of my family. I had lost hope, lost faith. I had received an email about the Parent Coaching program and the decision to take the program was pretty much a last ditch effort to save my family. I was familiar with many of the concepts, having been to previous parenting seminars where the information had been presented and having had purchased and read some of your books. I needed something to hang on to, because simply put, there was no legal way out and I had to make lemonade out of the giant bowl of lemons that life had dealt me. I submitted myself as a volunteer to be coached, was not initially picked, so I took the plunge anyway, and paid for the course and started it independently. And then a week or so later, I was matched with a coach in training! I started working with her and we would talk once a week. Her conversation, tips, encouragement and prayers really helped supplement everything I was working on in the course.
From the get-go, I experienced a lot of difficulties with the parent coaching program, namely utter resistance from my child. The material was wonderful, so spot on. However, every tiny step forward that I made with my child, I felt like we were constantly experiencing at least two or three steps back. By week four or five, I was still trudging forward but feeling like I wasn’t make a dent. My child just didn’t get it, didn’t care. My coach was able to relay some information to me that she had gotten directly from you and then later I was told that you had offered to have a conference call with us. Wow! Yes!
The conference call mid-Nov. occurred a week after my child’s appointment with his psychiatrist, which he had been seeing monthly again since his brief stint at the mental hospital in Aug. The doctor finally made a meds change to further address the mood disorder that remained largely unregulated. I was skeptical, but was willing to try something else. Anything. And then we had our conference call. I got all the fantastic information from you after summing up my scenario with my child. I took copious notes! That phone call left me with a renewed sense of hope and purpose. I straightened out my attitude once more, put on my game face and went back to work on the program, sticking with the early weeks of the course.
I would say there was a delightful combination of God, meds, hope and faith at work and by the end of Thanksgiving break, I felt like I had a new child. I hardly recognized him anymore. He was coming when I called him, being respectful, actually doing the tasks I assigned. I did not have to ask him to take a break nearly as often and I certainly wasn’t having to implement the restraint hold as I had needed to in previous weeks when he refused to take a necessary break (and this child could kick, fight and scream for up to an hour on my lap/in my arms, refusing to take a break). I was able to have a couple visioning moments with him and have moments of lighthearted play and fun. The whole attitude and feel of the household changed. We were no longer under a constant threat of attack by an 8 ½ yr old child. We could all actually have fun, as a family. What a change!
It is clear that the change in the meds was necessary to (finally) properly treat the mood disorder. But more importantly, it put him in a better headspace to be receptive of what I had been trying to work on with him. I hope that as we progress through the course work, that he will, over time, be equipped with the tools that he needs to self-correct and control himself, his anger, his aggression, etc.
This long email (attached to my original “plea” for a volunteer coach) is to illustrate where I was just months ago compared to where I am now. I want to thank you, so very much, for taking the time out of your day in mid-Nov. to have a conference call with me. It really made such a difference for me. It renewed my hope, sense of purpose and my mission. I felt lighter after that call, knowing that my family issues could be tackled. God was on my side. Better days were on the horizon. To have hope is such a game changer.
So, thank you again. Your program is awesome! I have talked about it to anyone who would listen! My plan is to work through it with each of my children. Thank you for taking on parenting as your mission to and from God. You really are making a difference, one child, one parent, one family at a time.
Thank you! And Happy New Year!
Likely, your situation isn’t as complicated as this mom, but just imagine how your family could be more productive, closer, have less tension, and be a greater blessing. Kids need training. We have specific, practical tools.
The coaching program works, not because I created it. It’s because we implement the scriptures in the way we work with people. It focuses on the heart, addresses what children believe, and helps them actually feel and act differently.
If you or someone you know would benefit from coaching, or if you’d like to be trained to coach other parents, please check out the website that describes the whole program: biblicalparenting.org/coach
Dr. Scott Turansky
National Center for Biblical Parenting