Category Archives: Parenting

How Not To Hover And Why It’s So Dangerous

Photo Creds: Emma Gulitti

Just when I think the term helicopter parent has been exhausted, then I meet another one. Before we talk about the dangers of hovering and how not to be so over-controlling, I think it is important to address why we might be tempted to be so in the first place.

Possible reasons for being a hovering parent, and there could be overlap:

  • You want a different life for them than what you had growing up.
  • You have trauma in your own past. You were hurt by someone you thought you could trust.
  • We are not risk takers ourselves. So why encourage that in our kids?
  • You are a control freak.
  • Your anxiety level is so high you don’t possibly know how you can keep your kid safe.
  • You believe the world owes you, so therefore, they owe your kid as well.
  • Any of the above edges out common sense parenting, leaving hovering as your primary parenting tool.

Let’s be clear. There’s a difference between advocating and hovering. Recently I knew of a young boy who called his mom to pick him up so he didn’t have to go to his sporting practice.  He wasn’t sick. He just didn’t want to go. She did it. She picked him up. That’s hovering. I listened to a birthday prank on the radio this morning. The DJ told the father on the phone that the game system he had purchased for his son for Christmas was on back order. With no other provocation, the dad dropped two expletives 60 seconds into the phone call about how he needed that game system for his son by Christmas. That’s hovering. (And rude). A couple of weeks ago, a young and brand new teacher friend of mine sent a note home to a mama that her daughter had used permanent markers to draw all over the class room bean bag chairs. The chairs were ruined. Mom sent a note back and said “I thought they were supposed to get three warnings.” That’s hovering. How many parents have stormed into public school buildings angrily demanding to know why their kid didn’t get the part or the position or the award he should have. That’s hovering. At the park, I saw a toddler fall down, suffer no physical damage whatsoever, other than wounded pride, and his mom went busting over to rescue him. The rescue consumed at least 5 full minutes and led to the conclusion of play time at the park for the day. That’s hovering. Someone showed up at her son’s job interview. (Literally, this happened). How many times have we given into temptation to shower our college kids with cash at the drop of a hat or been tempted to usurp their abilities to take care of their own college business? That’s hovering. Maybe you over involve yourself in your adult child’s business. You just can’t afford to let them live their own life. They might mess it up. That’s hovering.

As I already mentioned, there is a difference between advocating and hovering. We can and should be advocates for our children. And even our young adults. But did you know that advocating for your child doesn’t just happen in a necessary conversation with another individual about something that concerns your kid? No not even. We advocate best for our kids in conversations we have with them. (Parenting tip # 23 in my book.) Instructional conversations, life giving conversations. Conversations about expectations and consequences. If your daughter attends college 15 hours away from you and goes to an ATM machine at night by herself with an unsavory character lurking nearby, you would be at your advocating best if you were there in the parking lot with her at the time of the event right? Yes for sure. But the conversation you had with her years prior that warned her of the dangers of going to ATM machines alone at night, that was you advocating for her in the anticipation of events yet to happen. Yes, conversations we have with our kids by the truck load-that’s us advocating for them. Newsflash. They are going to be out doing their life away from us, at some point or another, whether we advocated for them in this way or not. If we spent those years hovering rather than advocating, well, it could be a rough ride. If you want your kids to be productive, positive, empowered adults, then when they are young quit bailing them out. (Parenting Tip #10)

The difference between advocating and hovering is measurable and quantifiable. Over controlled kids are more anxious, misguided and have low conflict resolution skills. This equates to problems in the classroom and in personal relationships, perhaps sadly, for years to come. In an article in Psychology today dated August, 2016 by Nathan H. Lents, Ph.D., Dr. Lent states:

“Helicopter parents that seek to shield their children from all forms of adversity are not doing them any favors. Physical exertion, confrontations on the playground, competitions with real winners and real losers, getting minor bumps and bruises, and even periodically experiencing fear are all inducers of acute stress. Falling off of a swing, for example, teaches a kid a variety of lessons that just can’t be learned any other way. If kids are protected from all possible risks when the stakes are low, how will they navigate risk-taking when they are older and the stakes are much higher? While we should all strive to protect children from chronic stress, depriving them of healthy forms of safe stress may leave them unable to deal with stress as adults.”

Kids, whose parents are healthy advocates, are typically better adjusted emotionally. They can navigate disappointment in life, because they have been allowed to be disappointed and even at times, bored. They have not been routinely bailed out. They have had to use their imaginations when they didn’t get every single new thing they wanted for Christmas or their birthday. They are kids, whose parents are not perfect, but neither do they lead lives defined by past hurt, trauma or failure. Advocating means these parents choose not to teach or discipline or love their kids through the lenses of comparison, bank accounts, fear, entitlement or bitterness. Parents who advocate for their children verses hovering realize that their child’s love for them is not fragile. They know that just because they discipline them for falling out of line, doesn’t mean their kid will fall out of love with them. Advocating versus hovering. It’s critical that we can distinguish between the two. It can make a world of difference in the adult your child becomes down the road.

Our Unwillingness to Change Blocks Our View

Recently a mentor of mine was helping me work through a couple of current conundrums in my life. At the end of our discussion, she reminded me that I had no control over the actual people in my conundrum or their own personal outcomes. I find this frustrating since I am a problem solver by nature. I pleaded with her, tongue in cheek, to just give me a few steps for successfully changing them. She just laughed and reminded me to consider what is in my area of influence and what can I personally change.

In other words Judy, what can YOU change in YOURSELF to make YOU better? So that those around you benefit in the process? I think that is so true in parenting and marriage too.

When You Can’t See the Forest for the Trees…… Photo Creds: Judy McCarver

Sometimes we want instant solutions to make our children behave or to get our spouses to do ____________XYZ! I did recently write five-great-habits-for-getting-your-kids-to-listen. And it’s true we need tried and true methods of handling situations in our life and parenting. Yes yes yes! But the truth is a lot of relationship building and successful parenting is about how much WE are willing to change ourselves. We are often so intent on manipulating others, that we cannot as my grandmother used to say, “see the forest for the trees.” In other words, we can’t see solutions because our big giant egos are blocking the view. We can’t see what would bring us joy or happiness. We can’t see what would actually help! We are just blinded by our own unwillingness to change things in ourselves that perhaps need to be changed and that can be changed.… For example, I recently recommended to someone the financial peace program by David Ramsey for helping squash her debt. It’s actually a proven program that has helped literally hundreds of thousands of people reduce or eliminate millions of dollars of personal debt. Anyway, she was super offended because unbeknownst to me, she was atheist and said she would never do that program since Ramsey is a Christian. Oops, I felt bad. I had intended no harm whatsoever in offering this advice and I apologized for doing so unwittingly. I then shared with her the truth that I am a Christian, and yet one of my very favorite leadership books ever written was by a Mormon (The Severn Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen Covey). Moreover, I added that I have a handful of solid parenting books in my personal library written by various experts in their fields, which make no reference to Christianity. Along with those, I also have parenting books authored by some of my favorite Christian authors. I have learned from all of them. But she couldn’t see the forest for the trees. She couldn’t acknowledge that this was a perfectly good tool to debt free living for her and her children. She was blocking her own view.

I was blocking my own view back in my early 20s. I made bad decision after bad decision, and conveniently always found someone to blame for my bad decisions. It is true that I had been dealt a difficult childhood of sorts. But only when I acknowledged that my life was about more and more of me and less and less of anyone else, did I finally have the wherewithal to ask God to please pick up the pieces of my brokenness and help me move forward. And not only that, but the wherewithal to ask other people to help me. I finally figured out I was blocking my own way out of misery. It is true that my life had been hard. But I still managed to be my own worst enemy.

That realization and awakening was the beginning of a new lease on life for me. I was able to be in healthy dating relationships for the first time in my life. I was able to build friend relationships without undue expectations of those I was befriending. This led to healthy parenting down the road. Knowing I cannot change people around me makes me a healthier individual and therefore, more adapted to parenting kids (now young adults) who are also healthy emotionally. Knowing I can ultimately only change myself led me to be better equipped for parenting my kids with purpose.

Being in relationship with our kids as we are raising them is a different thing all together than what it means to be in relationship with our spouses or parents or adult friends. And I want to make that clear. There are multiple scenarios we find ourselves in with littles where we do have to tell them what to do. And we can and should expect them to obey us. But God has created them, like you, fearfully and wonderfully. (Psalm 139) When we recognize that He has created all of us with purpose then we can look at all of our relationships through that filter and not through the filter of our pride or our past or our unmet expectations.

What can you change about yourself today? How will that set you on a path of better parenting and more joy in your relationships?

How NOT To Raise Blue Ribbon Haters

Photo Creds: Emma Gulitti

In my daughter’s business there are a lot of haters. She’s a journalist. A young college journalist, not yet graduated into the greater world of news reporting outside the walls of her university, but still a journalist.

I told her to put her armor on. This is going to be a tough road.

She has already encountered blue ribbon haters. On one occasion, she inadvertently addressed a source in an email as he, but it was in fact a she. She ripped into my young college student who had no malicious intent whatsoever. She just made an error, and a minor one at that, based on the source’s name. My daughter apologized of course. But that didn’t matter to the offended. No forgiveness was granted. And not only that but the opportunity for a grown professional adult, (more than ten years older) to teach my student something about her life and her work in a life giving way, was completely lost.

Dang it!

The offended one only had it in her heart to hate, not to teach, not to grow, not to share. This person, who I believe felt like she had to fight hard to gain respect in a man’s world, lashed out at an unsuspecting young reporter, when she felt that position was threatened. She presupposed that this young woman somehow must have known that she was a she, yet intentionally referred to her as he, with the sole purpose of personally offending her. The student in this case had no malice aforethought at all. Indeed, she is by all accounts a studious and sincere student and employee. Not perfect by any measure. Case in point, an error was made. But rather, full of integrity and the desire to report truthfully. It seems crazy to me that you would just assume a complete stranger has it in for you. Yet, people take up this position frequently. They do it all in the name of some grand cause. But the truth is, these days, hate meters are pegged by the slightest provocation.

Let’s be clear. There are extremely serious offenses that happen in our culture, our communities and our world every day that leave deep scars and make the necessary art of forgiveness a challenging one. And rightly so. But more and more, the bar for hating in our culture has dropped dangerously low. The slightest mistake, rendering nothing more than perhaps a typographical error or a poorly timed statement, is elevated to a level of scrutiny for which it is simply not worthy. The truth is that a much more troublesome quandary idles deep inside of the hater. Whatever trivial event they trumpet on the outside as reprehensible, is a reflection of something much more spurious and bitter on the inside.

If you are in the running for a first place trophy in the contest of hating someone, whose only “real” offense is that they are not perfect, you might need to adjust the lenses through which you view all of humanity. Maybe the real issue (the spurious and bitter one) is that this person looks different from you, acts differently or votes differently. It is for all of us to examine difficult situations we find ourselves in, personal and professional and pursue a way to make positive changes, correct mistakes, and in the process grow yourselves and others. However, when we knowingly exploit a person’s mistake or his life and work inexperience in order to tear him down and even destroy him, then in that moment, you are a blue ribbon hater.

Do you see yourself or your child anywhere in this scenario? Are you a blue ribbon hater? One day I was perusing my old neighborhood’s online help site. It’s a place where you can post things for sale or ask questions like where to get a good car mechanic. As you can imagine, it can be very helpful. However, on this particular day a discussion started about an incident at the local high school. The person who initiated the discussion was unhappy with how the school administration handled ensuing communication with parents. By the end of this thread, over 50 grown adults were slinging mud at one another, using words as missiles. There was not a single constructive element to this online conversation. The whole intent of the majority of contributors was to verbally annihilate their perceived foe. These parents were themselves bonafide, blue ribbon haters. Naturally, our kids learn by “monkey see, monkey do.” How sad that truth can be when we, the parents, are acting like a spoiled, selfish, angry 2 year old.

Blue ribbon haters are on the radio too. One of my favorite radio stations does a “birthday scam” every few days. At the bequest of a person’s loved one, the DJ calls that person, and pretends to be a representative from an actual organization or place, who is complaining about their yard being unkempt or the fact they owe money for a cable bill. You get the picture. Almost every single phone call ends with the birthday girl or guy blowing up in anger. Conflict resolution be damned. Threats, swearing, you name it, full scale nastiness ensues. Finally, the DJ says, “Hey this is so and so from such and such radio station, and your husband wanted us to call you and say happy birthday.” By the end of the birthday scam, the only way to describe the birthday girl or boy in that moment is a “blue ribbon hater.”

Blue ribbon haters are characterized by a number of fundamental traits: 1 They have very few conflict resolution skills. If something goes amok with their grades, or their bills, office policy, or their project they hired out, or with their neighbor, or with a co worker, or their aunt, uncle, spouse or child, they go 0 to 60 in a hot minute. Erratic are the emotions of the day. Their responses are shallow, reactive, and angry as opposed to steady, thoughtful, and discerning. They simply don’t have conflict resolution skills that involve the ability to listen before responding, gathering information before acting, and only then advocating for themselves or their organization with both veracity and professionalism. 2 Blue ribbon haters never seek reconciliation, only punishment and self satisfaction. This is self explanatory. The punishment may only be a verbal assault as in the example of the birthday boy on the phone being scammed by the radio DJ. But whatever the case, punishment and a sense of self satisfaction is the goal. 3 Blue ribbon haters are not interested in mentoring relationships. Mentoring threatens to dismantle their platform of discontent. In their minds if they either reconciled with or mentored the person who offended them, that would condone the offense. Mentoring would require mature and well thought out responses. Hating only requires a knee jerk reaction. It’s less work. 4 The goal of the hater is to tear down. It isn’t to build up. To deconstruct, not instruct. The hater asks, “How can I make you feel worse?” And then they do that thing. 5 Blue ribbon haters are primarily interested in advancing their own agendas. Compassion and generosity are always secondary to that. Therefore advancing the cause of personal or professional growth is often viewed as an obstacle. 6 Blue ribbon haters are typically disgruntled in one or more areas of their life. If that is the underpinning of your relationships and your daily demeanor, then the stage on which your life plays out and unfolds will always be marked by conflict and discontent, never resolution and growth.

The title of this article is how NOT to raise blue ribbon haters. Okay. Go back to the last paragraph. And be sure to teach your children the opposite of numbers 1-6. And if you are a Jesus follower, be certain that these tenets didn’t begin with us. Teach them: 1 Conflict resolution skills. (Matthew 18:15-17 & James 1:19-20 & Proverbs 18:13) 2 The necessity of both reconciliation and accountability in order to create positive change. (2 Corinthians 5:12-21) 3 Ongoing mentoring relationships. They say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. I think it is also true that an ounce of mentoring is worth a pound of healing. (Proverbs 15:22-23 & Proverbs 27:17 & 2 Timothy 2:2) 4 To build up others whenever and wherever we possibly can especially when we are in a position of influence and control. (1 Thessalonians 5:11 & Romans 14:19) 5 Compassion and generosity are not just for the weak-minded as you might have been told. They are in fact indicative of strength and self-confidence. Teach your children the truth about these two tenets. (Ephesians 4:29-32) 6 Discontent that stems from a disgruntled heart, can paralyze you in life and keep you from all good things. Truly, discontent with real issues can lead to real action and change. But, discontent that is rooted in bitterness is a breeding ground for hate. (Philippians 4:10-13)

Don’t. Be. A. Blue. Ribbon. Hater. And don’t teach your kids this either. Assess the situation that is tempting you to proceed with hatefulness. What are the facts involved? Was it personal and malicious? Sadly, personal and malicious, even if they are present, are also not excuses for being a hater. Hate just perpetuates hate. But it helps to make an assessment of the situation to determine with truthfulness how serious it really is or isn’t. Because clearly this is going to inform the level of response required (if it even requires a response). Does the situation you are in, whether you are the offended or the offender, require a response? Does it require change? If it does, then grab ahold of the opportunity to construct not deconstruct, to heal not destroy. To offer solutions, not additional chaos and conflict.

Empowering our girls God’s way

Girls Girls Girls

An article I wrote was graciously published today by christianparenting.org If you have girls (or boys as well) I am sure you are being pummeled with information about how to make them strong and empowered. Some of it is dicey. Because the worldview of empowering our girls often excludes the necessity to teach them compassion and kindness. Don’t fall for the idea that compassion and self-confidence cannot coexist.This is a lie. Please read and share! We need to fight back!

Empowering Our Girls God’s Way

LIAR LIAR PANTS ON FIRE!

Art work by Emma Gulitti

I think most of us categorize lying right at the top of the worst offenses our kids can do. I mean getting out of their chores or whining or fighting with their sibling or not sharing, are all things we see as NORMAL right? But lying?? Ahhhh! Our morality meter pegs immediately. There is just something about lying that sets us off and increases our parenting fear! “What’s going on with my child that she would LIE?” We go 0 to 60 in our irrational thoughts from them being a lying little 6 year old scamp to a homeless con artist at 20. But honestly as rotten an offense as it is, and clearly needs addressing, we must be careful not to go haywire over making it any worse a “sin” or offense as other things like selfishness, not sharing, refusing to do homework or wash the dishes. Lying is not that uncommon in kids, and it’s not unusual for one sibling to struggle with it and another one not to. We also tend to think “Well if a particular behavior is normal for children, then all my kids will _______”   But that’s not true either. Just as some kids are more emotional and some more serious, some playful and some not, some keen on math and others keen on reading, so there are some who tend to have a propensity for one offense over another more than their sibling. This also does NOT make lying more evil and twisted than another form of disobedience. So I would just say be careful parents about assigning it more evil points than for example, not doing their chores or fighting with siblings. Because if you do assign an inordinate number of evil points to lying, that might be your filter for how you deal with it, and perhaps that will be out of balance with how you handle other behavioral misconduct. To some degree, that sends a message to our kids it’s okay to act out and disobey us in certain areas of instruction, but never in this one particular area-lying! And also assigning it to the darkest of the dark side, will put us into a frenzy of worry that is perhaps unnecessary and that too will rob us of our joy and peace. So while there is no magic bullet for this, any more than there is for getting them to eat their veggies, there are some fundamental steps we can take to address lying as well as a few fun suggestions:

1. Be consistent and follow through with consequences. Remember we don’t give our kids consequence because it works.  Every. Time. Right. Away.  We are in this parenting thing for the long haul.  And sometimes it’s a long haul. But our God is faithful. And where necessary, they should always pay restitution for their act of deceit when possible. 

2. Model integrity.  So important parents! Don’t let the kids see you lie to someone, i.e. saying you can’t go to their home jewelry party because you have a commitment, when the kids know you don’t have that commitment. Be honest with people yourself. It’s the little things that get us into trouble with our young’uns. Model integrity. They are watching.

3  Find The Veggie Tale movies: (Excellent for littles) Larry-Boy And The Fib From Outer Space! It’s all about telling the truth. And also, “The Little House that Stood” which is all about making good choices.

4.  Be on the lookout for real life examples of someone (maybe a child that your child knows) who was not truthful and that choice resulted in pain. (age appropriate stuff)  Maybe this could be an example of a child at school who was dishonest with a teacher and it didn’t turn out good for the child. Just be on the lookout for those stories brimming with life lessons. 

5. And finally, use scripture. It’s timeless. It’s our ace in the hole. It’s truly raising the bar for them. It’s not just your parents saying “blah blah blah.” It’s God’s desire for us to be truthful. Score! Do you read the bible out loud with your children already? If you do, find scriptures (in an easy to understand version for your little one, tween or teen) that remind us of the character of Jesus. For instance, James 1:17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. Questions you can ask: “What are some of the perfect gifts that God give us? What are shifting shadows?”  Maybe they will look at you like you’ve lost your mind. Or maybe they will just say “I don’t know.” Then you can say something like  “Shifting shadows are people and things that lie about the truth. God is not like that.”  

Or Galatians 5:22-23:  “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” This luminous gem is about the fruits of the spirit. And one of those fruits is faithfulness which underscores integrity and honesty. 

When you feel your child is ready for John 8:44, it is the mother of all verses on lying because it clearly tells us that “you know who” is the father of lies. The enemy, the devil. Indeed, lying is his native language. This can be heavy for the littlest of kids. So start out with easy to understand verses on the importance (and commands) of being honest, and work your way up.

Maybe these are all things you’ve already thought of. Sometimes we just need affirmation that what we are doing is okay especially when the problem continues. Keep fighting the good fight. And know that consistence is key!