At The End of Your Parenting Rope…?
I was blessed recently to have a healthy discussion with some parents of 3rd-7th graders who are at the end of their parenting-ropes. One of their children in particular is making life miserable for the younger siblings and the two parents. The parents are constantly reminding the oldest child of un-met responsibilities (to not avail) and, with their hectic daily/weekly schedule, simply do not have enough time to spend disciplining the oldest child while encouraging the younger ones.
Here are some of the thoughts that came out of our conversation:
1. Schedule some one-on-one time with each of your three oldest children.
A. Casual (individually): 5 minutes per day [keep it simple to start] where each of them know they have your undivided attention and where they know you want to listen to them about anything they want to talk about (no disciplining or teaching them; just listening/affirming/celebrating/comforting them)—you and each child are not allowed to be interrupted by anyone else during this special time. Make a big deal about it too—this will show them that their “appointments” with Mom and Dad are important to you. Don’t get overwhelmed—this might not happen every single day but if you aim for daily and it happens 4x per week it’s great. Snuggle on a bed or couch (appropriate physical touch is important here unless they are absolutely against it) in some room of the house where no one else is.
B. Intentional (with younger children together–the ones getting picked on by the older sibling): this could be once per month (schedule this month’s meeting on the family calendar right away!)—take them out for ice cream together. Use this time specifically to instruct/remind/encourage them to be patient with their older sibling—read short Scripture passages about patience, forgiveness, perseverance, sacrificial love, and the destructive power of bitterness together and pray out loud together for the older sibling and for everyone else to have gentle patience with him/her. This:
-models putting God at the center of your interactions with those who hurt us,
-reminds the hurt children that how they respond to their older sibling is at the heart of what it means to be a Christ-one,
-and affirms to the hurt children that you are aware of and empathetic with the difficult aspects of being siblings with their older sibling.
Intentional (with older sibling alone): this could also be once per month—take the oldest child out alone for ice cream or some kind of treat. Use this time to encourage in the ways that he/she is being a responsible/godly young person and older sibling. Perhaps then read through one of the devotions from this book on a topic that he/she has been struggling with recently (please click HERE for the devotional)—I use this often with my children and it is very helpful! Talk about the devotion, ask the older sibling to describe how it applies to him/her, then ask the child to come up with some ways that he/she is going to do better in that area moving forward, and then pray together.
Regarding sustaining yourself/your sanity for the long haul, here are some things to think about:
1. What are the five (or ten at the most) key behaviors that you want your oldest child to start or stop doing? Type those up, post them near his/her bed, and then only use energy dealing with those specific behaviors each day. If picking up her bathroom towel is NOT on the list, then don’t remind her to pick up her towels. The goal here is to limit what you are going to spend your limited amount of daily/weekly emotional energy on (e.g. don’t die on every hill).
2. Figure out the 2 or 3 activities that fill you up: a walk on a sunny day, reading a book for an hour, reading the newspaper at Starbucks, going to see a movie, lunch with a friend, etc. Then schedule one of those activities into your planner weekly, something that you will look forward to that’s just for you.
3. Ask yourself how you are growing closer to Jesus each day/week/month? Please click HERE for ways that I grow closer to Jesus, and please click HERE for practical suggestions for consistently reading the Bible. The point is, you will have much more peace in your heart if you are being filled up with God on a regular basis. 🙂
I tried not to give you a list of MORE things to do; sorry if this is overwhelming at all!
Please remember that you are doing a GREAT job as a spouse/parent and please know that the HOLY SPIRIT is cheering you on every step of your day!