Monday, April 25, 2016

Love and Respect in the Family

Love and Respect in the Family, Dr. Emerson Eggerichs

I was pleased to discover that of the three parenting books I read in the last term, all have been great.  

Anyone who read and appreciated Love and Respect (Eggerichs’ book on marriage) will also find much here to learn from and apply.  It’s a similar format but applied to parenting, with the overarching principle being that parents desire respect and children need love.  A lot of it is sensible, rings true and is very helpful.  

His message throughout is that parenting is for adults only, so therefore be an adult – be the one who is in control, manages yourself and takes responsibility.   You are the only adult in the parenting relationship.

He works through three sections:

1.  The Family Crazy Cycle: when a child does not feel love, they react, and when a parent does not feel respect, they react.  Parents are to try decode and then defuse the situation.  There is very helpful practical tips about how parents and kids can work each other up, but it is up to the parents to try to figure out what’s really going on in both their kids’ hearts and their own hearts.  

2. The Family Energising Cycle: where a parent’s love motivates a child’s respect, which in turn motivate the parents love.   Throughout this section, there is a chapter to explain each letter of his acronym, GUIDES: give, understand, instruct, discipline, encourage and supplicate (pray).  After going through each in detail, he encourages parents to work as a team, and to be aware of gender differences as you parent.

3. The Family Rewarded Cycle is where a parent’s love is given regardless of a child’s respect and so on.   Here is where the Christian aspect of parenting really comes to the fore – our parenting is not to be child-focused, or parent-focused but Christ-focused.   We are called to show unconditional love, like God has loved us.  We are to be wary of parenting for outcomes, for children will make their own choices.   In the end, we are only in control of our response and how we behave, so we take control of ourselves and trust God with the rest.   He finishes with a challenge to think about the legacy you will leave your children.

Here are a few quotes I liked along the way:
Craziness in the family intensifies because of the parents’ immaturity, not the kids’ immaturity” (p32) 
To control our children, we must first control ourselves.  To discipline our children, we must first be self-disciplined” (p104) 
Yes, as God extends mercy, grace and forgiveness, so should we, but that does not absolve a child of consequences for bad behaviour any more than God removes consequences for our bad behaviour. (p104) 
A good strategy is to be a “benevolent dictator” through most of their childhood years; then move to a more democratic approach as your kids enter teen years… Your long term goal is to move from control to counsel.” (p101) 
Yes, we concentrate on the kids in parenting since that is inescapable, but we focus more on Christ in parenting since that is incomparable (p187)

This is yet another book that has made it to my recommended reading list for parents – it will encourage and challenge you as you seek to serve and trust Jesus in your parenting.

                  

Monday, April 11, 2016

Making Families Happy

Making Families Happy

To take a detour from parenting books for a while, I watched at the ABC series Making Families Happy.

A few years ago I reviewed the similar Making Couples Happy which looked at marriage.   This one takes a similar approach with a detailed look at families and parenting. 

Three families commit to an 8 week ‘happiness course’ with the help of expert psychologists.  There is a large blended family (5 kids), a single mum and daughter, and a family with 3 kids.   All are chronically unhappy as measured by their system – there is extended conflict, issues over boundaries, screen time concerns, communication breakdown and financial stresses.

The show is well produced.  It’s a good mix of light-hearted and serious.   But in the end it’s a pretty depressing look into the lives of these families.  You get the sense that they are really only skating over the surface of some of the main issues.   Having said that, over the three episodes they address marriage issues, parenting authority issues, helping toddlers to sleep better, how clutter affects people and how removing screens can grow family bonds.  Some of the main issues between various family members were never addressed (on screen at least) and you finish the series hoping that further help and follow up was provided for the families to help them along the way.

The saddest part was when various family members were paired up and one was asked to talk for 5 mins about a positive memory they had together (in an effort to remember the good times).  Two of the families were unable to do it.  The single mother and daughter looked at each other and had nothing to say.  It was heartbreaking.

Equally challenging was when the kids and parents were asked to say something to each other they could not say in person - the request from a child for their dad to stop swearing, and from a daughter to stop hearing about the stress her mother feels were very confronting. 

The key things I took away from it (none of them new, just helpful reminders in a new format): 
  • A healthy marriage is crucial for healthy parenting.  Parents that cannot work together, or who undermine each other, set themselves up for misery in parenting.  
  • For a family to function healthily, the parents must be the ones in authority, not the children.   
  • Story telling and knowing the history of the family (eg. how the parents met) contributes to stronger families.   So do common experiences of positive stress which form lasting bonds (ie. getting through a challenge together)
  • Kids absorb their parents’ stress and anxiety.
  • Dysfunctional relating is easily passed on from generation to generation and it takes real effort to change past patterns.

However, it also raised several issues:
  • How wise is it for a family to allow such public exposure to themselves?  Cameras on, filming their arguments and their children. You got the feeling some of the kids really felt the intrusion and others played up entirely for the cameras.  I did wonder what the fallout would have been for some of these kids after the episodes were aired.  One girl was so appallingly behaved you began to wonder if it was genuine, or put on for the show.  One other girl was obviously so distressed and unhappy she seemed at risk of depression or anxiety.
  • Is happiness a genuine measure?  I realise it’s secular, so in some respect that’s all people want – but is happiness all we are aiming for in life?   Admittedly, the measure was broad and took into account the feeling of safety and security, how arguments affected people, how much time was spent with each other, and how generosity and kindness was given and received.   Yet, is happiness the final measure of our lives?     


Again, I found myself pondering as I did with the Crash Test Mummies & Daddies series, how empty all of life is without God at the centre.  No purpose, no hope, and nothing to pass on to your kids - you just get through it, one day at a time.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Love languages in a family

I don’t know how you feel about the five love languages material.   While it has created a marketing juggernaut all of its own which some shy away from - the concept and ideas involved can be very helpful.  To date, I have really only thought about it in terms of adult relationships, most specifically marriage, but also to understand my extended family better.

In reading some more parenting books recently, I came to realise that these were helpful things to discuss with our kids.   Please note I have not read the Five Love Languages for Children book, just other books that refer to it!  I read the adult one years ago.

So we got out the butcher’s paper the other night – thought about the 5 languages, what each might include and then got to pick two that we thought meant the most to us.   You can see the writing in the photo below. (I removed the indicators of which we all are)

What was worth noticing for our family was: 
  • All five of us cared about time – either family time with the 5 of us, or one-to-one time (especially kids with mum or dad).  We have realised those kids’ dates / individual times with each need to be a high priority in our calendars.
  • None of us chose presents as our top two languages.  That might explain why none of us get that excited by gifts!

 It was an easy, fun exercise that only took about 10-15 mins after dinner.   It might be something to consider with your family too!