THE PARENTING DARE BLOG
I love, love, love mothers.
Join our community!
THE PARENTING DARE BLOG
I love, love, love mothers.
Join our community!
I absolutely love parents, especially parents of middle schoolers. Why? Because when their child hits puberty, a whole new level of commitment is required from the parents! And I think it is gorgeous when parents answer that call with grace and courage. And this post is going to help parents do just that. SO. If you are the parent of a middle schooler, read on!
(For those of you that do not know me, my name is Lori Doerneman, I've been married to my fabulous husband Russ for over 30 years and we have 8 children. I have a teaching degree but I don't work in the school system; I have been working in the ministry of parent education for over ten years. About seven years ago my oldest son, Eric, joined me, which surprised me at first. But I am grateful. He brings a big dimension into our presentations. I come at it from the point of view of a mother. He showcases what it was like to be a kid in the midst of the big struggles.)
Earlier this week Eric and I gave a talk to the parents of all of the middle schoolers at a great school. The parents were attentive and their faces were "on." What I mean by that: no one was checked out. They were truly present. And it was fun to share with them.
Now, several years ago, when Eric and I were at that same school, we gave a presentation that was on the Brain and Addiction. One dad said that he had also been at that talk and that he really valued that information. He felt like it was good foundational information to have.
To sum up our presentation on the Brain and Addiction: basically, when a child gets stuck in the addictive cycle, things happen in the brain and body which more or less KEEPS them in that cycle. They cannot easily get out of that cycle just by wanting to get out. When I learned more about the addictive cycle I felt relieved. Learning that info was the beginning part of the road for Eric to get out of his own addictive behavior.
When we went to that school this time, Eric shared more about what it felt like to hide his behavior from us, the parents, and how helpful it was for us (once we found out about his struggle) to truly be there for him in ways that mattered. We "parented him below his line."
Afterwards, one dad asked us more about Parenting Below the Line; what did that mean in his own family? What would he need to do with his children to truly parent them "below the line?"
"I mean, does that mean I go below that line and sort of sit in their sin with them? Explain it more to me."
Eric looked at that dad and said, "You are the dad. You are a rock." He explained how important that dad was in the family. He was solid. Dependable.
Our children are being met with crazy things below that line. They are being pumped full of all sorts of information, they are seeing outlandish videos of everything imaginable; the internet brings tons of images and videos to a child at the touch of a finger. It's truly crazy.
There is information gushing into a child's life, flowing this way and that. We told the dad that it is basically a sh** storm below their line.
The dad laughed. He agreed.
Eric said, "Your child needs you to acknowledge that storm and to be the rock in that storm. You are their shelter. Their safe place."
I could see the dad's understanding deepening as we encouraged him to build his relationship with his middle schoolers and just BE THERE FOR THEM. He needed to TELL THEM that he will be there for them and that they can trust him. He is not going to judge or get angry. He is there to help guide them.
It is easy to ignore the storm, because, well, kids will normally hide their angst from the parent. But it is a powerful thing to acknowledge that there is a lot going on "below the line" and to let the child know that you are going to be there for them. No matter what.
Now, I want to give you another story of a parent, this time a mother. Her situation: she is the mother of many. She has a kind and good heart. And. She was absolutely devastated to learn that her teenage son had sent a picture of his privates to a girl.
How did she find out? Well, the girl told her mom, who reached out to my friend.
My friend didn't know how to handle it at first. But she told me that she remembered how I had shared with her this concept of truly being there for her child, in good times and in bad. So she took some time and got regulated. (I love that word. It means that you get calm and able to talk to your child without freaking out all over them.)
She let her son know she needed to talk with him and they met in private. When they were seated my friend told me that she looked at her son with great love. And when she spoke, she used her loving voice as she TOLD HIM that she loved him and that nothing would ever change that.
Then she shared with him that she knew he had sent that picture to a girl.
Here's the interesting part: the son was not defensive. His mom's gentleness created a safe place for him to land. He was able to be real. Open. Honest.
They discussed the situation and figured out a plan where he could own his behavior and apologize.
A situation which COULD HAVE BEEN HORRIBLE turned into something altogether different. My friend said that she never felt closer to her son. Can you now see why YOUR actions and reactions are so vital to your child? They need you to be there for them in real ways.
Now, I wish every child would just be perfect. That would be great, wouldn't it? Unfortunately, we all have the Human Condition going on within us. And kids are dealing with a tremendous amount of pressure in our world.
So just be there for them.
When you sense something is off kilter, get curious. Look beyond the behavior and into their heart. Ask soft questions. Listen. Affirm. Help them find workable solutions if that is needed.
YOU ARE INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT!
By the way, Lent begins next Wednesday, March 2. My daughter Rachel has been talking about Lent and how to enter into this season in a more profound way.
I love her enthusiasm and she has spurred me on, too. I've been spending a lot of time talking to the children we still have at home. Take some time this weekend and brainstorm what you and your family would like to do for Lent.
Lent is a perfect time to:
Finally, as I have shared in this post, to be a more effective parent, I have to focus on my child's heart, not their behavior. When I focus on their heart and help them feel loved unconditionally, their behavior (eventually) rights itself.
Now, you might think that I just do that naturally. Nope. I had a conversion at the heart level. I share all of that (and how it helped me get out of a food addiction cycle) in this course: INSIDE OUT.
If you'd like something deep (as well as helpful in your mothering) for Lent, that online course might be perfect for you.
I'm Lori Doerneman
Wife. Mom. Catholic.
Idealist with 8 kids,
keeping it real.
Note: The Parenting Dare is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com!