Tag Archives: conflict

Keep filling your parenting love bank!

Last week I shared a really important concept called The Love Bank.  While the concept holds true in every significant relationship in your life, it is especially critical for husbands and wives.

The same premise is echoed in your parent-child relationships.  I want to share a few specific thoughts on how the premise of the love bank works with parents and children.  But first, here are a few ideas that will lay the groundwork for the best application of the Love Bank principle in parenting;

  • As a quick reminder, the premise is this: there exist a sort of “love bank” between us and others we interact with on a regular basis.  Every interaction is either making a deposit or withdrawal into that love bank.  When there begin to be more withdrawals than deposits, distance, bitterness, and broken relationships are sure to follow.
  • The highest ideal of Biblical love is Agape love.  This is the self sacrificing, unconditional love Christ demonstrates for us, and which we are called to demonstrate with one another.  In terms of Agape love, it seems absurd to say that that our selfless, unconditional love for one another is dependent on our positive and negative interactions.  So maybe “Love” isn’t the best word.  Perhaps the “Affection Bank” is more accurate.  But that sounds a bit awkward, so we are sticking with “Love”.
  • Most parents would probably say something like “I will always love my kids, no matter what.”  But the reality is that our affection and delight in our kids is very much based on our experiences with them.  You can love someone who grieves you, someone you don’t particularly want to be around.
  • Christ calls me to love everyone.  And I want to be like Jesus.  But I know that my love is not as patient as His, not as kind, and not as steady.  Knowing I have a long way to go, I want to intentionally build affection for my kids, so that I more readily love them as Christ calls me to.

Ephesians 6:1-3 tells children to obey their parents and to honor their Fathers and Mothers.  Ephesians 6:4 charges fathers to not exasperate their children.  Mothers get a free pass apparently (kidding).  There are dozens of principles to pull out of Ephesians 6:1-4, but one relevant one today is that relationships are a two way street.

Like it or not, you have a love bank with each of your kids.  And your kids each have a love bank with you. Affection, fondness, and happy experiences together are like the grease that keeps the “machine” of family moving.

Some of those reading this have super easy kids.  This might be the most natural thing in the world in your family.  If so, praise the Lord. But others of us have a hard kid, or several hard kids.  Here are some specific thoughts that should help both you and your kids keep healthy love bank accounts.  Note-this is all directed at parents.  I don’t expect children to read parenting websites!

  • Pray for your kids.  Intentionally spend time praying prayers of thanks for them.  Pray details of thankfulness to God for specific traits you love.  If you praise God for your kids, it should be easier to praise your kids.
  • Aim for a 5-1 rule at a minimum.  For every piece of correction you need to do, find five different ways to praise them.  This doesn’t mean that at the time of correction you need to stop and give them five different praises.  It means that the pattern of your interaction with them is that you are LOOKING for things to praise.  It also means you are going to be more judicious in correcting.  You can’t correct everything all at once.  You’ll crush their spirits.  My suggestion is to pick easy wins (things they can easily correct and receive praise) or stick with the vital stuff that feels like it will invoke long term harm if not addressed.  Everything else has time.  What’s an example?  Let them dress sloppy if you’re content enough with how they are covering the important body parts.
  • Own up to your errors.  If you play the role of Mr. or Mrs. Perfect, you’ll train them to not admit fault either.  Humble yourself and apologize when you can.
  • Do things together.  Make effort to find things that you both like to do, spend time doing them.  Sometimes you’ll have meaningful talks along the way.  Sometimes you’re just building a reservoir of fond experiences.
  • Ignore junk behavior.  This is different at every stage of life, but not every behavior needs to be corrected every time.  Let them breathe, figure things out.  If, while they are young, they see that everything they do sets you off, you’ve given them a weapon to manipulate as you get older.
  • Finally, the bigger the trouble they are in, the more exasperated you are, the less you want to see them.. at these times it’s most critical to make extra effort to plan positive experiences together.  You’re mirroring Jesus by showing unconditional love, and you’re filling both of your love banks by focusing on something other than their failures.

We’ve got kids at so many stages of life, with so many issues.  I know this is fairly general.  I’d love to hear from you.  What are some of the ways that YOU help fill the love bank with your children?

Conflict Without Catastrophe

The only real problem I have with people is that they don’t do exactly what I want when I want them to do it.  My kids, being little people, are often guilty of this as well.  Between their sin nature and my sin nature, there’s plenty of opportunity for conflict in our home.

Conflict doesn’t have to be catastrophic.  Family is the primary environment to develop wisdom and character.  Done well, we will become courageous people who thrive in most situations.  Done poorly, our family members can be crippled for life, passive doormats or overbearing tyrants who poorly reflect the image of God in a broken world.

Since you’re going to have conflict, you should have a strategy for conflict.  These principles are vital to your marriage as well as your parenting.  As a bonus, it turns out that these same strategies are helpful in the rest of your relationships as well!

  • Always remember that there are two narratives in conflict.  One narrative is about the actual subject, the other is about how we value the people involved.  Your goal should be to understand and be understood as you resolve the conflict.  If your goal is to win, you’ve already lost the more important narrative, the one where you say “you’re more important to me than this issue.”
  • Fight fair.  As a young married man, after being in a ridiculous fight with my spouse about something I now can’t recall, a wise older man took me for a ride on his motorcycle. Over hot dogs, he proceeded to remind me of these points I forgot from premarital counseling:
    • NEVER use the words “always” or “never”.  Nobody “always” does something and nobody “never” does something.  When you use these words, you throw gasoline on the conflict and you are attacking their character, not their actions.
    • Stick to the subject.  If you’re cornered and feel like someone just got a point over you, don’t grab some other fault of theirs and bring it into the argument.  Just admit you’re wrong.  Grabbing extra subjects turns arguments about laundry into evaluations of your entire relationship.
    • Give opportunity for a “time out” or set a time to appropriately address the topic.  5 minutes before you leave for work or your kids leave for school is a terrible time to start a fight.  Not only does it spoil everyone’s day, but those might be the last words you ever say to someone.  Give time and space to get emotions in check, and let there be enough time to work it out.
  • With your critiques, do your best to not extrapolate a particular behavior into condemning their character. For instance, “look at all this trash, you’re so lazy” is bad (even if it’s true).  “Hey, I really need you to clean up after yourself.  It shows me that you care about me and the family when you do.  I show that I care about you by driving you to your friend’s house.  So we’re going to have the standard that I don’t sacrifice my time and gas money to drive you until you’ve shown you’re a part of the team here by picking up after yourself,” is better.
  • Technology is not your conflict friend. Perhaps the most important discipline for you to have with your phone is to refrain from using texts (or emails) to communicate negative feelings and ideas.  To anyone.  Ever.   Especially your teens.  If you are sitting in one room of your house and your teen is in another room, and you are texting out your clever, sharp, precise words on why you are right and they are wrong, grow the heck up and go talk to them.  If you’re not with them and need to get something off your chest, be like every parent ever in the previous 6,000+ years and wait until you’re with them.  This is excellent advise with your spouse and ever other human as well.

I really love the concept of the Love Tank from His Needs, Her Needs by William F. Harley.  Every day, in every interaction, we are making deposits and withdrawals from the love tanks of the people around us.  Stress and conflict can cause massive withdrawals.  But understanding and resolution can make sizable deposits.

My personal prayer, and my prayer for you, is that our goal in conflict is to win the person, not the argument.  The people in our lives are image bearers of God.  Let’s treat them that way.

Responding vs. Reacting

When I was little, I loved Mad Magazine.  (I know, shame on me).  One of my favorite running bits in the magazine was called “Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions”.  The title is fairly self explanatory, and I not only loved reading the biting sarcasm, I loved coming up with my own.  If I hadn’t become a Christian, I might be writing for Mad today, because I really enjoy putting people into place for their foolish comments.

Thankfully, I gave my heart to Jesus, and He’s been sanctifying it for the last 33 years.  But I still have to watch my tongue, because it so enjoys a biting comeback.

In case you haven’t noticed, most people don’t enjoy being the subject of biting comebacks.  They don’t like the comebacks when they’re angry.  They don’t like them when they are funny and demeaning.  They don’t even care if you were really clever.  They just feel hurt and angry.  Take this feeling, multiply it by the loads of insecurity, hormones, and feelings of powerlessness kids often feel, and it’s not shocking to realize that children and teens don’t really take our harsh reactions well.

I know.  It’s hard.  Sometimes they do shockingly dumb things.  But we need to take care that our words don’t wound deeper than the actual situation calls for.  Remember, in every emotional situation, there are at least two levels of eduction happening with your children.  The first is the lesson you are verbally trying to teach them.  The second (and more impactful) is the nonverbal way you’re training them to react to tense, pressure-filled situations.  When we react with over the top words or emotions, we’re not only making it harder for our kids to really understand the primary lesson we’re trying to teach them, but we’re also training them on how they should react in tense situations.  Are they going to yell?  Are they going to bring in multiple past transgressions?  Are they going storm off angrily?  We all have a sin nature, but these are primarily learned behaviors from the grown ups in their life.  They will do what you do far more than they will do what you say.

So, in the very near future, when you find yourself in a scenario where you typically react with harsh, biting, or loud words, take a moment to gather how you might respond.  Perhaps you should memorize this verse, and as you take your deep breath, recall it:

Proverbs 15:1   A soft answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Then follow these three steps:

  1. Pray “God give me grace for this moment”.  It’s impossible to maintain your emotions apart from the grace of God.
  2. Ask “What can I teach them right now?” You (or they) may be so frustrated that you can’t teach much of anything.  So perhaps the response is, “this is important and I’m not sure what to do, let’s schedule a time to talk about this when we both get some self control”.  Your delaying of the talk (and consequence) for the sake of relationship might be the most important lesson of the day.
  3. Consider the context:  Think about what’s causing this behavior or action in your child.  Is something new or different going on?  I have  a great friend who is a counselor, and he always says “Behavior should make us curious”.  There’s always a “why” behind the “what”, even when we can’t see it right away.  And most always, the “why” is the most important question.

You’re not going to get this right all the time, but with practice and a LOT of grace from God, you will get better.  So will they.