Some folks believe that the Christmas season should be year round. Is that because of all of the giving, or all of the getting? Servanthood parenting is not about the getting. It’s about the giving. We should be servants to our children? What???
It’s not about doing everything for your children. "Dad, this shirt's dirty and I want to wear it today." "Okay, son, let me wash it right away." That sets the stage for children feeling entitled and being demanding. It is about Godly parenting, "I've got some time, son. If you put your vocabulary words on flash cards, I'll quiz you when you're finished."You know your child’s needs and feelings, you anticipate, you guide, you find teachable moments.
God sent parents to children to be His emissaries. Jesus is our parenting role model. His parenting His flock is the ideal role model for our parenting our children. Through His ministry and example, he gained an earned authority to convey wisdom to his followers. He preached servanthood in Matthew 19:30, where he explained that “the last shall be first and the first shall be last.”
When my kids were vying for seats on car rides, my rule was that the one who called dibs got to pick last. Since neither one wanted to go first, I could use the seat placement as reward.
“Do it because I said so.” Will get you fearful compliance at the expense of emotional intimacy and meaningful relationship. As servant parents, we develop earned authority, where our children follow our direction because they want to, not only because they have to. During Christmas and other seasons of our lives, it is truly about the giving.
Your 3 year old daughter, Megan, is trying to build a tower with blocks. It keeps falling down. After three tries, the fourth time it falls down again. She picks up a block and hurls it, before throwing herself on the floor and dissolving into tears.
Being the ever vigilant mom, you see this meltdown and conclude, “Hmm. Looks like my little girl has an emotional fever.” You go to Megan to console her.
This is your moment of decision. Some moms would scold. “Young lady, you don’t throw blocks like that. You could have broken something or hurt your brother.” That scolding, although completely warranted, does not console and creates emotional distance between you and Megan.
Other moms might go into lecture mode. “Darling, how do you expect to get that tower made if you just give up like that? You know what they say, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” Again, lost opportunity and, by the way, you might duck after the lecture because Megan might just wing the next block at you.
When your child has a problem, and you notice symptoms of an emotional fever, active listening is the go-to remedy. Scolding or lecturing take lots of empty words to make your point. These tactics are all about you and your power. Active listening uses an economy of words. The fewer the better. Your goal is to try to say back to Megan what you think she might be feeling in the moment. “Wow! You’re really frustrated right now, huh?” As a rule of thumb, most people can accurately state a feeling in five words or less. More words creeps into lecture mode, or unnecessary explanation that dilutes the impact of shared feeling. However, as long as you see symptoms of an emotional fever, continue active listening. Stay current with what your child is saying. Most kids can say they are mad, glad, sad, or bad. Active listening helps them expand their feeling word vocabulary and enriches the emotional intimacy you are building with your child.
When helping your child through a difficulty, use active listening. And, did you know? Less is more.
In a perfect world, you get your child and she gets you all the time. Everybody who lives in such a perfect world, raise your hand. Nope. I didn’t think so. In our imperfect world, what we say and how we say it doesn’t always match. So we have verbal and nonverbal communication. As parents, we need to actively listen to both what our children say and to how they say it.
Your five year old son is sitting in a chair, arms crossed over his chest, scowling, and he then turns his chair completely away from you. In your best parenting way, you ask, “Hey, buddy, what’s up?” His response? “Leave me alone. I don’t love you anymore.” Your shoulders slump and there’s a catch in your throat. You turn to leave the room, and then he starts crying. His verbals tell you go away, but his nonverbals tell you to stay. What to do?
When confronted with mixed signals, attend to both and accept your confusion. A self-absorbed parent might respond to his child’s words with, “You don’t talk to me that way. I am your father.” With those comments, you’ve lost opportunity to console your child, find out what happened, and have a teachable moment.
Instead, stay in the moment and acknowledge what you think is going on. “Wow. I’m really confused. You tell me to go away, but then start crying when I do. Wanna talk about it?” Sometimes, under even the best circumstances, your child will say, “no.” Don’t persist. Simply suggest, “I can give you your space, but when you do want to talk about it, I want to listen.”
Similarly, if your teen approaches you asking to talk and you respond, “Sure, Son. What’s on your mind?” Yet, your head and attention are still buried in the newspaper. Here, you are the one with the mixed messages. Your words will have more impact and be more important to your child when your head, your heart, and your voice are all on the same page.
When your verbal and nonverbal communication line up, you have more integrity with your child. When you observe and try to unravel your child’s mixed messages, you develop emotional intimacy and opportunity for a teachable moment. How you say it is just as important as what you say.