said, “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline.” – Revelation 3:19, NIV
Nine-year-old Al had disobeyed his father who, as a strict disciplinarian, sent
him with a note to a police station in London. When Al came in late after
curfew, his father met him at the door and handed him a note and said,
“Take it to the jailhouse.”
Al was terrified.
“The officer, a friend of his father, opens the note, reads it, and nods,.
‘Follow me.’ He leads the wide-eyed youngster to a jail cell, opens the door,
and tells him to enter. The officer clangs the door shut. ‘This is what we do
to naughty boys,’ he explains and walks away…. The jail sentence lasts only
five minutes. But those five minutes felt like five months. Al never forgot
that day. The sound of the clanging door, he often told people, stayed with him
the rest of his life.
“The fear of losing a father’s love exacts a high toll. Al spent the rest
of his life hearing the clanging door. That early taste of terror contributed
to his lifelong devotion to creating the same in others. For Al—Alfred
Hitchcock—made a career out of scaring people.” (From UpWords from
Max Lucado, www.maxlucado.com)
True, discipline is important, but it always needs to fit the crime. Some
children are impaired for life because of severe punishment as a child. Others
are left terrified if they were beaten severely or abused. It is imperative
that parents never discipline out of anger because that is punishment, not
discipline. Discipline always needs to be in love.
Those whom God loves, he disciplines in love—not punishes in anger. We need to
do the same with our children.
God, thank You that when You discipline me it is always out of Your love for me
and for my good. Help me to do the same when disciplining my children. May it
always be in love and never out of anger. Thank You for hearing and answering
my prayer. Gratefully in Jesus’ name, amen.”
A year ago, my toddler accidentally stabbed me
in the right eye with a Doc McStuffins otoscope. I can’t really blame her.
First of all, she was 2. Secondly, she had an ear infection, and I was trying
to give her medicine, and so got extremely close to her face. She was flailing
her arms in self-defense, and she just happened to have that purple plastic toy
in one of her hands.
I tried to shrug off the injury. I went to
work and suffered through several meetings. Then I went to buy an eye patch,
thinking if I just closed my eye for long enough it would feel better. It
didn’t help, and made me look like a pirate.
Later that day, I went to an ophthalmologist,
who told me that I had a corneal abrasion and gave me prescription eye drops. I
asked if this was a common injury for parents of young children, and he said
yes, but that usually he sees it in parents of infants, who scratch their
parents’ eyes with their talon-sharp nails. I was lucky that there was no
lasting damage to my poor peeper.
Anecdotally, we at NYT Parenting have heard
from many people who were accidentally injured by their small children. The
biggest offenders are stepped-on Legos and L.O.L. Surprise! doll detritus, but
head-butting is also an issue for parents of babies, who tend to have poor
motor skills. Teresa Bowen-Spinelli, M.D., an emergency room physician in New
York, said it’s typical to see twisted or broken ankles from tripping over toys
and broken noses from head-butting.
But also, for men, she’s seen “injury to
genitalia.” Maybe a kid throws a ball or swings a bat in unfortunately close
range of your nethers, or you’re roughhousing and get an errant foot to the
groin. Dr. Bowen-Spinelli said, however, that she’s never seen a really bad
case of injured genitals, “because kids don’t exert that much brute force.”
So, how do you prevent injury by your little
ones, who by definition can’t fully control their limbs yet, and who aren’t
great at recognizing their physical limitations? Aaron E. Carroll, M.D., an NYT Parenting contributor and a professor of
pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine, said that the first thing
to do is to be aware of the unpredictability of their thrashing. Understand
that little kids “don’t have the guardrails of personal space,” and don’t
understand when they “need to be more careful about flailing around,” he said.
“They don’t have the same kind of differentiation between emotional and
physical actions. When they might be frustrated or upset,” they don’t know how
not to react physically.
With babies who are still getting their necks
in control, be careful about getting very close to their faces, Dr. Carroll
said. Both doctors recommended being mindful of your baby’s nails, and making
sure to trim them frequently, for your safety but also for the baby’s. (If
clipping your baby’s nails freaks you out, filing them is a good option, Dr.
Carroll said. Dr. Bowen-Spinelli recommended cutting babies’ nails while they
sleep, because they may struggle less.) If you’re giving your kid medicine she
doesn’t want, as I did, Dr. Carroll suggested making it a two-person job, where
one caretaker holds down the kid’s arms while the other squirts antibiotics
into her mouth.
If your kid does accidentally hurt you, Dr.
Carroll recommended keeping that string of expletives that you undoubtedly want
to shout under control. “If it is by accident, don’t overreact, don’t scream
and yell,” Dr. Carroll said. If your child is old enough (for many by age 2,
though you know your kid’s cognitive abilities best), try to give him positive
instruction about watching where he puts his body. And make sure you’re giving
what Dr. Carroll calls “anticipatory guidance.” Which is to say: If your
3-year-old is learning how to play tennis, keep a close eye on that racket,
because you can bet that a preschooler with a racket is capable of causing
accidental physical damage.
Overall, though, some of these injuries may
not be preventable — part of the fun of kids is their physical spontaneity and
excitable play, and we don’t want to take that away from them, or from us. But,
dudes, you may want to wear a cup.
The vast majority of parents are less satisfied with their marriages after they have kids than they were before.
Mothers in heterosexual relationships report the lowest levels of marital satisfaction, mostly because they tend to take on more “second shift” work — housework and child care — than their partners do.
Listing and dividing household tasks (including child care) make both partners feel a greater sense of fairness, though those tasks do not have to be divided 50/50.
Maintaining a sexual connection is also important — and reestablishing that connection takes time postpartum.
The lowest point of my marriage was probably when I was excessively pregnant with our second daughter. It was 90 degrees outside every day, and I had blown past my due date with no signs of labor. I had trouble falling asleep but had finally drifted off one night when my husband came home from a work event and woke me up. I had a brief and fleeting desire to bludgeon him with a bedside lamp.
I’m not alone: The majorityof studies on marital satisfaction suggest that couples are less happy after they become parents, though the degree and length of unhappiness is more of an open question. Deeply unpleasant thoughts about your spouse will probably flit through your mind at some point during your child’s first year, mostly because of the extreme exhaustion infants create in their parents (there’s a reason extreme sleep deprivation is considered torture).
I spoke to three experts — including a New York Times-bestselling author, a sociologist and a relationship-focused psychotherapist — about how to keep relations as positive as possible during your transition to parenthood. All the experts I spoke with said that taking a transparent, proactive approach to dividing household work — including child care — was the number one way to keep the rage-beast of new parenthood at bay.
WHAT TO DO
Don’t be surprised if you’re not happy.
Though it’s normal for satisfaction to
decline in any relationship over time, research performed within the past decade suggests
that new mothers may be most vulnerable to that dip. Sociologists theorize
that, in heterosexual relationships, mothers are more unhappy with their
marriages after they have children because they tend to take on more “second
shift” work — child care and housework — and begin to feel that their
relationships are no longer fair. Surveys have shown that
whether they work or not, mothers are doing more child care
than fathers are.
Take the same amount of parental leave as your partner (if you can).
If at all possible, make sure both partners are taking identical amounts of leave. Jennifer Senior, an Op-Ed columnist at The New York Times and author of the bestselling “All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood,” said that imbalance in leave-taking can set the stage for an imbalance of caretaking that can last for years. The parent who takes less leave has less experience soothing the baby. So the parent who takes more leave — almost always the biological mother — becomes the default “baby whisperer,” because she has more experience. It’s hard to get out of that pattern once you’re in it. In countries where parents tend to take equal amounts of leave, like in Canada or Sweden, marital satisfaction rates are higher. The unfairness extends even to sleep: Past research has found that working mothers in America are significantly more likely to get up during the night with a sick or wakeful child than working fathers are — and sleep is more equal in countries with more egalitarian policies in place.
Manage your expectations.
“Take the image of the ideal parent and throw it in the garbage,” said Dr. Leah Ruppanner, Ph.D., a sociologist at the University of Melbourne who specializes in family and gender. She gives this advice especially to mothers, because there are much more aggressive cultural expectations about what a good mother is supposed to be. According to the Pew Research Center, the majority of Americans still believe that women do a better job caring for new babies than men do (only 1 percent of Americans think men do a better job), and almost 80 percent believe women face a lot of pressure to be an involved parent.
Make a list of tasks, and divide them fairly.
Senior suggested that parents should list all of their household tasks, including child care, and divide them in a way that seems fair — not equitable. For example: If one partner works 15 hours more a week than the other partner, then they will probably be doing fewer hours of house- and child-related work. But all the experts we spoke with agreed that ad hoc arrangements led to the most strife (and, in hetero couples, usually leave the mom feeling shafted). Merely making the list provides a way for parents to work through all of the potential pain points.
Get granular with your list.
The writer Alix Kates Shulman created a “Marriage Agreement” with her husband when she had children, so that household responsibilities would be distributed fairly. She wrote about it in 1970, and her list gets very specific: “Transportation: Getting children to and from lessons, doctors, dentists, friends’ houses, park, parties, movies, library, etc. Making appointments. Parts occurring between 3:00 and 6:30 p.m. fall to wife. Husband does all weekend transportation and pickups after 6.” Senior said you should get as granular as possible when you’re listing and dividing chores — the more specific you get, the less resentment will fester.
Don’t be a maternal gatekeeper.
Some mothers believe themselves to be the superior parent, and engage in what sociologists refer to as “maternal gatekeeping” — they mediate their spouses’ interactions with their children. Practically speaking it often means nitpicking: “Why are you swaddling Ruby that way?”; “Jasper doesn’t like his bottle so cold.” If mothers want child care to be divided fairly, they have to let fathers do things their own way, even if it’s not your way (if the child is truly in danger, that’s another story — you should always intervene in that case). “You’re letting them learn how to respond to the kids,” Ruppanner said. “They learn how to do it. It’s not astrophysics.”
Ruppanner suggested that if a parent is really struggling not to meddle, they should physically leave the house when their spouse is on duty — go for a run, take a nap, give yourself some personal time.
Redefine your sex life.
Having a child is a “complete reorganization of the structure of your life,” said Esther Perel, M.A., L.M.F.T., a psychotherapist and author of the book “Mating inCaptivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence” — and that includes your sex life. Many biological parents are given the go-ahead to have sex six weeks postpartum, but that’s because “at six weeks you can be penetrated without tearing,” Perel said — and that doesn’t mean you’re ready for it physically or psychologically. Perel added that it could take as long as a year before you’re ready to have penetrative sex — so don’t be discouraged if you’re feeling uneasy at six weeks. It takes time to re-establish the rhythm and get used to a changed body and a restructured life.
Parents who gave birth need time to recover, and nursing parents may experience vaginal dryness because of lowered estrogen levels. About 90 percent of mothers resume sex within six months of birth, though 83 percent are experiencing sexual issues three months postpartum, and 64 percent are still experiencing issues at six months. Perel encouraged parents to “broaden their erotic interests” outside of penetrative sex and experiment with new erogenous zones. Continuing to connect sexually is important for keeping those hostile feelings at bay, for both parents. “On the long list of what your kids need, making sure the couple remains intimately connected remains very high,” Perel said. “There’s nothing holding a family together except the contentment of the couple.”
Jennifer Senior, author of “All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood,” July 24, 2018
Dr. Leah Ruppanner, Ph.D., associate professor and co-director of The Policy Labat the University of Melbourne, July 25, 2018
Esther Perel, M.A., L.M.F.T., author of “Mating inCaptivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence” Aug. 3, 2018
FOR SIBLING BATTLES, BE A SPORTSCASTER, NOT A REFEREE
Narrate what’s happening. Repeat back what your kids say to you. Try to be neutral.
Parents in my psychotherapy practice often ask how to make sibling conflict stop.
Understandably, they want the bickering, teasing, aggression and cries of “no fair” to end. But one of the best ways to dial up sibling love is not to squash conflicts, but to learn how to use them. Research supports this, and I’ve seen it in action.
For the most part, sibling conflict is normal and to be expected: Home is a safe testing ground for social dynamics. Siblings often want to play together, but it takes skill and patience when they’re different ages.
Be a Sportscaster
It’s our job to let kids know we see and hear them, but we’re not necessarily going to solve siblings’ conflicts for them (or else they never get the practice). When squabbles start, imagine you’re a sportscaster and describe what you see in front of you, without judgment and without taking sides. This simple practice lets your kids know you acknowledge and respect their struggles, but you’re not immediately jumping in with a solution.
Example: You hear shouting and walk in to find your kids looking upset with each other.
Instead of:Hey settle down in here! Jack, what did you do this time?
Say:I’m hearing really loud voices in here. Alex, you’re looking mad with your hands on your hips. Jack, you’re laughing. There’s a pack of Pokémon cards on the floor.
Narrate what’s happening. Repeat back what your kids say to you. Try to be neutral.
Ah, got it. You’re telling me he always takes the best cards. You feel like he’s the boss all the time. I see. Jack, you wanted to play the game you usually play and Alex wanted to change it up. Alex, you got frustrated and threw the cards. Am I missing anything?
When you repeat back their grievances, it helps kids start to hear each other and work on their own solutions.
Let Siblings Be Mad at Each Other
It’s a knee-jerk reaction for many parents to insist siblings be nice to each other, and try to smooth over tricky or unpleasant feelings. But siblings can feel love, anger, frustration and connection to each other all within the same day. If they get the message that we accept only their sunny feelings, they will either put more oomph into the darker ones so we hear them, or repress and hide them from us. Neither of these is a good outcome. Accept the negative feelings without judgment. The warm, loving ones will naturally resurface.
Example:He always ruins everything! I hate him!
Instead of:Hey, watch it. You need to calm down and apologize to your brother.
Say:Wow, you are super angry at him. What was it that made you this mad?
Example: I don’t want this new baby. I wish she were never born.
Instead of:Oh, you don’t mean that. You’re going to love her, you’ll see.
Say: I get it. Things feel so different now. It used to be just the three of us and it seems like everything changed. I feel it too sometimes!
Know When to Intervene
If you feel as if your kids’ relationship is bordering on emotional or physical abuse, it’s important to intervene quickly and be ready to separate them if necessary. But for the brothers and sisters who are merely annoyed, pause and listen. When voices start to rise and conflict is escalating, those are signs you may need to step in. Start with something like,
Do you guys need help figuring this out?
Can you give me some information about what’s happening here?
Kids are capable problem solvers, even the youngest ones. Assume they have good ideas and you’re there for support.
Use the Iceberg Analogy
Kids’ words and behaviors are only the tip of the iceberg. They’re the easiest to see and the part we fixate on. Usually, there’s something more telling under the surface. One sibling pushes the other not just to be mean, but because he’s angry, he’s testing boundaries, he’s been pushed at school, he’s tired, he’s overstimulated, he’s trying to get attention. As we teach and uphold family rules, it’s also our job as parents to look deeper.
Approaching the situation with curiosity will help you get to the root of the issue, and it also brings the family closer and makes the lessons stick.
The above are a few of the tools my co-author, Julie Wright, and I teach clients to help them tune in and understand what kids are feeling. But you need more for true conflict resolution. We call this strategy the A-L-P model, for the steps of attuning, limit setting and problem solving. Attuning means you lead with understanding, limit setting states the rules and realities, and problem solving is for coming up with alternatives and solutions:
Ouch, that looked like it hurt. Let me check and make sure you’re O.K. You were really mad and you slammed the door on his arm? Tell me what was going on. O.K., got it.You were angry and you wanted space from him. (Attune to both kids).
We absolutely cannot slam doors, because it’s dangerous. Remember that’s a family rule. (Limit Set).
Let’s get your brother some ice. Pause. What could you say, in clear, strong words, when you need space? Let’s write those down, because it’s really hard to remember when you’re mad. (Problem Solve).
This system helped a mom in our practice to feel empathy for her “problem child” — her middle son, who seemed to find every opportunity to provoke and aggravate his little sister. He was downright mean to her in a way that made the mom furious. She sometimes felt as if she didn’t like him.
We had her sketch an iceberg and fill in the possible sources of her son’s behaviors. As she did this exercise, she started to cry. She had written notes like, “Resentment toward little sister for being the baby of the family, attention from adults always on her, jealousy for her easygoing nature, overwhelmed at school, anger at recent family changes.” She worked on seeing him through this lens of curiosity and it made her less reactive and able to acknowledge his struggles.
Eventually, he started opening up and telling her more about how he was feeling. When she reminded him of family rules, rather than sending him to his room, she asked him what he could do instead of provoking his sister, and he actually started coming up with his own ideas.
As time went on, she still heard them fighting, but she also heard them working things out, chatting and laughing. The ratio of enjoyment to conflict was going up. Her empathy for her son was spreading through the family.
When it comes to screen time, every family will have different amounts of time that they think is “enough.” What’s important is giving it some thought, creating age-appropriate limits (with built-in flexibility for special circumstances), making media choices you’re comfortable with, and modeling responsible screen limits for your kids. Try these age-based guidelines to create screen rules that stick.
Preschoolers. There are lots of great TV shows, apps, games, and websites geared for this age. But too much time spent in front of a screen can interfere with activities that are essential for growing brains and bodies.
Go for quality and age-appropriateness. Not everything for preschoolers needs to be a so-called “brain-builder,” but there’s a difference between mindless and mindfulentertainment. Our reviews can steer you toward titles that help preschoolers work on developmental skills like sharing, cooperation, and emotional intelligence.
Sit with them, and enjoy the discovery process. There will always be moments when you need to rely on the TV or an app to distract your preschooler while you get something done. But as much as you can, enjoy media together. Little hands and developing brains really benefit from your company (and guidance!).
Begin setting limits when kids are little. Habits get ingrained early, so try to establish clear screen-time rules when your kids are young. For games, apps, and websites, you may need to set a timer. For TV, just say “one show.”
Elementary and Middle Schoolers. At this age, kids love TV shows, games, movies, and online videos. They begin to explore more and hear about new shows and games from friends. Because they can access these things by themselves, it’s crucial to continue to supervise their activities and help them stick to your rules.
Start with an endpoint. Use whatever tools you have — your DVR, Netflix, OnDemand — to pre-record shows, cue them up, or plan ahead to watch at a specific time. That way, one show won’t flow into the other, and you can avoid commercials. If your kids are into YouTube, search for age-appropriate videos, and add them to a playlist to watch later. Because most games don’t have built-in endings (and are, in fact, designed to make kids play as long as possible), set a timer or some other cue that says “time to stop.”
Help them balance their day. Kids this age need guidance from you on a daily plan that includes a little bit of time for everything. And staying involved works: Kids whose parents make an effort to limit media use spend less time with media than their peers do, according to a 2010 Kaiser Family Foundation study. Use the American Academy of Pediatrics’ worksheets to create a family media plan.
Practice what you preach. It’s tempting to keep reaching for your phone to check email, texts, Facebook, or the news. But your kids will be the first to call you out for not “walking the talk.” Plus, they’ll pick up habits from you. Model the media behavior that you want your kids to emulate.
Help them make quality choices. You still have a say in what they see, hear, and play. Put in your two cents about the importance of quality shows, games, and movies.
Crack down on multitasking. High school kids who’ve discovered texting, IM, Facebook, and music tend to do them all at once — especially when they’re supposed to be doing mundane tasks like homework. But a University of Michigan study found that humans are terrible multitaskers and that the practice actually reduces the ability to concentrate and focus.
Find ways to say “yes.” Look for movies they can watch. Find games you’re OK with. If your teens ask to see something you don’t approve of, help them find alternatives.
The talk. The birds and the bees. The awkward conversation with your parents you dreaded as a child. It probably went something like this: “Well, when two people love each other very much…” followed by a vague description of the physical act of sex, contraceptives, pregnancy, and STIs.
But were you ever taught about consent? What about affirmative consent? Did your parents and the adults in your life practice consent with each other, and with you? The #MeToo stories about non-consensual interactions, specifically ones that live in the grey area or ones that happen in childhood, are something we should all strive to eliminate from the next generation by educating our kids today.
If we can teach our kids about consent and show them how to practice it through our actions, through those little teaching moments, then maybe, these stories can be less common.
Here are seven ways to teach your kids, and the kids in your lives, about consent.
Practice consent by example Before children even learn to speak, they learn by observing and mimicking the world around them. It’s called observational learning. By practicing consent with our partners, friends, and other children, we can begin to model what consent should look like to those ever-watchful eyes.
This also extends to how we practice consent in our relationships with our children. By giving children choices in expressing consent in how they would like to be touched, we teach them how to express it when we’re not around. For example, If you want to kiss your child goodnight, ask them, “May I give you a kiss goodnight?” and respect their answer.
Give them bodily autonomy Giving children choice is a gateway to giving them the tools to express their consent. You can ask your child “Do you want to wear your blue shoes or your yellow shoes today?” In the same way, it is important to give children options when it comes to their body. For example, if they have a rash and they need ointment you can say, “You need ointment for your rash, do you want to put it on, or can I help you?”
Giving children simple choices every day shows them that they have bodily autonomy so that they can carry that into other interactions. In the same way, it is important to not take that bodily autonomy away from your children. A common way children lose their bodily autonomy is through adults coercing them to hug and/or kiss relatives and friends. It’s important to show children that they have a choice. If they say no, you can give them alternatives, like “How about a fist bump?” but the key is to respect a “no” that may follow.
Teach them to listen to their bodies Consent isn’t just a verbal interaction, so it’s important that we teach children to listen to their bodies. What feels good and what doesn’t feel good to them? Teaching them what it feels like to be present in their physical self, and what it feels like to have their physical needs honored and met, is key to them being able to appropriately express their needs later.
Teaching children about their physical pleasure is something that Sue Jaye Johnson, a journalist and filmmaker, talks about working through with her daughters. In an interview for the Future of Sex Podcast, she talks about how her daughter will ask her to rub her back and how she then asks “Well, how would you like me to rub your back?” giving her daughter the space to think about her pleasure and express her physical wants in a productive way. In the same way, we also need to teach our children to listen to their gut feelings and instincts. Our bodies are a powerful tool in telling us that something doesn’t feel right. By encouraging children to give credence to these feelings and voice them, we encourage an understanding of their own pleasure and needs and how they might express that to future partners.
Give them the tools to express their physical wants and needs Once a child has language at their disposal, we can begin to help them express their wants and needs though their words. We can teach them polite ways to decline affection like “No, thank you. I don’t want to hug right now.” But we should also be teaching them that they can just say “no” and that that’s ok, too.
Rather than teaching our girls the narrative that if a boy teases you, he likes you, we should be teaching our kids that if they don’t like something and ask someone to stop, they need to stop. If their words aren’t heeded, that may be the appropriate time to involve an adult or remove themselves from interaction with the offending kid. In the same way, it is important to teach kids to ask permission, with words and gestures. They can offer a hand to hold or hold out their hands for a hug, but they also need to ask, use their words, and know that someone may say no.
Teach them how to handle physical rejection While we need to teach our kids how to say no, we also need to teach our kids to recognize and accept the rejection of affection. It’s important to encourage them to stop when someone says no, and to step in as adults when we recognize our kids being affection aggressors, holding other kids a little too long or a little too hard.
We can teach kids to accept rejection and redirect them. We can tell them that just because a friend doesn’t want a hug, that that doesn’t mean they don’t love them and we can direct them to show affection in other ways. You can tell your child to use words of affirmation, acts of service, or gifts to express affection. While channeling affection is important, it’s also important to just teach that it’s ok that someone doesn’t want something, in the same way that they may not want things at times. They are in control of their bodies, just as someone else is in control of theirs.
Turn awkward moments into teaching opportunities Something I’ve talked a lot about with peers is how their parents handled sex scenes in movies and television growing up. As a millennial, the general binary in my generation is parents who fast-forwarded through sex scenes and parents who made you endure the sex scenes in a tense silence. In addition to this binary, there are a lot of movies and shows from my childhood, and from generations prior, that display non-consensual interactions in a way that makes them seem okay.
What if we didn’t let that slide? What if we took media and created a dialogue, especially with older children and teens? If you’re watching a movie with your kid that has a sex scene, use the time that could be spent being awkward to talk about what’s being done right and what the characters should be doing regarding consent in the interaction.
Believe them and advocate for them Finally, and most importantly, it is essential to believe children and advocate for them. If your child expresses discomfort or unease, ask them about their feelings and validate them. This is a crucial step of Emotion Coaching. When you believe them, it creates an open channel for communication between you. It teaches them them to trust you and trust their own instincts. So in turn, they might also believe the story of someone else.
Ask them if they want or need intervention. It’s then your responsibility to advocate for them with whomever is making them uncomfortable. That might mean talking to a parent, teacher, coach, or other adult. Sometimes we’re the ones that need to step in and have those tough conversations until our children are old enough to have them on their own.
Rather than having “the talk” with your kids, think of teaching consent as an ongoing dialogue—a million little conversations and day-to-day actions that can help them feel comfortable and safe in their own bodies, and respect the sanctity of someone else’s.
HOW TO TALK TO KIDS ABOUT VIOLENCE, CRIME, AND WAR
Exposure to graphic images, distressing information, and horrific
headlines can affect kids’ overall well-being.
shootings. Nuclear weapons. A robbery at your local corner store. Where do you
start when you have to explain this stuff to your kids? Today, issues involving
violence, crime, and war — whether they’re in popular shows, video games,
books, or news coverage — reach even the youngest kids. And with wall-to-wall
TV coverage, constant social media updates, streaming services that broadcast
age-inappropriate content any time of day, plus the internet itself, you have
to have a plan for discussing even the worst of the worst in a way that’s
age-appropriate, that helps kids understand, and that doesn’t cause more harm.
Don’t bring it up —
unless you think they know something. There’s no reason
to bring up school shootings, terrorist attacks, threats of war, or the like
with young kids. If you suspect they do know something — for example, you hear
them talking about it during their play — you can ask them about it and see if
it’s something that needs further discussion.
Affirm that your
family’s safe. In the case of scary news, such as wilderness fires
— even if you’re a little rattled — it’s important for young children to know
they’re safe, their family is OK, and someone is taking care of the problem.
Hugs and snuggles do wonders, too.
Simplify complex ideas
— and move on. Abstract ideas can complicate matters and may even
scare young kids. Use concrete terms and familiar references your kid will
understand, and try not to overexplain. About a mass shooting, say, “A man
who was very, very confused and angry took a gun and shot people. The police
are working to make sure people are safe.”
“real” and “pretend.” Young kids have rich
fantasy lives and mix up make-believe and reality. They may ask you if a scary
story is really true. Be honest, but don’t belabor a point.
Wait and see. Unless they
ask, you know they were exposed, or you think they know something, don’t feel
you have to discuss horrific news or explain heinous crimes such as rape,
beheadings, dismemberment, and drug-fueled rampages (especially to kids in the
younger end of this age range or who are sensitive). If kids show signs of
distress by acting anxious, regressing, or exhibiting some other tip-off that
something’s amiss — for example, they’re reluctant to go to school after the
latest school shooting — approach them and invite them to talk.
Talk … and listen. Older tweens hear about
issues related to violence, crime, and war on social media, YouTube, TV, and movies —
not always reliable sources for facts. Try to get a sense of what your kids
know before launching into an explanation, since you don’t want to distress
them further or open up a whole new can of worms. Feel them out by asking,
“What did you hear?,” “Where did you hear that?,”
“What do you know about it?,” and “What do you think about
Be honest and direct. Tweens can find out what
they want to know from different sources, and you want the truth to come from you. It’s
not necessary to go into extreme detail. About a family who held their kids
hostage, you can say, “The kids suffered many different kinds of abuse.
But they were rescued, and their parents were arrested. Often in cases of child
abuse, the parents are very sick with mental illness or other issues.”
in news and media. Talk to kids about how media outlets — including news agencies,
TV shows, movie companies, and game developers — use extreme subjects to get attention, whether it’s in
the form of clicks, viewership, or ticket sales. Share the old
newsroom adage, “If it bleeds, it leads,” and talk about why we may
be drawn to outrageous human behavior. This helps kids think critically about
the relative importance of issues, the words and images used to attract an
audience, and their own media choices.
Explain context and
offer perspective. With your life experience, knowledge, and wisdom, you can
explain the various circumstances around certain issues. This is the process
that gives things meaning and clarity — and it’s important for kids to be able
to make sense of negative and unpleasant things, too. To work through the
powerful emotions that images of beatings, blood, and human suffering can bring
up, kids have to learn to distance themselves from horrific events, understand
the underlying causes, and perhaps get involved in meaningful ways to make things
better, such as diplomacy and education.
Get them talking. High school years can be
tough, as teens start rejecting their parents’ ideas, becoming concerned with
what friends think, and developing their own voice. This separation can be
especially difficult when traumatic events occur or when you know they’re
interacting with mature media. To continue the kinds of conversations you had
when they were younger — and stay connected and relevant — resist the urge to
lecture and instead ask their opinions about things. Encourage them to support
their ideas with legitimate news sources, not just repeat what others have said. Say,
“We may not always agree, but I’m curious to hear what you have to
Accept their sources,
but expand their horizons. Trending topics capture the headlines, but teens
are just as likely to run across provocative subjects, stories, and characters
on TV and in movies — such as the meth-making chemistry teacher of Breaking
Bad — that get users clicking, viewing, and sharing. Give teens the tools to view information critically,
whether they’re scrolling through Snapchat, Netflix or a free-speech site for
extremists such as 4chan and 8chan. Teach them to question what they see by
asking themselves, “Who made this?,” “Why did they make
it?,” “What’s its point of view?,” “What information isn’t
included?,” and “What would my friends think of this?” These
media-literacy questions help teens evaluate information, think beyond the clickbait headline or funny meme, and
look more deeply into a topic.
My older daughter was less than a week old when the
Sandy Hook school shooting happened. I remember clutching her body to my chest
and watching cable news, horrified by the world I had brought her into. For
days after, I worried about taking her outside our home and into crowded
places. I had a pungent, spiky fear that felt very real in the moment. If
someone could gun down a bunch of 6-year-olds, I thought at the time, the
notion of safety was ephemeral.
Parenting is an ongoing process of learning to
tolerate the idea “that you cannot entirely keep your children safe,” said Dr.
Alexandra Sacks, M.D., a reproductive psychiatrist based in New York City, who
called this struggle the “existential paradox” of parenthood.
I spoke to two psychiatrists and two pediatricians about
how parents — and their children — can deal with increased anxiety and fear in
the aftermath of these shootings.
Understand that a few days of
increased anxiety is normal. “It’s an appropriate response
to a really traumatic event,” said Dr. Pooja Lakshmin, M.D., a clinical
assistant professor of psychiatry at the George Washington University School of
Medicine. If you need more downtime at home in the few days after such
upsetting violence, you should feel empowered to take that space, Dr. Lakshmin
said. And acknowledging your feelings is key — avoiding or pushing them down
won’t make them go away.
Reach out to parent friends. Connecting with your community to talk through fears can help, Dr.
Lakshmin said. That’s particularly true for parents of color or those from
religious minorities, who may feel especially acute anxiety in this moment
because of the white extremist ideology of
many recent mass shooters.
Try to stick to your routine. “Every time a shooting happens, our sense of reality falls apart,”
Dr. Lakshmin said. “The world you thought you were living in is not the world
you’re actually in.” So trying to maintain your routine keeps you tethered to
your day-to-day life. Overcoming your fears by taking your kids to the park, to
the store or to camp as planned can help to keep the anxiety from overwhelming
Channel anxiety into action. Finding a way to contribute in the aftermath of a tragedy, whether
by volunteering with organizations that work to prevent mass shootings or by
helping a community affected, can help redirect your fears, Dr. Sacks
said. The El Paso Times published
recommendations for its community, as did the Dayton Daily News.
Step away from the news. If you find that reading or viewing the details of violent events
is triggering your anxiety, try to edit your media diet, Dr. Sacks said. “I do
hear from parents that they can be drawn to catastrophic things that happen
with children in the news,” she said. “It’s incredibly painful to them, but
they feel a pull toward these stories in their empathy and identification.”
It’s helpful to minimize kids’ exposure to news as well,
said Dr. Jackie Douge, M.D., a pediatrician based in Maryland and a fellow at
the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Don’t dodge the hard
conversations. If you suspect your kids know about
an incidence of mass violence, you should ask them what they have heard, said
Dr. Nia Heard-Garris, M.D., an attending physician at the Ann and Robert H.
Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. “You don’t want to give so much
information that you’re introducing trauma yourself,” Dr. Heard-Garris said.
But “you also want them to trust you,” that you’re not hiding difficult things
from them. If you start with what they know, you “can try to address any
misconceptions, or rumors, any anxieties right then and there,” she said.
While “it’s affecting all children” negatively to hear about particular communities singled out for violence, Dr. Heard-Garris said, parents of kids who hear about their religious or racial communities being targeted can send them the following message: “I know there’s a lot of bad stuff happening in the world, but it’s my job as a parent to try to keep you safe.”
Know when to get help. If you find that you’re anxious for more than a week, or if your
sleep, eating or other routines are disrupted, it may be time to talk to a
therapist. “If you’re finding these intrusive thoughts are not controllable and
they become so loud that you’re taking a circuitous route to get to work, or
not letting your kids go to soccer practice, that’s when I would say it’s time
to see a therapist and have a more structured space to unpack these fears,” Dr.
The same goes for your kids — a little additional fear
or anxiety is normal after traumatic events, but if their anxiety is affecting
their relationships, sleep or their behavior at school, talk to your primary
care provider, Dr. Douge said.
Your child’s fears may be triggered again by school
lockdown drills, which millions of children
experience each year, and which may leave kids traumatized. All
you can do with the recurrence of fear is to reassure kids that these tragic
events are still rare, overall, and that their home is a safe place for them to
unpack their worries. Tell them: “Your teachers, your doctor, your pastor or
rabbi, we love and care about you,” Dr. Heard-Garris said, and that home is
“where they have this refuge from this crazy world.”
I’ve been growing intently for years now in trying to become what I would call a ‘woman of grace.’ It’s probably been the most difficult journey for me personally, even though I’m naturally kind and loving, being a true woman of grace means exhibiting maturity even during the hardest of circumstances.
Maturity. I love this word and it’s meaning. I love that this is what Jesus meant when He said that He desired for us to be “perfect” (Greek meaning = mature, complete in growth), like He was.
Complete in growth. Stable, mature, peaceful… uneasily shaken by others and what they may say about you or do to you.
When people are being human, with their flaws, or even sometimes difficult personalities, I’m able to exhibit grace fairly easily. I’m blessed to be easy going and optimistic in nature, but when I’m confronted with extremely rude or even evil people, I tend to throw grace out the window and can become like a mamma bear in all her anger in setting my boundaries or telling them off.
While I’ve come a long way in spiritual growth in this area, I still want to work to become more mature, more able to understand a difficult situation so that I’m no longer sucked into sinful drama. Its critical to understand the motive behind our own behavior that can end up leading us to being ungraceful in how we deal with others.
A few years ago now, I read one of the most interesting books on anger and dealing with people or situations that bring out bad characteristics in us. The book is called Overcoming Emotions that Destroy, written by Chip Ingram, and helps one to identify what kind of person they are (a Stuffer or Exploder… I’m a Stuffer that can endure for years before I finally Explode), what kinds of things hurt or anger them, and how they spiritually need to go about dealing with toxic emotions (or people) in order to have joy and peace in their life.
Being a woman of grace means having composure, finding and being grounded. It carries over into the realm of crisis situations, and into confrontations with catty or gossipy females.
Carrying oneself with grace means having patience when a difficult person needs time to mature, but grace also means having the wisdom to know when to move on away from a person who refuses God’s assistance to grow beyond their immaturity.
Being a graceful woman is finding maturity through allowing God to develop in you the traits of the Fruit of the Spirit (more below), but let’s take a look at why it is so important to cultivate Grace. Let’s take a look at the ungraceful woman.
The Ungraceful Woman
To be an ungraceful woman (not disgraceful as that implies shameful), but merely a woman who lacks real grace in dealing with others, is a very painful existence for that woman, and is why I truly feel sorry for people who live their lives in such a unhealthy manner. She constantly feels the need to control others, to criticize or “punish” them, without trusting that God sees everything and has taken vengeance into His own hands, and commanded her not to herself!
Meddling in others’ lives, watching them in order to jump on their mistakes, gossiping to her audience of relatives or friends about their mistakes or perceived lack of character… all these things are actions that prevent these women from growing in true maturity, and it always makes me very sad when I come across someone with this defect. A woman like this is shirking her calling, ignoring her God-given talents, and being consumed with the faults of others while her own creativity withers away. Once you understand the depravity of her actions, you no longer feel any other emotion toward her except for deep sadness at the life she’s chosen for herself. She knows deep down that she’s wrong, that she’s behaving immaturely, that she’s deliberately confronting someone (or going behind their back to gossip) in something that is not her place and not bringing glory to God, however, she believes she is doing what is right, even beneficial to her target. She is driven by this feeling, even though she has a nagging horrible anxiety about it.
The Ungraceful Woman Is Addicted to Attacking Others (you know… like a hobby)
Why do people attack others? Why would someone focus so much on another’s life, devoting their words or actions to criticizing their every move? Why would someone go into a church, sit there for an hour listening to a Bible study, and then carry out their plans to murder the people in that church because they hated members of a different race so intensely?
Even though these are situations where a person gives in to evil in lesser or greater degrees, I want people to understand that these all have one major motive in common:
The desire to shame or punish others
When Dylann Roof, the recent aggressor in a mass shooting in an African American church in South Carolina, carried out his actions they were based on the desire to punish the blacks in that church for perceived crimes others of their race had done (or even not done) in our country. He felt like he was carrying out a righteous duty in harming them, in exterminating them. His words were that he had to do it because he would be benefiting society. This is the basis of all racial crimes and genocide that has been prevalent all over the world, but it is always motivated by more than mere hatred, but by the desire to punish, shame or exterminate someone (or people)…
because they “deserve it.”
To a lesser degree, this is the same motive that takes place when a woman (or man) decides that harming someone through gossip (ruining their reputation or hurting their feelings), or punishing them by using harsh language, dismissing them or ignoring, or shaming them, is beneficial to that person or even a “righteous act.” The can even justify that harming them is beneficial to others or a certain group.
Be it someone like Dylann Roof or a woman who punishes and shames others, the evil is shown when the aggressor thinks they are justified to treat another human being this way. In Patricia Evans book, Controlling People, she discusses the scenarios of a person spanking a baby to get it to stop crying, and the event of a terrorist act,
While I am not in any way equating hitting a child with the quite different act of terrorism, I am pointing to the fact that they both arise from a terrifying unawareness on the part of the aggressor. And that in most cases, when people act against other people, they feel justified. They feel sensible.
If you have ever encountered a person who acted against you by harassing you, defining you, discriminating against you, or physically assaulting you, you may have noticed that the act was perpetrated against you as if you were deserving of it.
Whether they are experienced as horrifying, hurtful, or simply nonsensical, acts against others have certain commonalities:
1) Perpetrators usually believe that their oppressive actions are necessary, even right. Their behavior is actually the opposite: unnecessary and wrong
2) Generally acts against others, that is, attempts to control others, eventually bring the perpetrators just the opposite of what they want.
3) Acts against others originate with a distortion or lack of awareness. Perpetrators almost universally believe that they see clearly and are aware: the opposite of reality.
Instead of growing in maturity, an ungraceful woman develops a toxic character of constantly feeling like it is her “duty” to “call out” the sins, failures, and shortcomings of others. She feels like her oppressive and ungraceful behavior is necessary to bring about some kind of desired change. She attempts to control another to try to get what she wants from them (compliance), but ends up getting the opposite (a broken relationship, or being ignored, or facing the other’s indifference).
In acting in an ungraceful manner of attacking, shaming, or gossiping about another person, she is pursuing the opposite of growing in maturity. Maturity in our actions with others is found in the Fruits of the Spirit,
Maturity through the Fruits of the Spirit:
An aggressor or ungraceful woman at times, will break every single one of these beautiful tenants of the Fruit of the Spirit, characteristics that should be growing in someone that is becoming more and more mature or Christ like, in order to criticize or punish another.
Being a woman of grace means actively pursuing each of these characteristics whole-heartedly, allowing God to change her more and more into a complete woman – a woman who is mature.
Hope for a Future of Grace, Even in Our Failings
If you’ve failed in this way, if you’ve been the ungraceful woman, let me just tell you that I’ve been there… I’ve hit rock bottom. Don’t let shame that you’ve failed in this area prevent you from embracing the hope and joy that God can change and heal everything, giving you that maturity and peace to help you understand how to better deal with others.
Here are some scriptures that are for those who feel like they’ve failed being a woman of grace:
“I give thanks to my God for every remembrance of you, always praying with joy for all of you in my every prayer, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion (maturity) until the day of Christ Jesus. It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because I have you in my heart, and you are all partners with me in grace….” Philippians 1:3-7
“For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to will and to act for His good purpose. Do everything without grumbling and arguing, so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world. Hold firmly the message of life.” Philippians 2:13-14
“Not that I have already reached the goal or am already fully mature, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus. Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus. Therefore all who are mature should think this way. And if you think differently about anything, God will reveal this to you also. In any case, we should live up to whatever truth we have attained.” Philippians 3:12-16
“Therefore, God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, accepting one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a complaint against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so also you must forgive. Above all, put on love – the perfect bond of unity. And let the peace of the Messiah, to which you were also called in one body, control your hearts. Be thankful. Let the message about the Messiah dwell richly among you, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, and singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” Colossians 3:12-17
“A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.” (Proverbs 29:11)
workplace can be a pressure-packed world. The demands that are often put on us
can bring out things that we never knew were there. Sometimes we begin to think
that the source of that pressure is to blame for our response to the pressure.
It could be an event, a spouse, a boss, a client, a child, or even a driver who
cuts us off in traffic.
recall responding to a close friend one time, “If you had not done that, I
would never have responded that way.” Later I learned that this response
had little truth to it. We all choose to get angry. No one else is to blame for
circumstances of life, the events of life, and the people around me in life, do
not make me the way I am, but reveal the way I am” [Dr. Sam Peeples].
simple quote has had a profound impact on how I view my anger now. Anger only
reveals what is inside of me. I can’t blame anyone but me for my response to a
situation. I have learned that anger is only the symptom of something else that
is going on inside of me. This quote now resides on my refrigerator door as a
daily reminder of the truth about my response to life’s situations.
has been said that anger is like the warning panel on the dash of your car. It
is the light that tells us something is going on under the hood and we need to
find out what is the source of the problem. I discovered that the source of
anger is often unmet expectations or personal rights. We believe we are
entitled to a particular outcome to a situation. When this doesn’t happen, it
triggers something in us. At the core of this is fear, often a fear of failure
or rejection, fear of what others think, fear of the unknown.
you struggle with anger, ask God to reveal the source of that anger. Ask Him to
heal you of any fears that may be the root of your anger. Ask God to help you
take responsibility for your response to difficult situations.