Consistency in our Relationships

Our kids grew up secure knowing what was acceptable and what would set off sparks! 
 
Nothing has changed.  Security comes from consistent rules and responses.

“I just never know how she is going to respond.”
 
“One day I am superman and the next day I can’t even cut my own steak!”
 
“I know that my Dad’s life is difficult and his job is unstable. I just wish he could be secure in our relationship.”
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Remember when our children were small and everyone told us that consistency held the key to building our relationship with them?
Our mentors admonished us to determine the “rules of the house” and stick to them.
This set up the culture of our home.
Can we throw balls in the living room?
Eat in front of the TV or other screen?
Go to bed at the same time every night? Stay up late and sleep late? 
All of these decisions set the tone for our home.

Our kids grew up secure knowing what was acceptable and what would set off sparks! 

Nothing has changed.  Security comes from consistent rules and responses.

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The culture in the Pope family is “have fun!” Sure you can scream and have a dance party in the middle of the kitchen. But, you can NEVER be unkind to others–that is NOT fun!
The key to a good relationship with our adult children is consistency, just like when they were young. Predictability is our FRIEND. We want our kids to be able to predict how we will respond in every situation. 
 
We can anticipate and PREPARE ANSWERS IN ADVANCE for some typical situations with our our adult children. Our kids can depend on the consistent response in reoccurring situations:
Wrecked the car? First we ask if they are OK and then we ask… what do you need from me?
Having a baby? We ALWAYS rejoice. Period.
Hurt? First we empathize and then ask if they need help or advice.
Nervous or fearful? First pray. Then encourage.
“Do not be driven about by the wind” (James 1:6) was written to parents of adult children. We cannot allow fear, anger, or other harmful emotions to wreck our relationships with our adult children.
Ask yourself: 
“Am I allowing fear (which is the opposite of faith) to respond for me to my adult children?”
“Am I responding out of anger?”
“Am I trying to control the outcome?”

If any of this sounds like how we are responding — we back up and wait to respond with intention. 

Just as we always wanted the best outcome for them as small children—so we should be interested in the best outcome for their present and future—especially when we want to respond with emotion instead of intention.
What situations throw you off your predictable, non-emotional response? 

Our Children ARE ANGRY with us!

We often tell our young children, “It is more important to be kind than to be right.” 

Can you employ that motto today with your adult children?

I can’t believe you think that!
You don’t trust me!
I am not a child any more you can’t talk to me like that.
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Even with all the emphasis we place on communicating well with our adult children—sometimes words will hurt. Feelings will get smashed. Sometimes our children become very angry with us.
As parents, we might try not to overreact to certain words or actions by our adult children.
We might even think we are doing a good job of not overreacting only to hear, “You are so judgmental. You overreact to everything.”
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Even though we feel like we are being reasonable and logically presenting our concerns over how they spend their money or the friends they are choosing—they may not appreciate this (or other) unsolicited advice. Often our adult children hear screaming when we feel we are speaking in a controlled tone.
And then there are the times we REALLY ARE SCREAMING!  
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Your children will get mad at you. And you can bet it will be at the WORST possible time.
A few days before Rachelle (my first daughter to have a big church wedding!)  got married, she and I fought over something. I can’t remember what the issue was, but I DO remember running up the stairs yelling behind me, “Don’t follow me up! I am going to my room and lock the door.” Rachelle returned the volley with, “You can’t run away from me! I am your daughter!” 
That really happened. I can’t make this stuff up.
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Rule #1: Contain the emotion. 
Don’t act like I acted. Be the adult.  Jon Gordon of The Energy Bus defines emotion as energy in motion. If your child’s decisions have made your energy NEGATIVE energy, go for a walk or ride a bike before engaging in the conversation. Don’t put your NEGATIVE energy into motion through emotion.
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Rule #2: Focus on the issue … and keep it short.
If you disagree with their choice of job, habits, friends… speak your opinion and make a logical case. Then leave it alone. Avoid long explanations that validate your opinion. If you sell them on the first point you have given them enough to explore your point of view. You will not argue them into agreement.
No one ever changed their mind about something through long posts on Facebook. Your FACE-TO-FACE is no different.
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Your adult children are MORE than the issues that divide you…do not let the issues separate you!
Rule #3: Acknowledge the bond between you. 
If emotions run out of control: DON’T RUN THE OTHER WAY.
Unlike me running up the stairs, calmly say something like, “We are not going to agree on this, but we do agree that I am on your side and want the best for you, right?”
Sometimes even this blows emotion back in your face because your offspring thinks you are patronizing. When that happens find some way to make a bridge, even a small one, back to your child.
We often tell our young children, “It is more important to be kind than to be right.”
Can you employ that motto today with your adult children?
What topics cause anger between you and your adult children? How do you show you are on their team even when you disagree. I would love to read your comments below.

 

A Habit of Gratitude

It is impossible to overstate the importance of developing good habits. In children, good habits develop their character. 
 
Parents of young kids work on teaching the habits of hygiene and good manners.
But perhaps the most important habit we can teach our children is the habit of gratitude. Gratitude enlarges the brain and develops empathy for others. Gratitude reflects a heart of understanding towards others. Gratitude enlarges the number of friends one has—because grateful people are happy people. In his book The Happiness Advantage Shawn Achor recommends that folks keep a gratitude journal. Achor is one of more than a dozen authors who recommend this practice for keeping us on track with a grateful heart. Today book stores and office supply stores stock a variety of cute gratitude journals—but what other ways can we model gratitude for our kids and others in our lives?
When my children were small one ‘game’ we played was a “go-around” in the car while everyone yelled one thing they were grateful for that day. We started the list with ‘A’ and tried to keep it going till we got to ‘Z’ and someone had to be grateful for the ever- present zebra.
Did this one habit change the lives of my adult children? Well, it helped! I can safely affirm that claim. While some sour-faced toddlers grew into temperamental preteens and moody adolescents, my clan— for the most part— learned to handle emotions with a more steady and calm assurance that
situations change and generally, with work, circumstances improve. 
When we first moved to Houston, Ted was pursuing a doctorate.  Times were tight. Our daughter was going to public school which meant LUNCH MONEY!!! Naturally, before sending our first grader off to school we often had to play “find the change in the couch cushions.” Not only was this a great way to avoid negative thinking during that time but it taught her that there could be FUN in the hard times! A side benefit: now that she is a mom of six children, she has mastered that game with her own kiddos years later!
Did we accomplish this grateful thinking 100% of the time— no. I lean toward the pessimistic side of the street while Ted resides permanently on the sunny side of life.
GRATITUDE IS WORK FOR ME—ESPECIALLY IF I HAVE MY FOCUS ON THE CIRCUMSTANCES. But this was the big lesson for our kids:
DO NOT FOCUS ON THE CIRCUMSTANCES
Reaping the benefits of gratitude today, I see my happy grandchildren often writing “thank you” notes in whatever imaginary handwriting they employ for the day.  They have been thankful for snails, frisbees, friends, and chocolate chips.  A recent conversation went like this…
Me, “ Thank you for the sweet note. Can you read it to me?”
Darling grandchild, “This says thank you for the cookie.”
Me, “What cookie?”
“The one you are going to give me, Silly.”
Gratitude has its pay off! 

Encourage THINKING–Not the Thought!

When our darlings become adults we remember all those times they were the STAR OF THE SHOW!

From our perspective, they were destined for nothing but greatness.  Because of our perspective, we become disappointed when they don’t ‘reach their potential’ because of a thought they have.  

“Children must be taught how to think, not what to think.”

 

We think that when our children are small we want to encourage them TO THINK.

 

We delight in all their funny thoughts and repeat every witty comment every said over a meal or to a grandparent!

 

When Scott said to my sister, “Why doesn’t God just kill the devil? Oh I know! He has that pitch forky thing!” I thought we would double over laughing. The theology did not worry us! The four-year-old was  THINKING!!!!

 

 

They make home runs and we CHEER! They strike out and we say, “You’ll get ‘em next time!” Most of all, when they are young we are the BIGGEST cheerleaders. They make a 100 on their spelling test and we see visions of ‘writer’ in their future. They flunk a math test and we cross ‘engineer’ off the list of possible occupations and say, “The world has too many engineers anyway!”

We know they are going to be successful! 

 

 

When our darlings become adults we remember all those times they were the STAR OF THE SHOW!

 

From our perspective, they were destined for nothing but greatness.  Because of our perspective, we become disappointed when they don’t ‘reach their potential’ because of a thought they have.

 

 We try (sometimes not so gently) to get them ‘back on course!’ We KNOW they are destined for greatness and they just need a little push.

They just need a ‘tweak in their thinking…” OR IS IT THEIR THOUGHTS? 

Soon the push becomes a shove…and the shove… becomes our own frustration.

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 Why do we push them? Because we still see the adorable child whom we wanted to succeed. We see the ballerina that just needed encouragement. We see the scholar that only needed someone to believe in him.

The truth is: our kids MAY NOT DEFINE SUCCESS THE WAY WE DO.  They may actually have different THOUGHTS than we do. 

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They may not desire a corner office with a window; they may not even desire a corner office OR  any office AT ALL.

We wanted them to THINK and we encouraged their thinking! Now that they are thinking on their own, sometimes we are nervous, upset and even angry that the end of their thoughts did not lead them to the same destination our thoughts led us.

 

I am not romanticizing that we go back to believing in pixy dust and that the moon is made of green cheese, like when they were four…what I am proposing is that some of the basic ways to find truth might come back with different thoughts:

“We should learn to take care of the widows and orphans.”

        Hey Mom! We are adopting! Sure we can still conceive our own kids but we want to adopt.

 

“We should spread Jesus’ love to the ends of the earth.”

        Hey Dad! Last week we finally decided that our church’s missionaries need help! So we are taking the kids and going to _____ (fill in the blank with anywhere more than 200 miles away and preferably without clean water)

 

“We should put others above ourselves.”

    Yea, we know this is going to be hard on our family, but we prayed and we really feel like we need to take in this woman and her three kids while she gets on her feet.

 

 “As much as we can, we should owe no one anything except love.”

    We sold our second car. We are paying off all our debt. We can do this.

  

“As far as it lies within you, live peaceable with all men.”

    I am not gonna rock the boat on his lifestyle. Live and let live is what you taught me.
 

“He who doesn't take care of his family is worse than an infidel.”

    I am quitting my job. I can never be at home when he is home and it is just not worth it.
 

 

Encouraging thinking— not the specific thoughts:

JUST another super-power to parenting adult children.