Table of Contents
Foreword by Jill Savage
Tool #1: Talking
1. Control Your Volume Knob
2. If Unsure, Press Pause
3. Start With You
4. Be Easy to Listen To
5. Play a Game of Catch
Tool #2: Listening
6. Listen First
7. Listen to Understand
8. Listen Often
9. Listen to Everything
10. Listen with Your Entire Body
Tool #3: Influencing
11. Remember Who They Are
12. Understand the Power of Your Words
13. Be a Fountain of Life
14. See More Than Meets the Eye
15. Find the Lesson
Tool #4: Connecting
16. Use Your Touch
17. Avoid the Time Trap
18. Get into Their World
19. Learn Together
20. Have a Regular Family Time
Tool #5: Teaching
21. Emphasize Respect
22. Practice Positive Behavior
23. Teach Flexible Thinking
24. Find the Solution
25. Solve Problems on the Spot
Tool #6: Encouraging
26. Point Out Positive Behaviors
27. Point Out Positive Traits
28. Water the Whole Lawn Regularly
29. Look Past the Failure
30. Look Backwards Together
Tool #7: Correcting
31. Focus on Your Job
32. Help Your Kids Bounce
33. Make a Quick Response
34. Teach the Right Lesson
35. Teach the Right Lesson the Right Way
Tool #8: Leading
36. Remember the Power of Your Example
37. Practice Your Faith with Your Kids
38. Do Right Right
39. Do Wrong Right
40. Be a Personhood Leader
Summary of Tips
I once heard a story about a kindergarten teacher who, on the first day of school, asked a young boy what his name was.
“Johnny No-no,” came the boy’s reply.
The teacher looked puzzled. “Where did you get that name?” she asked.
“Well,” explained Johnny, matter-of-fact. “Whenever my mom talks to me, she says, ‘Johnny! No no!’”
While it is possible that our little friend Johnny could have been a real handful, it would appear that his mother could have used a little help in responding to and guiding his challenging behavior.
In other words, she needed the right tools for the job.
This reminds me of a time a couple of months ago when I was attempting one of my semiannual handyman jobs around the house. We had just moved into a townhome, and all the smoke alarms needed replacing.
“Lora, have you seen the yellow utility knife anywhere?”
“Maybe it’s in your toolbox.”
“Nope, already looked.”
“Then I don’t know where it is.”
Marital communication at its best.
In the process of replacing the alarms, I had discovered that there were a few wires to connect (red to red, black to black, and so on) and I needed to cut the colored plastic around a few of the wires so I could connect them more securely.
A utility knife was the right tool for the job.
However, it was nowhere to be found. So I tried to improvise. I knew we had a pair of scissors lying around somewhere, so I found those and attempted to cut the plastic by pressing the wire against one side of the scissors blade with my thumb and rotating it. Unfortunately, the blade was too dull and my thumb was too big and I soon realized that I was more likely to cut my thumb than the plastic.
So I quickly abandoned that idea and chose a smarter course of action. I hopped into the car and drove a couple of miles to a nearby Home Depot and purchased a new, bright yellow utility knife.
In other words, I got the right tool for the job.
The rest, as they say, was history.
Parenting is a lot like my l experience with replacing the smoke alarms. You have a lot of jobs to do as a parent and your work never ends. You may even have a child like Johnny No-no. Depending on the particular job you are doing at the time, you will need many different tools. But you need the right tools if you want to get the job done properly.
As a child psychologist, I have had the privilege of working with kids and parents for over twenty years. I have seen tools that work and ones that don’t. I have seen families that were built well and those that fell apart under the slightest pressure. In this book, I will show you eight simple tools to help you raise great kids and build a close and loving family that loves God and loves one another.
Here are the eight tools:
These tools are for both moms and dads, but it doesn’t stop there. If you are a single parent, while you have your work cut out for you to be sure, you also can use each of these tools to help you teach and guide your kids as effectively as possible. But we are not done yet! Grandparents, aunts, uncles, and even nannies can use these tools to have a life-changing impact on the children in your life. In two parent families, I have seen many families in which one parent connects while the other corrects. Bad idea. You both need to connect with your kids and you both need to be able to effectively correct them when needed. Each of these tools plays a critically important role in helping you raise great kids. Take a look at the list and choose a tool that you can do without.
There isn’t one.
I know that while your family is a top priority, your schedule is already bursting at the seams with sports, school activities, household duties, work, and an endless list of things to do. The last thing you need is long-winded parenting book to read (not to mention the guilt of never finishing it).
Already ahead of you on that one.
To make this book practical for busy parents, I have broken each of the eight tools into five brief chapters. No matter how busy you are, you can read a few pages at a time. Each chapter ends with a practical tip that will help you remember the main point of that chapter and a follow-up thought or action to consider you can put into practice that very day.
The book of Proverbs tells us, “The simple believe anything, but the prudent give thought to their steps.”1 I’m sure you will agree that being a parent is one of the most important jobs God has given you. I know you love your kids and you want to be prudent about doing this job the very best you can.
Bottom line: If you are a parent who talks and listens to your kids, influences them with the power of your words, connects with them, teaches and encourages them, corrects them and leads them through your example, then I believe you will change the trajectory of their lives. These are not tools to use for a while and then discard once your kids are eighteen. My boys are now both in their twenties and I need each of these tools as much as I did when they were three and five years old. These are tools you want to weave into the very nature of your parenting for as long as you are a parent.
That means forever.
It is my prayer that this book will help you do just that.
TOOL 1: TALKING
Control Your Volume Knob
Daniel was a ten-year-old boy who sat down on the overstuffed blue couch in my office one evening, with sad, tearful eyes.
“I don’t like it when my dad yells at me,” he said.
“What does he yell about?” I asked.
“If I did something wrong,” he explained, “like if I leave the basement a mess.”
“So, do you leave the basement a mess?”
“Yeah, sometimes I do.”
“Okay, sometimes you leave the basement a mess and you know that your mom and dad are probably going to say something about it, right?” I ventured.
“Yeah, I know.” Daniel continued, “But I just don’t like the way he yells at me and gets so angry. It makes me not want to be around him.”
Inwardly, I cringed. Those were just the words I didn’t want to hear. Yet another parent/child relationship was starting to become damaged because of a parent’s angry communication style.
Later, when I had a chance to meet his father, Randy, I discovered something I had suspected all along. Randy loved Daniel very much. He did not want to hurt their relationship; in fact, he very much wanted to build it.
In Randy’s mind, he was doing his job as a dad. Daniel had been asked to clean up the basement many times and was not responding in a respectful way to this simple parental request.
No argument there.
The problem was the way Randy was doing his job as a dad. Daniel had a lesson to learn, no question about it. In fact, Randy, Becky (Daniel’s mom), and Daniel all agreed that he should clean up any messes he made in the basement. And while the tidiness level of the basement was not a matter of national security, it was an issue that needed discussing.
However, without intending to, Randy’s style of communication had become more like a sledgehammer that destroys rather than a gardening tool that nurtures. He wasn’t setting out to damage his relationship with his son and somehow didn’t even seem aware that this is what was happening. But that is exactly what his communication style was doing.
I have heard some fathers try to justify a strong-armed or intimidating discipline style by implying that their role as a father and leader gives them permission to use their emotions in this way with their children. Unfortunately for these fathers and their families, not only are they misunderstanding the basic fundamentals of leadership and effective communication, they are forgetting that Paul tells us to treat each other with patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control.1 And yes, that includes your family.
Luckily for Daniel, Randy made no such mistake. When Randy realized the impact his communication style was having on his son, he started to cry, right in front of me.
That’s right, he cried. Tears trickled down his cheeks as I told him how his son was becoming afraid to talk to him when he was angry. This was never the father Randy wanted to be, and yet this is the father he was becoming.
At Randy’s request, we wasted no time getting to work on how he could repair things with his son. The first step was for him to apologize for his angry communication style. Yes, Daniel had not responded properly to the requests to clean up the basement; we were not overlooking that. But that was not the most important thing. The most important thing was that Randy had been damaging his relationship with the son he loved so much. He told Daniel he loved him and was sorry he had hurt their relationship with his yelling and that he would make every effort to speak to him in a respectful way, no matter what the topic was.
The second step was for Randy to follow up on that promise and turn down his volume knob. Which he did.
You should have seen Daniel’s smile two weeks later. It was one for the record books.
The basement was clean too.
Talking Tip #1:
Your communication style with your kids is REALLY, REALLY important. Not their communication style. Yours.
How would you describe your communication style? What impact do you think your communication style has on your kids’ communication style?