When Our Child Is The Problem

Being a single parent is complicated enough much less when we discover that our kids are the “problem”.  Founder of Solo Parent Society, Robert Beeson, shares that one of the hardest parts of his parenting journey was finding out times that his kids weren’t making the wisest decisions. But that’s just part of life. Kids are kids. They are learning, they are growing, and they will make mistakes. But no parent wants to get the phone call that lets them know their kid hasn’t made the best choices.
Parenting can be overwhelming, and as single parents, we see our kids struggling to overcome the pain and hurts of life. Sometimes this pain comes out as bullying, depression, or acting out. How do we look at these struggles from the perspective of love-based parenting?
Crystal Paine hosts her own show “The Crystal Paine Show”, she’s the best-selling author of “Say Goodbye to Survival Mode” and “Money Making Mom”, and she’s the founder of www.moneysavingmom.com. Crystal is releasing a brand-new book called “Love Centered Parenting:  The No Fail Guide to Launching Your Kids”. She wrote the book after walking through a difficult season in her own family and feeling called to share the lessons learned with others. Crystal has four kids from 16 years old to ten months old and is also a foster parent.
She wrote the book to help other parents not feel so alone, especially for those whose kids are hurting and whose pain is being manifested in challenging behavior and poor choices. Crystal said the key is recognizing what is underneath the bad behaviors. She said parents often see big feelings coming out sideways, in various ways like anger, depression, aggression, or anything in between. Crystal’s experience with this hit a crisis point the day she found herself walking into the emergency room saying, “My child is suicidal.” It was a day she never ever envisioned as a parent. Crystal said it just hit her, “That gut wrenching feeling of desperation that something’s really wrong and I can’t fix it.” Her child was so angry, mouthing off, acting out, and saying scary things. As parents, they didn’t know what to do so they started to work with a therapist. The therapist began to work with her child and after several weeks, she came to Crystal and said, “It seems like you are trying so hard to fix your child. What would it look like to walk with your child?” That question started Crystal on a journey to begin paying attention to how she interacted with her kids. So often, she said, something would come up - a phone call from school, the kids fighting, or someone acting up – and she would swoop in to fix it. She would correct and preach sermons and lecture. In her constant correcting, she realized she was spending so little time connecting with her kids and just walking with them. She began to recognize that, just like her kids’ behaviors were evidence of so much going on beneath the surface, that applied to her too. She was parenting from a place within herself that was operating from a set of lies that she was inadequate, a failure, and a disappointment. Those big feelings and lies below the surface were showing up in her continual attempts to manage and control their behavior.  
Opening her eyes to what was happening in her own heart set her on a new course of parenting. She started by doing the deep inner work of recognizing the lies she was believing. Crystal had convinced herself that she was failing and that she wasn’t enough but when she held those beliefs up to scripture, they weren’t true. She had to call them out, speak out loud against them, and replace them with the truth. And she said, that is where we must start – by paying attention to the narrative in your own head and heart. If you are operating from a place of lies, recognize the lies, and replace them with the truth. This rewires your brain and changes your beliefs about who you are and about God’s love for you. From that place of renewed thinking, you can change the way you parent.
For Crystal this meant she was no longer parenting for reputation – what other people thought of her and her kids. She started parenting for relationship – to genuinely connect with and walk with her kids. She could wholeheartedly love them in the way that she had started to believe she was loved by her Heavenly Father. Instead of it being about their behavior and choices, she was able to parent them from her own heart and be attuned to her kids’ hearts too. Because that’s what it’s all about – our hearts.
And, this is her encouragement to parents.  Rather than constantly trying to fix or manage our kids, or slapping a bandage on the problem behaviors, we can choose to do four things:
Lean in and love
Listen well
Lead with humility
Let go

And these choices aren’t dependent on our kids’ behavior. They aren’t dependent on the results.  These are things we can do right now, every day with our kids. We can lean in. We can listen well. We can lead with humility. And, we can let go. We can love our children well, right where they are, and leave the results up to God. There is so much freedom in loving our kids well!
What if we reframe our perspective and focus on loving our kids well and they still act out and make poor choices? Crystal said she polled hundreds of parents asking them, “My job as a parent is….____?”, and she said 98% of the responses included things that we, as parents, have no control over – like raising kids who “love Jesus, make good choices, and go to Heaven”. This is fantastic! But none of those things are within our control. If we hinge our success as a parent on things we can’t control, we will spend our lives stressed out, micromanaging and hypervigilant trying to make sure that our kids turn out in a way that we think equals success. We will be trapped in a constant vortex trying to guarantee the end results. And we don’t have that power! We can only do what we can do as parents to lean in, listen well, lead with humility, and let go.
If we don’t parent from a love-centered place, we will spend our time constantly nitpicking, being our kids’ Holy Spirit, and putting so much pressure on our kids. Instead, when we do what we can do to parent with love, we can just walk with them. We can parent from a place of peace, from a place of rest and joy, where we can enjoy our kids instead of micromanaging them like a project.
Crystal describes this as relationship-based parenting instead of rule-based parenting. Rule-based parenting focuses on an external end goal, making sure our kids’ behavior looks good from the outside rather than getting to the deeper stuff going on. Rule-based parenting looks good, it checks the box but it doesn’t address the inside. Relationship based parenting focuses on the heart. It gives our kids the opportunity to express what they are feeling and why they are behaving the way they are. Instead of asking our kids to squelch a behavior and stuff the big feelings associated with that behavior, relationship-based parenting leans in and listens well. It gives room to our kids to identify what they are feeling, talk about it, and share what they need.

Doing this can be a big shift for us as parents. Sometimes it is easier to just “put out fires” and demand that behaviors stop but taking the time to focus on the relationship and their hearts will change the trajectory of our connection with our kids. We won’t be able to do this perfectly. When we mess up, part of leading with humility is to recognize our mistakes, apologize, and ask our kids for forgiveness. It’s okay to humbly admit we are wrong and that we need Jesus too. This sends a powerful message to our kids about God’s grace and love.

Love-centered parenting sounds obvious but leaning in and listening, leading with humility, and letting go may be a new paradigm for us especially if we have tended to be more of a behavior manager than a relationship builder with our kids. Crystal said a great way to demonstrate our love is to meet our kids in their world. If your child loves video games, join them in it. Choose to be involved in some of their favorite things. Make a point of spending time with them in their world. Ask them to tell you more about something they enjoy. Let them know you want to hear their viewpoint. Kids have so much wisdom and insight when we stop and ask leading questions with genuine curiosity.

Parenting our kids when they are acting out is about so much more than just getting them to stop whatever they are doing. Instead of managing their behavior, effective parenting meets our kids where they are by leaning in, listening well, leading with humility, and letting go. “Love Centered Parenting: The No Fail Guide to Launching Your Kids” is a refreshing take on how to parent when our kids are struggling.
Follow Crystal on Instagram @themoneysavingmom, find her podcast, “The Crystal Paine Show” and her book wherever books are sold.  
Single parents, every week we talk further about the topics we discuss in our podcast in our Solo Parent Society groups, meeting online 6 days a week. As you walk the journey of dating as single parents, we want to offer encouragement and hope any way we can. Join our Solo Parent Society community by participating in one of our groups, Follow us on Facebook and Instagram (@soloparentsociety). Subscribe to our weekly podcast via AccessMore or wherever you get your podcasts. Download our Solo Parent app FREE in the app store for easy links to our podcast, groups, and our “Sound Mind Set” daily reflection tool for ten minutes every day to breathe, focus on God and His word. We love to connect single parents to resources that offer hope and help. If you want to donate so we can reach more single-parent families, go to www.soloparentsociety.com. Questions? Email us at info@spsociety.com.

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