How To Help Our Kids Have Courage To Accept The Things They Cannot Change with Chip Dodd

How To Help Our Kids Have Courage To Accept The Things They Cannot Change

It hurts to watch our kids go through challenges and pain, especially when we know there are things we can't help them with or fix for them.  We feel like bad parents if we can't make things better, so we often take on their pain - the sad truth is, we can't!  

Robert admits that one of his biggest failings is that he often tried to overcompensate, he did his best to lessen the blow for his daughters when they passed through hard and hurtful things.  In hindsight, Robert has discovered that his actions were not setting his girls up to build the courage necessary to face challenges for themselves.

How do we help our kids to have the courage to accept or deal with challenges and things that hurt?  

Dr. Chip Dodd (Counselor and Author) will guide us through how our kids can have the courage to accept things they cannot change.

To the parents who are ashamed of not doing it right

Robert believes many single parents are ashamed of not allowing their kids to deal with their challenges.

According to Chip, any single or married parent who does not struggle with this issue is not alive or truly has no conscience about the impact on their children.  Every single parent that has a conscience will struggle with inefficiencies, insufficiencies, inadequacies, and the sense of wanting to know whether they did things right, cared enough, did enough, or offered enough.  We make this huge mistake of equating toxic shame with people that have feelings.

Chip shares he regrets some things in his parenting journey with his now older sons, but reconciliation that allows conscience, sensitivity, and caring has given him a voice that can speak his heart to his sons, who he was never perfect with, so that they can stay together as human beings.
All parents will struggle with mistakes, but feelings don't mean you are a terrible parent who is inadequate and incompetent.  Regret is just a picture of seeing where we messed up.  When you see the past from where you are now, you see that things were different.  Now you have different feelings about those experiences.  Regret is not a feeling but a mental condition and memory about which we have feelings.  Feelings allow us to reconcile.  Chip explains, “For example, to reconcile, you can simply call your child, tell them about your pain and regret for what you could have done differently, and apologize.”

Rescue vs. Soft Landing

It's not bad to want your kids to be safe and happy.  You harm your kids when you rescue them from having to feel, however you are helping them heal when you offer them a soft place to land with their feelings.

You can guide your children through life but cannot protect them from it.  You need to ask yourself, are you trying to stop your child's feelings and keeping them from feeling them, so you won't have to feel them?  It's either I measure myself for having failed or actually have the courage and willingness to feel the pain to explore their pain.

Guilt vs. Toxic Shame

Chip believes guilt and toxic shame are different.

Guilt is a feeling you have when you do something against your value system.  Toxic shame is contempt or judgment against yourself as worthless or not fit or having the right to love or care because you made a mistake.  Guilt says, I made a mistake.  Toxic shame says, I am a mistake.  If you make a mistake, there's a repair, but if you're a mistake, it's genetic, and there's no change.

Ways to help kids have courage to accept hard things they can't change

Chip mentions three things you can offer as a parent to help equip your kids with the courage to accept hard things and press on.

1.  Accept your child’s heart
2.  Pursue your child’s heart
3.  Be a sanctuary for your child’s heart

In other words, you can accept them, pursue them, or offer them a place to come.

Accept Their Hearts

Every child must go through the same life experiences as their parents.  Although their experiences may be different circumstances, environments, or experiences – a consistent truth is we must all deal with feelings about living.

Life is a painful and difficult process that requires full-hearted participation to get the most out of it. Therefore, you will face challenges if you want hope or are hungry for something.  In life, you will fall because that's just what life is.  Life is a tragic experience, and we have a great deal of hope in the midst of it.

You need to accept that your kids will have pain in this life.  The pain is sadness, hurt, loneliness, fear, anger, guilt, shame, and joy.  These are the eight tools we have been given to face life on its own terms.  When a child is sad, it doesn't mean something is wrong, but there's a need for something.

Chip referred to the Bible when Samuel wanted to choose a new king for Israel.  While Jesse, David's father, was looking at appearance as a criterion for a king, God was looking at the heart – that’s why God chose David.  This is instructive because it is a connector in that we want to know our children's hearts, and they also want to know our hearts.  So, when we ask questions, we should be tolerant to the answers.

God wants our hearts, meaning He wants to hear our sadness, hurt, loneliness, fear, anger, guilt, shame, and joy.  God wants us.  Knowing the heart is knowing a person; to not know the heart is to not know the person.

To help your kids have courage to accept hard things by accepting their own hearts, it starts with you as the parent and your ability to know your heart.  In other words, to be able to process with other people or parents what it is to feel sad and angry versus being resentful.

The reality is that you are alone, but how do you feel about the reality and sad feelings that you're an only parent?  Do you run from it, dismiss it, pretend it isn't there, reject it, or feel weak?  Are you not willing to deal with your feelings because it will mean dealing and accepting your child's feelings?  If you can't take yours, you're going to run from theirs.

Chip shares his experience of how his father helped him get the courage to accept and deal with a difficult experience of heartbreak when he was in eighth grade.  He says he was sitting alone in the woods after receiving the heart-shattering break-up call from his girlfriend when his dad showed up, sat by him, and asked what happened.  He told him, and his dad empathized with him.  Chip says his dad broke through his shame of being heartbroken with his hurt by acknowledging it was terrible pain, and he had gone through it.  The lesson here is, Chip's dad put his hand on Chip’s shoulder, and he didn't pull away.  If your child pulls away, let them pull away but don't run, don't leave, don't blame.

Pursue Their Hearts

Chip also shared about when his dad came to meet him where he sat heartbroken after his breakup. Instead of leaving him to himself, he came to find him.  That's what pursuit is about, we can't control the things we can't control but we can always be available through pursuit.

According to Chip, pursuing your child's heart means asking them:  How are you?  Where are you? How was your day?  What was it like?  And even doing a feelings check-in, however, you need to know that pursuit is not an interrogation.

How do you handle pursuit when your kids are not coming to you?

Surmount this obstacle through confession.  You confess your position by letting your child understand how you feel.  For example, you can tell your child you are afraid they are silent, and if they are not sharing, it means there's something wrong.  Or you have done something wrong to them that's making them cut you out.  You can also tell them you fear losing a relationship with them.  They should tell you what's happening inside them when they are ready.  Tell them to tell you about their struggles and fears.  Tell them you were also scared when you were their age, or you didn't have the fears they have now, or didn't face what they are facing.  Our kid’s world is different from ours, they are less safe and highly pressured, and at the same time they are still people.

Robert shares that when he was a single dad, he lived by the mantra: You can’t force a connection with someone, but you can enforce an environment where connections can happen.  That means go sit on their bed and don’t saying anything - just be there.  Ask a few of questions and be okay with the answers. Don't walk away; just stay there.

Chip also suggests doing things your kids enjoy.  Be in your kid’s lives from the standpoint of knowing what they like to do.  Do some of those things with them, it is essential and doable.

As a solo parent, you can take your relaxation time and go into their world.  You think you need a break, but the break you need is a replenishment with them.  It will raise your courage and give you a sense of encouragement.

Be a Sanctuary for Their Hearts

In chaos or crisis, when on an airplane, they say to take the oxygen mask and put it over your face first, then over your child's face.  To be a sanctuary, you do need to take care of yourself.  This means you live in relationships with other grown-ups, you don't run from your feelings but share your feelings.  You remain connected.  You're okay being in need.  You will communicate your needs and serve somewhere.

To serve somewhere means to practice being a whole person.  The four realities are the best we ever get: being clumsy, everything is practice, we live on life's terms, and it takes a lifetime to live.  God is there, and He promises to stay with us, but we have to struggle with reality and the presence of God. This means we have a hard life full of questions, struggles, joy, and fears.

To have a sanctuary to go to means you have a being to come to.  In other words, you need to have a vibrant living life.  Vibrant doesn't mean you don't have fear, hurt, and sadness. It means you're fully alive to your feelings and know what to do with them.

According to Chip, when you are vibrant, you become a magnet because you and your children are human beings.  Your children are only farther behind in time but not in terms of being humans.  If you give them a human, they will come to a human, but if you give them a rigid standard, they have no place to go when troubles hit or when they have made a mistake they don't know how to handle.  If you have accepted your child has hurt, and you've pursued them, they will look up from their troubles and seek your help and counsel.

Chip paints a picture of what a sanctuary looks like using a scene from the movie, The Notebook, when Ryan Gosling goes home with his messed-up life to meet his dad.  His dad says, "I'm not a tutor, I'm not a teacher, I'm not a trainer, I'm not a coach, but I'm your dad."  You should be a place for your kids to go to when things go wrong.  Your kids need you, not the tutors, teachers, trainers, and coaches.  If you try to play those roles, your child can’t come to talk to you.


1.  Don't take on toxic shame for not doing it perfectly

2.  Accept your child’s hearts.  Let your kids express their hearts without you having to fix it.

3.  Pursue your child’s heart.  Ask lots of questions and ask more.

4.  Be a sanctuary.  Be in the circle of security and safety, where your kids can go and bring their feelings.


Dr. Chip Dodd’s new book - How Are You Feeling Today?

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