New Wineskins

And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine bursts the wineskins, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But new wine must be put into new wineskins.” Mark 2:22

I want to parent my sons the way God parents me because God is the ultimate parent. I want to reflect everything He does as my Father into my children’s lives, as their father. I’m just a man, and I will make mistakes, but God is perfect and loves us perfectly. So I can always look to Him in order to understand how to love my children the best way that I possibly can.

You cannot put new wine into old wineskins, because the old ones will break. We have new wine now, so we must use new wineskins. Jesus gave us a new way of understanding what it means to be in the kingdom of God. It means grace, peace, and mercy. He said, “I’m paying the price for all of you. Now you are forgiven. So don’t continue to punish yourselves! I paid a heavy price to protect you from punishment.”

So I hang with my sons and build relationships of trust with them because that’s what God does with me as my Father. God forgives me. He knows I’m not perfect, so He doesn’t punish me when I mess up. That wouldn’t make any sense!

Instead He says, “Look, I know you’re going to mess up. In fact, you’re probably going to have your hand slapped from time to time. Life is like that. And even if you get a lot of breaks in life, you’re still going to feel some kind of sting when you mess up. It could come from the law, like getting a speeding ticket, or from society, when you break one of those many unspoken social rules. You will. Everybody does. I am not going to condemn you. The crucifixion took care of that.”

And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split. Matthew 27:50-51

The curtain ripped to show us that there is a new process here. In this new process, God says, “You’re my precious child. You’re in my family! And in my family, everyone is forgiven. When you mess up, I’m going to love on you. I’m also going to teach you. Trust me. I’ll train you up. I’ll make sure you know what’s right. And I’m going to tell you to go and sin no more.

“But I’m not going to punish you. That’s not how it works. I’m going to forgive you and love on you.”

That’s why I raise my sons with no condemnation. I don’t condemn them because condemnation creates fear, and I don’t want them to fear me. I want them to look at me and love me, knowing that I loved them first. It’s not easy. I don’t always do it right. I mess it up! Absolutely!

God says perfect love casts out fear, and God is perfect love. Therefore, where there is God, there is no fear. There is no fright. We aren’t scared when we are with God. We might feel a reverential fear, because God is the almighty creator after all. But there is no fear in the sense of being scared in His presence. We have no reason to fear that He is going to strike us down when we mess up.

We don’t have to fear, and neither should our children.

“I’m Sorry”

We don’t want to wound our children, but we’re not perfect. It can happen! And you know what? There’s grace for that. Wounds can be healed. We do it by building relationships of trust.

I’ve been reflecting on ways to do that. It’s important to respect our children as individuals and learn how each one ticks. Then we can engage with them in ways that show them how much they are valued. We can ask for and receive their permission to protect their hearts. We can pay attention to our tone of voice and speak to them kindly, keeping it level and safe for them. We can explain our anger to them, especially when it’s really ourselves that we’re angry with.

And we can tell them, “I’m sorry.”

The temptation is to say, “I’m the mom,” or “I’m the dad, so it’s my way or the highway. If you don’t like it, too bad.” It’s tempting, but that stuff never works. Ever. It gets kids to shut up and do what they’re told, but it doesn’t build trust.

I’ve done it to my kids. I’ve been impatient or I’ve been in my weakness, and I’ve told them, “Hey, too bad. You’re going to do it.” And they’ve done it. But later, I didn’t feel good about how it went down. I don’t need to wound my kids. I want to be able to say to them, “Let’s talk about this.” So I’ve gone to them and recovered the situation. We’ve sat and talked.

There’s nothing to be lost from having a conversation with my kids. I’m the parent, so I’ll get my way. My way is the right way and I know it. But I talk to them about it. I explain that they’re thinking from a child’s perspective, and I’m thinking from a grown man’s perspective. That’s why I want them to  trust me, and understand that I’m protecting them with what I’m asking them to do. I’m making them better, and I’m watching them become leaders. “I don’t want you to be wounded over it,” I tell them. “I want your heart to remain intact and pure. And I want us to have a relationship.”

We sit there and we dialog. We talk it out. Before you know it, I’m not angry with them, they’re not angry with me, and we’re having a conversation. I ask them if they have any resentment towards me over what happened. If they say yes, then I apologize. I say I’m sorry.

It doesn’t matter if I was right or wrong. My kids have resentment, so I say I’m sorry. By apologizing, I’m not saying they were right. I’m saying, “Look, I’m sorry that I affected you in that way. You know that what I said was right, but how can I say it to you where it won’t hurt you?” All I have to do is ask. They’ll tell me. And then I can say, “Okay, next time I will do that. I’m sorry you felt so hurt.”

Should you say you are sorry? No question. Absolutely, yes, you should always say, “I’m sorry.” If you want a relationship with your children, you’re going to have to understand that.

I’m raising my kids and I’m going to mess it up. When I make mistakes, I have to be a dad and a human being. That means I have to look at them and say, “I’m sorry. I don’t agree with what you did. I don’t like that you did it. But I did not handle it correctly as your dad, and for that, I’m sorry.”

This is not easy. Parenting is not easy! But it’s dialog, and I love having conversations with my kids. This is how we heal wounds and build trust, and it’s awesome.

Mad At Myself

Wounds can be healed in a trusting relationship. Last time, I wrote about building trust by recognizing and respecting the different sensibilities of our children. I am building a relationship of trust with my sons by understanding them as individuals. They each have their own way of thinking and feeling, and I am committed to paying attention and protecting them.

When you are able to do that, then you will know how to speak to them. I have found that being soft-spoken, gentle, and firm works best for all my children. (This is actually a good tone to take with everyone!)

If we were perfected in God’s kingdom, we would always get this right. But we’re far from perfect. We’re here on earth, in our flawed and sinful flesh. We’re going to get it wrong a lot.

My biggest frustration is that I get angry when I mess up. I have to be very clear with my sons about this. Otherwise, they take my anger the wrong way. They think it’s directed at them. I have to be proactive and tell them, “Look, I’m not mad at you. I’m mad at myself. I need to get you to understand that some things are wrong and I don’t want you to do them. I also have to keep you from doing things that might get you hurt. I have to protect you and your heart, but I don’t always know how to talk to you so that you will understand. That frustrates me, and I get mad at myself.”

It’s my duty to teach my children. It’s so important to me that they grow into the awesome people and leaders that they already are. Part of this is helping them understand the difference between what to do and what not to do.

The crucial concept here is understanding. My goal is to give them understanding. Teaching my sons how to behave is also about teaching them to trust me. I don’t want fear. I don’t want them to go around scared to do things because they’re afraid of being punished. If all they have is fear, then their behavior doesn’t come from trust. They’re just scared.

When scared children get old enough that they don’t have to fear their parents anymore, then they’re going to get in a lot of trouble. That’s why we need understanding. I have to get through to them in such a way that they will understand what’s right and wrong, and why. I need to be sure that I’ve taught them the difference between what’s safe and what’s dangerous.

But in my flesh, I don’t always know how to speak to my children in a way that is appropriate to the situation. When I don’t know what to do, I sometimes resort to what I heard when I was their age. I don’t always like to see that in myself, so I get mad at myself. That’s when I have to make sure to tell them, “Listen, I’m frustrated with me. I’m trying to protect you, and I don’t know why I can’t get through to you. I know I seem angry right now son, but I’m just reacting to myself. I am not mad at you!”

Honesty like this can have miraculous results. It can start a conversation. He’s not scared anymore, and I can say, “What you’ve been doing is wrong, but let’s sit down and talk about it. Tell me what you’re feeling right now. Why are you doing this?” Since I shared my feelings with him and clarified my anger, he trusts me. So he shares his feelings. That makes everything easier for both of us.

More on this next time. See you Wednesday.

Soft-Spoken and Filled With Love

So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. James 1:19-20

Are we aware of the tone of voice we use when we speak to our families? Do we understand the feelings it causes in them?

I haven’t always been aware of this, and I regret it. I didn’t know about the effects of tone, because it doesn’t really affect me. You can pretty much use any tone you want with me and it won’t bother me. You can be mad at me using a pleasant tone, and you can be mad at me using a harsh tone. I’m probably going to respond the same way.

For me, the words you use are important. Not just the words, but the respect you use when you approach me. Respect is very important to me. You can shout or be soft-spoken, and I’ll be okay with it as long as you treat me with respect. But if you are disrespectfully angry with me, I’m going to put my foot down. Even if you use the nicest, most gentle voice ever, if you disrespect me in that voice, I’m going to double down.

Since my issue is with respect, not tone, I had to learn how important tone can be to others.

My wife is the one who brought this to my attention, especially once we had kids. She tried to get me to see that the tone of my voice is a big deal. At first I fought with her about it because I found it frustrating. I couldn’t get it, since I don’t get affected in the same way.

Then I began to understand. I began to understand that the tone I use when I talk to my children is very important. It’s important to my wife, too. I was determined to learn how each one of them gets affected and to take that into account. They’re different people, and they respond in different ways.

My tone of voice affects my oldest child the most. If I use a strong tone with him, it scares him. He can’t listen because his brain is going a million miles an hour. He’s actually scared, so he’s literally not listening. That means we’re not connecting.

My middle son is more like me. He can hear me if I take a tone of voice that is serious or emphatic. It doesn’t hurt his feelings. My youngest is kind of in between, but more on the sensitive side.

I want to do the best I can to love them, so I decided to keep my tone of voice level and kind. I even do this with my middle one, although he can handle a sharper tone. I avoid using a harsh tone. I try to stay calm. I focus on listening, and not reacting.

I really work hard on this. I don’t always do it right. In fact, I mess it up weekly. But it’s important. I said last time that wounds can be healed. I truly believe this, but first, there has to be trust. Taking care of the feelings of my family is an important start.

More on this next time. See you Saturday.

Wounds Can Be Healed

I left off last time by listing the kinds of questions I ask God — and myself — in order to parent my sons the way that God parents me. Sometimes, my sons need to be corrected, but they don’t ever need to be wounded. Reading The Cure & Parents taught me that if I parent out of my immaturities, then I will wound my children. I really don’t want to do that.

Obviously I’m not perfect. No matter how intentionally I set out to parent my children the way God parents me, I’m still in my flesh. I will make mistakes. I will wound them. But wounds can be healed. They don’t have to be transmitted from generation to generation.

Wounds can be healed if I have permission to speak into the lives and hearts of my sons. I have to earn their permission, and that happens by loving them as individuals. I have to take time to fully understand who my kids are, how they tick, and how their hearts work. That way, when they do something wrong, I will know the best way to correct them. I’ll know what works best for each of them.

No child is just like another. Suppose two children steal candy from the store. I don’t think we can deal with them the same way. If it were my kids, I would have to take each of them aside and dialogue with them. My responsibility is to understand how each one thinks. I need to know how their hearts act and react. That way, when I explain why it’s wrong to steal, each one of them will hear me because I’m speaking to him in a way that he, personally, will understand.

Since they are different people, the dialogue will not be the only thing that’s different with each one. They will probably also need a different kind of correction. To one I might say “Okay, this is why it was wrong for you to steal the candy. We’re going to take it back, and you’re going to tell the store owner that you are sorry.” But I may ask the other one to do something else.

Children notice this, especially siblings. And they will say something about it. “But my brother didn’t have to do that!” When that happens, I say, “Yes, because you’re not your brother. Your brother had to make it right too, but he had to do it in a different way.”

We have to learn to see things from each child’s individual perspective. That way we can help them understand things from their hearts. When it comes to correcting their behavior, we can make sure they understand that we are going handle things based on who they are. We can also help them understand why that matters.

Families frequently handle issues the same way for each child without accounting for how each child ticks. They don’t get the knowledge they need to take the right corrective action. So with the best of intentions, they wound their children.

At the same time, parents handle their children the same way that their parents handled them, which is how their parents handled them. We can keep tracing the same threads back, from generation to generation. Before you know it, it’s traumatizing. It’s traumatizing to the children, and it’s traumatizing to families.

How many of us have said, “I’ll never do this when I have kids!” I’ve said it myself. I remembering saying, “I will never do this like my dad did it, “ because I remembered how it made me feel. Then I find myself in the same situation. I’m in a panic and I’m in my flesh. What is my first resort? To do it like my dad did it. To do the one thing that I had vowed I would never do.

Right?

So if I don’t have my head about me, and I don’t use the wisdom of God to parent my kids the way God parents me, then all I’m going to do is resort to how I was wounded. It’s a scary thing for me, because parenting is not easy. I know I’m going to mess it up.

But I also believe there’s grace for us, parents and children. Even when you mess up, you can still create so much trust with your children that they will grant you permission to speak into their lives.

Wounds can be healed. I truly believe that!

More on this next time. See you Wednesday.

Don’t Wound Your Children!

Truefaced just published a book called The Cure and Parents. (Click the title for ordering information.) Here’s the blurb:

The Cure and Parents is our most requested felt-need resource. This is not a book on formulaic parenting or behavior management. The Cure and Parents is a book for the parent; highlighting how important it is to develop trust with your child. This resource will walk you through how grace allows us to face our own life experiences so that we can mature. This in turn will allow us to guide our children and offer them truth in a way they can trust.

I really connected to the theme of maturity. It’s important for parents to keep maturing, the book says, because our children will only mature as far as our immaturity takes them.

When I read that, it wrecked me. Because man, it is so true! As our kids grow up, we can treat them a certain way, but it’s only going to go so far. We can control them for a certain amount of time, and in fact we have to. When they are very young, they depend on us for everything. But eventually we have to build relationships of trust with them. If all we ever do is try to control them, then they may never mature past our immaturities.

This is so important to understand! My parents, my mom and dad, did they best they could. I truly believe that. But how I was raised, or how you were raised, or how my wife was raised, is going to be affected by our parents’ immaturities.  If they had immaturities, then maybe we only matured to that point. As a result, we might carry some of that immaturity into our marriages and into the way we raise our children.

When parents try to raise their children from their legalism or law mentality, you can see their immaturity. Parents think, “if we can keep control then everything will be okay.” I’ve been there. I’ve tried it.

Do you see how this can cause generations of wounds? Someone has to break the cycle. Until someone looks within and decides no, I no longer want to be immature, we’ll continue to transmit wounds from generation to generation. Trust and healing come when we say, “I want to do things differently. I want to mature. I want to continue to grow. That way, when my children get into their maturity, they won’t mature past me. They’ll want to continue in relationship with me.”

I really want that with my children.

I know I’m going to mess up, but I’m committed to this. I try to sit back and ask, “What is God asking me to do here? How does He want me to handle this situation, traumatizing, little, big, whatever? What do I need to do, so that I can look at my son’s heart and protect it? How do I get my son to trust me and my opinion? How do I make sure he knows that he’s protected, but that what he is doing is not okay? How do I correct him without wounding him?”

I ask God for help because I know that this is what God does. He corrects me without wounding me. Those who love God see that. They love Him because He first loved them. They’re drawn to Him because of how He treats them.

I want to parent my sons the way God parents me so that they’ll look at me and love me, knowing that I loved them first.

More on this next time. See you Saturday.

Be There in Five Minutes

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” (Revelation 3:20)

Last time I discussed the importance of understanding that Jesus Christ, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, requests your permission to enter your heart. He doesn’t just barge in! He wants your permission to come in and love on you. Without your permission, He can’t protect you.

As my Father, God looks at me and asks, “What’s the best way for me to parent Jeremy?” Obviously He does a lot for me, but He doesn’t ever enter without knocking. He waits for me to open the door.

I want to parent my sons the same way that God parents me. I knock at the doors of their hearts and wait for their permission to enter.

When one of my sons gets sent to his room, I have to literally stand at the door and knock!

I haven’t always done this. I’ve sent my son to his room and then stormed in without asking and shouted, “I don’t care if you give me permission or not! I am so mad! So I’m going to tell it to you how it is.” Just like him, I’m upset and reacting. I’ve let a nine year-old, or six year-old, or even four year-old child get into my head. That shows you that I have some immaturities!

Now I’m learning to do things differently. I’m learning to say, “Hey, have I got your permission to tell you why I sent you to your room? I have an idea for what we can do about it, and I’d like to hear your ideas too. Let’s talk about it.”

To do things differently, I start by saying, “You need to go to your room now. I’ll be down in five minutes.”

I’m doing two things here. First, I’m letting him calm down. I mean, he is not going to his room because he’s being such a good kid. He’s not going to his room because he’s talking nice to his mom or dad. He’s probably going to his room because he’s wound up, and he is reacting out of his anger or frustration. He’s going to his room because his attitude is causing problems. If I send him to his room, then he has a quiet place where he can calm down.

Second, I’m creating an opportunity for dialogue. I want to sit with my sons and talk to them. That’s why I promise to be down in five minutes. And I keep that promise. In five minutes, I walk down to his room, and I knock. I ask him if it’s okay for me to come in.

Sometimes he’ll say, “No!” I’m okay with that. I just say to him, through the door, “Okay. That’s okay. I’m going to leave, and I’m going to come back in five minutes and ask again.”

Nine times out of ten, when I come back the second time and knock, he gives me permission to enter. Then I can sit with him and we can talk. I say, “Do I have your permission to talk with you? Are you ready?” As soon as we’re at this point, he says yes. Then we have a great conversation. He talks to me, I talk to him, and we listen to each other. We dialogue about what happened.

Then I explain that I’m the grown-up. I tell him, “Hey, I understand what you’re saying, but you can’t do what you did. You can’t because I’ve told you not to.” I explain why he needs to do as I say. I tell him, “I understand how you’re feeling, and your mom and I take that very seriously. It means so much to us to know how you’re feeling. But that doesn’t mean that you can disrespect us, or talk to us the way you just did. We need you to understand that. Speaking disrespectfully is going to land you in a lot of trouble every time you do it. We need you to think about that.”

Every time, he hears me.

More on this next time. See you Wednesday.