6 Ways to Unlock Drama-Free Parenting
- Jennifer Slattery JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.com
- 2015 9 Jun
Do you ever feel like your home has enough drama to fuel a reality show? Is there any way to bring peace into your chaos?
I’ve found drama is inherent with childhood, but that doesn’t mean we, the adults, have to be sucked in to it. Here are six steps toward bringing peace, order, and proper authority back to your home.
1. We must learn to accept—and deal with—tension
Jesus told us, “In this world you will have trouble.” Stress and difficulties are part of life, and every family has tension and chaos. It’s part of living in a busy, uncertain, ever-changing world. Employers place increasing demands on our time, our kids’ schedules can easily balloon, and financial issues hit when we’re least able to deal with them. Life is chaotic, but chaos and tension don’t necessarily create drama.
According to Robert Conn, family pastor of Reality Church, parents need to expect life to contain a certain amount of emotional struggle. More than that, they must learn to withstand the struggle in an emotionally healthy and Christ-centered way.
“Some things in life will never be solved,” Conn says. “When families live as if every issue has a resolution, they are putting too much pressure on each member to live to an impossible standard. Some (if not most), issues that arise are tensions we must manage rather than problems we must solve. There can be tension without drama.”
2. We should model appropriate stress-management behavior
Have you ever noticed certain behaviors arising in all members of one family? Have you seen a child overreact in a way that reminds you of their parents? Children aren’t born with problem-solving skills, and often, they have feelings they’re ill-equipped to deal with. Our role is to teach and show them proper stress-management. And we must be careful not to teach them inappropriate ways to deal with emotional challenges.
3. We need to focus on ourselves first
James 1:19-20 says, “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.” Nor does it create peaceful, drama-free families.
It’s normal to lose your temper once in a while, and on occasion, everyone acts inappropriately. That doesn’t mean we claim “human nature” and walk away, however. Rather, we use the situation as a teaching opportunity.
One morning, as we were leaving for church, my daughter did something that annoyed me. In my frustration, I popped off with a sassy comment. In truth, I was frustrated with other things and a bit sleep deprived, so my attitude stayed with me until mid-worship service. Then, singing about God’s grace, I felt a tug on my heart. I knew I’d acted inappropriately to my daughter, and I knew I needed to make things right, and so, I confessed my sin to God. But that wasn’t enough. I needed to do the same with my daughter. I had treated her disrespectfully, and I wanted her to know that my behavior was wrong.
As soon as the service was over, I did just that. I apologized for snapping at her and let her know that my behavior was childish.
This did two things. First, it resolved the issue before underlying, drama-inducing bitterness could form. (Many times, drama over the little things is really drama over a past hurt that was never resolved.) Second, it showed her how much I value healthy behavior, and it turned a tense situation into an authentic learning opportunity. A learning opportunity that, had I chosen not to utilize it, could’ve separated us, but ended up binding our hearts closer together.
As parents, we’re going to mess up. A lot. Often in the very areas we’re trying to teach. That doesn’t mean we’re failures or hypocrites but rather imperfect humans doing our best to obey Christ. Frequent outbursts, however, set a precedence for drama. Children learn best by watching us, their parents. If we can’t manage our emotions, how can we expect our children to?
For many of us, this poses a challenge because it requires a great deal of learning, honesty and vulnerability as we seek to develop within ourselves that which we hope to train in our children. But it can be done, and as we learn and grow, we can pull our children along with us, encouraging them to follow our lead.
4. We need to resist the urge to argue
One evening, in the middle of an extended and heated argument with my teenager, a question jolted my thoughts: “Why are you arguing with her?” In that moment, I realized, by engaging, I was fueling her drama. And I was undermining my authority.
Pastor Conn puts it this way: “Remember, we are not running for the role of the parent. We are the parent. Don’t fall into an argument as if you need to defend your position. You as the parent have the authority; your child knows that. The possibility that your child may push back against your decision doesn’t change that fundamental truth. Therefore, speak rationally and calmly. Most of the time parents lose control when they feel pressured to defend themselves. Be who God made you to be and let your child deal with the weight of that decision.”
5. We must avoid passive-aggressive behavior
Clear, open communication is always best. If you want your child to clean their room, tell them to, and let them know what will happen if they don’t. Then follow through. Making a sarcastic remark or responding with passive-aggressive comments like, “I wouldn’t be surprised if all sorts of bugs had taken up residence in that cockroach haven of yours,” are counterproductive.
Sarcasm might appear funny on television, but in the home, it destroys. According to Pastor Conn, “It’s a veiled form of manipulation that assumes everyone else is the weaker party. Our responses to our children should be the same whether we know they are wrong or we know we are correct: humility. You can be humble and resolute simultaneously.”
And again, we must be diligent to model the behavior we want our children to adopt. If we’re manipulative, sarcastic, and passive aggressive, we should expect them to act the same.
6. We must continually expand our children’s worldview
We live in an increasingly selfish society where we, and our children, are bombarded with messages that tell them life is all about them. In addition, many parents feel an incredible amount of pressure to shower their children with every possible opportunity. The culmination of this can result in self-centered kids who haven’t learned to consider the thoughts, emotions, and needs of others.
Conn explains: “One small thing I have experienced in my many years working with students is that usually when there is drama from the teenager’s perspective it’s because they are living a 'small worldview' life. They’ve gotten caught up in themselves too much. As parents, it is our responsibility to help them expand their worldview.”
We can do this by creating opportunities for them to serve the impoverished or at risk. For younger children, we can participate in Compassion International and similar organizations, inviting our children to be an active participant in that process. We can serve as a family at soup kitchens and homeless shelters. When they get older, we can go on mission trips as a family. The change such events encourage is profound because it allows our children to recognize and appreciate the blessings they have while encouraging them to be a part of life change in their communities and world.
Parenting is tough and wrought with stress and tension, and kids are natural drama producers. But we, the parents, can monitor our own behavior and deal with our own emotions, making sure we’re not contributing to the problem. Then, when an argument arises, we can refuse to engage. If we do that, the drama level in our homes should drastically decrease.
Jennifer Slattery lives in the midwest with her husband and their teenage daughter. She writes for Christ to the World Ministries, Internet Cafe Devotions, and maintains a devotional blog at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud. Her work has appeared in numerous publications and compilation projects, and currently writes missional romance novels for New Hope Publishers.
Publication date: June 9, 2015