Before we focus on any one trigger (what they do incessantly that causes us to explode like a midsummer bottle rocket) let’s simply remember what is true: Though they act childish, we’re still the adults. (winter, spring, summer, fall…)
I know this is true, because I get to practice it each and every summer day. You see, there’s still a lot of conflict in my home between my boys. Sometimes I indulge, feeling like a victim, and respond in exasperated anger, but then I remember… Triggers are merely opportunities to keep doing the good parenting! Even in the summertime.
Especially in the summertime, with all that concentrated togetherness.
So… who needs to keep doing some good parenting this week? If you’re worn out, halfway through summer, and they’re whining and complaining… you don’t get to. No you don’t. Their whining is simply an invitation for you to keep parenting well. And if they’re fighting with one another and fighting with you? Again, it’s not your job to fight back. You’re the adult.
“Let us not grow weary in doing good for in due season (whether winter, spring, summer or fall) we will reap if we do not lose heart!” (Galatians 6:9)
Press on in the good parenting. It’s your job! Of course they have a job too… It’s their job to push against your boundaries – begging for more screen time, begging for cookies all afternoon – it’s how they learn to make good choices for themselves on the other side of growing up. It’s how they come to find their own power, by leaning into yours – pushing up and rubbing hard against your boundaries, your power. It’s good and normal. Hold firm to what’s best for them, though it wearies you something awful; hold onto your boundaries. Let me affirm you! This is hard stuff, but you don’t have to fight your kids. Let them ask for the moon, but give them only what you can – what is good for them – and say no to what they can’t have.
Will they keep fighting? Perhaps… but you don’t have to fight back.
Use a soft voice and remember that God did a good job when He made you their mom. If the kids are talking nasty, don’t you join them. Excuse them to their rooms and remind them that no one in the family is allowed to talk nasty.
“Encourage one another and build each other up.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
Make sure you’re getting some exercise and drinking plenty of water (you and the kids.) Watch your sugar intake too, and set some boundaries around other coping mechanisms that can become idols in a mom’s life. Alcohol in the afternoon, and time on your phone pulling away from the chaos as you smooth your angst-y nerves.
Summertime triggers are opportunities to parent, not excuses to pull away, slack off, and play the victim.
How do I know this? Because I’d like to pull away more afternoons than I care to admit! I’d absolutely like to pull away to lick my wounds… but most summer days there isn’t space for that. So let’s press into summer and press into Christ and press on into the good parenting. Grace and good parenting (and a popsicle or two) will get you through.
A very sincerely thank you to Amber Lia, my dear friend and co-author of our book Triggers: Exchanging Parents’ Angry Reactions for Gentle Biblical Responses, for coining the phrase, “Keep doing the good parenting.”
It is my own personal mantra, every single day!
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I never had to learn to love people of color because they first loved me.
Back in 1990 I went to the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts (LACHSA.) Every student that walked those halls wanted to be there. It was a privilege and a commitment. Our days started early, as we all took multiple freeways, commuting in from all over the county. And we stayed late, rehearsing Shakespeare on the lawn. We were actors, instrumentalists and singers, dancers and visual artists. Long and lean black men, with jazz shoes hung over their broad shoulders; Russian and Chinese immigrants carrying violin cases and heavy backpacks; visual artists with their hair dyed blue, portfolios tucked under their arms. We were a hodgepodge of inspired, self-expressing youth. But the overarching theme of our student body was inclusivity.
There were no minority groups among us because there wasn’t a majority of any one race. We were diversified, and therefore unified.
My years at LACHSA shaped the way I view race relations today, more than any other single season or singular event in my life.
During my Sophomore year I joined the Student Coalition on campus. Our peer leaders were hippies, mostly the visual artists with a few female dancers who had dreadlocks and didn’t shave their legs or underarms. It was the year we marched downtown to celebrate anti-apartheid leader, Nelson Mandela’s release from prison. We carried banners and chanted, “United we stand – Divided we fall.” It was the first time I smelled pot.
I wore a tee-shirt that displayed Mandela’s face. It looked like a piece of art by Andy Warhol, decorated in bright Rastafarian colors.
At the Coliseum later that day Nelson Mandela charged us, “We who have suffered and continue to suffer the pain of oppression know that underneath that face of Los Angeles lies the great and noble spirit of the citizenry. We who fight for human rights know the depths of the human spirit running through the hills and valleys of the state of California.”
My eyes pricked with tears because I felt so deeply for the suffering of others throughout the city, the nation, and across the globe to South Africa. I purposed then and there to join the fight, though the attack was not against me. It was clear to me that day, and remains so to this day, that when a human hurts due to injustice, we should all hurt.
That was the year I also joined my friends in The Black Student Union. Looking back I don’t exactly know why they let me in – though I wasn’t the only white person in the room. We sang together, “Freedom – Oh, let Freedom ring,” then ate our lunch eat Thursday.
On the day of the LA riots in 1992, we were all called into one of the larger classrooms and told what was happening. We were asked to stay on campus, but not held there against our wishes. My mom’s office was downtown, in the building that had been taken over by law enforcement. No one was picking up the phone at her work, and she wasn’t answering at home either. I sat with a group of students, in a circle of classroom desks. I sought them out specifically because they were the only Christians I could find in the room. And we together prayed. They were all black, save one Asian girl and a blond hair, fair skinned white boy, and me. We held hands and prayed for a long time, and then I snuck away.
I drove the 10 freeway home, with smoke billowing up from fires on both sides of the road. I exited the highway close to my home and crossed the intersection where Reginald Denny would be pulled from his truck and beaten less than an hour later. I knew that these riots were in response to the Rodney King verdict, where all four police officers were acquitted when the jury couldn’t reach a verdict.
Maybe that’s why I’m thinking of all these things today.
That night, once my mom had returned home, we watched the news and saw protesters shouting, “No justice, no peace.”
Yes, that’s why I’m thinking of these things today.
I’ve sent out multiple messages to multiple friends of color in the past 48 hours, two of them are from my days at LACHSA. I asked them what I could do to help heal race relations. I told them that I am personally committed to loving all of my neighbors, “read and yellow, black and white,” but both of them said that wasn’t enough. Both of them asked me to share my thoughts publicly, because I have a different readership, a different platform than they do.
Carvell and Diana both agreed that loving one another in the private places of our lives and relationships is crucial, but that’s interpersonal and this topic is institutional.
I’m not sure, exactly, what that means, truthfully. I’ve never been a very political girl, except that day at the LA Coliseum wearing my Mandela shirt. I’ve only ever known racial healing on an interpersonal level. Like this afternoon when Jimmy, the UPS guy, walked up to my house and I threw the door open and hugged his neck and cried, “I’m so glad you’re here, I needed to hug a black man today.”
I kid you not.
I want to keep learning, keep marching, keep shouting publicly, “United we stand, divided we fall.”
Because, when it all comes down to it, no matter the skin color, we all bleed red. Isn’t that what we’ve discovered more than all else these past 48 hours? And back in March of 1992. We all bleed red.
But the only red blood that can ever truly restore us to one another is the reconciling blood of Jesus, who came to make all things right again.
We love, because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19)
You started off strong, with lemonade stands and trips to the zoo. You showed off your stuff with perfect temperatures, plenty of playdates and poolside popsicles. The kids all passed out early, drained from long, fun days.
Well done, Summer! You. Owned. June.
Then along came July, with your soaring temperatures… and my short fuse got lit right about the fourth of July.
What happened to this laid-back pool-side mama? What have you done to me? And why can’t I find anyone’s bathing suit bottoms and swim goggles? And why are the children fighting one another and why am I fighting everyone back? And “No you can’t have another popsicle!”
Dear, sweet, much anticipated Summer, you’ve got to know what happens to us when you turn it up past 100 degrees, with 98% humidity! The children wake up disgruntled, begging to watch “one more movie” before 8am. The kiddie pool pops from the heat. THE HEAT alone does it! And the house is in a constant state of awful.
And the slip-n-slide has all but killed our grass. My husband dragged it out to the garbage can last Wednesday, with a train of crying kids in his wake.
We’re halfway through the summer, but I’m singing The Summertime Blues because it’s only 11am here and they’re all begging for an indoor playground – what with the slip-n-slide in the trash. Honestly, I thought long and hard about the indoor playground idea, but that costs $50 for 90 minutes of air conditioned fun, and with juice boxes at $4 a pop there’s no way I can say yes! Except the sound of them whining at me and fighting each other makes me think taking out a second mortgage to pay for some chilly recycled air may be worth it after all!
So here I am, Summer, standing at the sink, trying to get myself motivated to tackle these breakfast dishes before the lunchtime rush, where every one of my miniature people calls for me like a short-order cook. What’s a mom to do, Summer, answer me that!
Just this morning I got a text from a mom-friend of mine who typed out her own summertime lament!
“It’s only July and I’m already twitchy. The boys got up this morning and emptied our entire cupboard of craft supplies onto the living room floor! Content, they colored there for approximately three and a half minutes, before leaving the wreckage behind with the promise they’d “be right back.” Of course they took their creativity out onto the apartment balcony to play with chalk. Needless to say, they covered the entire patio surface with one solid piece of chalk art, then traipsed chalk foot prints all the way to the bathroom, where they swam in the tub to wash it off – because some of them looked like Braveheart with chalk on their faces! Then when I thought I could escape to my own bathroom for a moment, I tripped over the art supplies they’d left on the floor and banged my knee something awful. I went for a bag of frozen peas to help with the swelling, when I heard them yelling over an itty-bitty lego…. one tiny 4×4 Lego! I’m one eye twitch away from the crazy house people.”
You hear that, Summer? Mamas get twitchy eyes and twitchy trigger fingers too! In the heat of the moment, in the heat of the day, moms tend to explode at their kids. Complaints about boredom, incessant cries for more screentime, and their dissatisfied eye rolls cause us to react in anger rather than respond – and the guilt we feel as we lecture our way home from the beach is what we hate most of all!
We don’t mean to be mean, if you know what I mean… we’re just hot and bothered.
We started the summer with a heartfelt Halleluiah, one short month ago, and we love these little people something fierce… but we’re out of ideas, out of money, and out of patience.
One Hot Mess
Are you struggling to keep cool and keep calm this summer? Join me for a SUMMERTIME TRIGGERS parenting series! Over the course of the next week I’ll post three Summertimes Triggers and what we can do to keep our cool when the temperatures rise… when our temperatures rise!
I’ll share my biggest summertime triggers – the things they do that make me explode like a midsummer bottle rocket! Take the challenge – and take your summer back! Sign up here to get each new article delivered directly to your email inbox.
“Sometimes I wonder what I’m-a-gonna-do… cause there ain’t no cure for the summertime blues.”
Triggers are the things our kids do that cause us to react in anger rather than respond Gently. Instead of focusing on getting our kids’ behavior under control, our focus must first be on controlling our own behavior. Just because our kids behave wrong, we must keep on doing right! Order your copy of Triggers: Exchanging Parents’ Angry Reactions for Gentle Biblical Responses today.
I usually invite my guests to sit with me (figuratively) on that comfy orange couch in my living room, but today’s friend agreed to join me (literally) at a conference, and I was so blessed by her wisdom and fellowship I wanted to bring you into our conversation.
Last week, Jerusha Clark and I shared a booth at The Great Homeschool Convention with my book, Triggers: Exchanging Parents’ Angry Reactions for Gentle Biblical Responses rubbing shoulders with her most recent release, Your Teenager Is Not Crazy: Understanding Your Teen’s Brain Can Make You a Better Parent.
What I learned, as we conversed with moms both separately and together, is that teenagers can be a trigger in their very own category! However, like every trigger that Amber Lia and I address in our book, the more you know about your triggers, the less likely you are to be triggered by them. Same is true for the teen who’s pushing boundaries, talking back, and looking for their growing sense of autonomy and independence there in your home.
The more you understand their developing brain, the more grace and help you can offer them as they grow.
The Biological Trigger Most Parents Don’t Even Know Exists…
by Jerusha Clark
Ever heard of mirror neurons?
Neither had I, until I started trying to understand the teenagers living in my house, that is. Turns out, these tiny brain cells play a major role in parenting anyone from 11-25 years of age. Yeah, they’re kind of a big deal.
God created mirror neurons to help your kids (and you!) learn by example. They’re also crucial in developing empathy. When you watch someone laugh hysterically, drink a cup of steaming coffee, or burst into tears, the mirror neurons in your brain fire. Your senses vicariously participate in what you observe. This explains, in part, why women like me cry at sappy commercials (C’mon; I know I’m not the only one!) It also helps explain why, when your teen wigs out, you feel like wigging out, too (and vice versa.)
While scientists are still learning about these amazing brain cells, studies suggest that when mirror neurons activate, imitation of both positive and negative behaviors occurs. In other words, your teen’s brain is constantly watching, evaluating, and reproducing your emotions and actions. Talk about evidence that parents need to model appropriate behavior! Next time you feel like blowing your top at your angry teen, take a moment to let your mirror neurons calm down (more on this later)!
My husband and I have spent several years exploring scientific research and biblical wisdom about parenting adolescents. It’s been absolutely fascinating to witness how neuroscience is just now catching up with and proving the timeless wisdom of Scripture. Consider this well known verse in light of what you just learned about mirror neurons:
“A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare” (Proverbs 15:1).
God not only gives us “good advice” in the Bible; He actually designed our bodies and brains in concert with His truth. Mirror neurons are at play when you respond to your tweens and teens. It’s wonderful and wild, isn’t it?!
I know it’s tough raising adolescents. I’m right in the thick of it! But I’ve got good news for all of us: we don’t have to throw our hands up in defeat. I’d love to share two practical tips for anyone who wants to move beyond “getting through” their kids’ tween and teenage years and actually thrive during this season.
- Don’t be a diversion. When you lose emotional control, adolescents divert energy to evaluating your behavior rather than their own. You don’t want this. Instead, keeping your cool forces your teenager’s feelings and the heart motives behind them to the surface. In a fascinating series of studies, researchers determined that when adolescents fixate on someone else’s emotions, their ability to process other information weakens. In other words, your angry expression and tone of voice dulls your teenager’s capacity to hear the content of your message (those powerful mirror neurons are going crazy!) If you want to have an effective conversation with your adolescent, don’t allow your emotion to distract him from what you’re communicating.
- Take ninety seconds. Social neurobiologists study how brain chemistry impacts relationships. Their research shows that emotions follow a predictable ninety-second arc. This means that any emotion you or your adolescent feels will rise and fall within ninety seconds if proverbial fuel isn’t added to the fire. Here’s the practical application: If you know your feelings aren’t under control, remove yourself from the situation. Excuse yourself to get a glass of water, go into the bathroom (even if all you do in there is silently scream), or flat-out say, “Look, I need to take ninety seconds here.” Some of you may be thinking, “That may work for others, but I’ve tried the whole counting to ten thing, and my kid just pushes and pushes.” Fair enough. This may happen, and it may happen often. Remember, however: you are the adult. Despite what a teen does, you can communicate, “I am trying to get my emotions under control, so I’m not going to talk again for two minutes.” Chances are, the first few times you say something like this, your teen or tween may be annoyed or angered. Hold your ground. After seeing you take ninety seconds a few times, your kids may start to experience the same calming sensation that comes from riding out the neurological rise and fall. In a non-combative moment, explain the biology behind your ninety-second discipline. You may be surprised at your adolescent’s reaction. Flipping out doesn’t feel good. Unbridled anger and bitterness are poisonous emotions that leave us feeling worse than when we started. Your teen or tween may see the benefit in taking time to allow the heat of emotion to pass. Ninety seconds doesn’t solve the situation, but it puts out some of the emotional flames and lays the groundwork for healthier communication.
I invite you to learn more about your adolescent’s brain, because understanding it can make you a better, gentler parent! If you’re ready to forego those knee-jerk reactions when your teenager is acting like a teenager, check out Your Teenager Is Not Crazy, available from Baker Books at bookstores and online.
Jerusha Clark co-authored four books with her husband Jeramy, including three bestsellers, prior to launching her own writing and speaking ministry, focused on helping others glorify and enjoy God, one thought at a time.
On quiet days, you can find Jerusha body-boarding, reading, or singing around a bonfire at the beach, her absolute favorite place. Jeramy and Jerusha have two amazing teenage daughters and love ministering together at churches, retreats, schools, and conferences.
Say Yes to Reading
by Kelli Stuart
We pushed open the door and a bell chimed over our heads. The shop smelled musty and old, but somehow that only adds to the nostalgia of this particular memory. My mom would set me loose into the shop with a bag to fill with the treasures I found, and off I’d go, wandering through the shelves like I’d entered a new land.
We were in a used book shop.
Mom would take me to this old shop at the beginning of every summer and let me pick out a stack of books to get me through the coming days. We’d go just before our vacation, when long stretches of time in the car provided ample, uninterrupted reading time.
Ten dollars went a long way in this old book shop, and I’d come home with stacks of treasured books, begging to take me away to far off places.
Mom would usually give me one book and tell me to savor it. Then she’d hide the rest until it was time to leave for vacation so that I wouldn’t tear through all of them before we left.
Sometimes I long for those carefree summer days again, when I’d come in from the pool all sticky and tired, and I’d curl up under a blanket by the window and read. There weren’t the distractions of social media, or television, and I certainly wasn’t responsible for anyone else but myself back then. I could just sit and read. All day.
As an adult, I still get a similar flutter of joy when I walk into a bookstore. Walls lined with books sends my pulse into spasms of delight, but there’s a conflicting emotion that accompanies the thrill: frustration.
Finding the time to read has become exceedingly difficult as the number of children in my home has expanded, and their ever-present needs have increased. Add to that the fact that I’m now one of the people who writes the books, and most days if I’m not caring for children, you will find me tapping away at my computer.
But I miss reading. I pull out books each night before bed, and I read for a few minutes, but my eyelids droop, and sleep calls loud, so the books sit stacked on my nightstand as I slowly make my way through them.
I miss the thrill of sitting down at 2:00 on a summer day and cracking open a new story.
I miss that feeling of wanting to read just one more page because you simply have to know what happens next.
I miss reading.
So this summer I’ve given myself permission to enjoy a few good books. I’ve reminded myself that reading is a worthy passing of my time and, in fact, sets a better example to my children in how to fill quiet moments than Facebook, email, or even working does.
I’ve said yes to reading, and maybe you would like to as well?
The key to sitting down and enjoying the process of reading is in finding a book that you can’t put down. It just so happens I have the perfect book for you.
My first novel, Like a River From Its Course*, releases June 27. A historical fiction novel set in World War II Soviet Ukraine, this book is the culmination of over a decade of research, of writing and re-writing…and re-writing again. It is based on the true stories of over 100 veterans that I personally interviewed over the years, and it’s receiving rave reviews.
“I couldn’t put the book down.” Amazon Review
“Gritty and Touching.” Publisher’s Weekly
“This is a book I won’t soon forget.” Amazon Review
“Powerful and Engrossing.” Library Journal
“I didn’t expect this book to sear white-hot into my soul.” Amazon Review
These are just a few of the reviews the book has received, and I’d love to have all of you take this journey into the unknown stories of World War II Soviet Ukraine with me.
Like a River From Its Course is now available for purchase on Amazon. For more information on the book, and on the many stories that inspired it, please visit my website.
Give yourself permission to get lost in a good book this summer. Say yes to reading, and remember those carefree days of being swept away into a new world.
*affiliate link included