Communication Death Spirals

Icy Mountains

image courtesy of Trey Ratcliff-

I have written about “death spirals” in relationships before in “Forgiveness and Grace”. That particular article dealt with death spirals in parenting and discipline, and this post is equally applicable to your relationships with your children.

Let’s talk about “death spirals” in communication.  

It can be just as seductive and damaging there as anywhere else in your life, but where relationship death spirals are usually filled with emotion and drama, communication death spirals can creep up on you so subtly that you are in the depths before you know it.

There are many kinds, but the one I am exposed to the most and must keep avoiding in myself, are those of negativity, complaining repetitively about a particular thing or person and confusing complaints with communication.

You see, it is so easy to do!

You complain, others commiserate, and unless you are careful, you can create a feedback loop that goes nowhere and accomplishes nothing more than distancing others from you by alternately boring and frustrating them.

Even more importantly, a fairly constant stream of complaints and negative observations can inure those around you to when something is really wrong. And that, my friends, can be fatal. Continue reading

Sparks of Hope – A Parenting Strategy


image courtesy of Trey Ratcliff-

The sermon at our church this Easter highlighted the hope at the heart of the Christian faith in an unusual way. The pastor showed a clip of the recent movie, “The Hunger Games,” in which President Snow is telling Seneca Crane, “Hope.  It is the only thing stronger than fear. A little hope is effective, a lot of hope is dangerous. A spark is fine, as long as it is contained.” I do not agree with containing hope. It is a tactic that is used to control and dominate, and the novel illustrates that quite well.

How can the concept of “containing hope” apply to parenting?

When we parent, we walk a fine line between setting limits and snuffing out hope. If you are parenting a middle school to teen-aged child, you will know what I mean. You may set limits and boundaries and enforce them consistently, but sometimes that process gets blurry, confusing and difficult.

What do you do when you suspect you may be confining too tightly, hanging on too long, or simply failing to give your developing human a chance to grow through decision-making?

You modify.

Think about the most contentious issue you are dealing with in parenting right now. It will be the one you argue with your child about most and it will be filled with emotion. Curfews, cell phone texts out of control, lying, avoiding responsibility for chores…the list can go on and on, but drill down to the most important. Identify it and now try to think about it backwards. Continue reading

Forgiveness and Grace in Parenting

forgiving handsI was reminded of the value of forgiveness by a blog written by Dr. Walt Larimore. It includes a short test to tell if you have forgiven someone and here is the link if you are interested in taking it.

It points out the emotional resonance of forgiveness and whether we have really dealt with that when we think we have forgiven someone. I tested myself with memories of my father and found that there was only the shadow of emotion which used to exist there, so I guess I have actually forgiven him for being the person he was (and wasn’t) in my life. That is a good thing.

There were other people I thought of that were more emotionally charged and I will have to work on those. Make no mistake, forgiving is hard work. It is so much easier to hold that little snake to your breast and nurture it from time to time, wrapping the kernel of wrong or resentment with more and more layers like a toxic pearl.

Just like any other toxic substance, however, it will eventually damage you.

I think that forgiveness is intimately tied to the concept of grace, or “giving grace,” and in my parenting experience, I have seen the incredibly powerful effect of grace on children.  

When our older daughter ended her middle school years and was entering high school, she hit some rough waters. Too many distractions, too much change all at once and her personal learning style collided into a heap of angst, anger, and frustration. To be frank…we got scared. Continue reading