“Love-Centered Parenting” with Crystal Paine
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Crisis at Home
As of a few years ago, everything was going wonderfully for the Paines: they were happily married, the three kids were healthy and well, Crystal’s books were bestsellers, her online business was booming, and their home was paid off. Then came a meeting with the kids’ Christian school principal. He informed the Paines that one of their kids (whose identity they protect) was bullying other students, parents had complained, and the child would be suspended. While that news blindsided them, what came next was far worse. Their child started expressing extreme, pent-up anger, and soon spiraled into depression, suicidal thinking, and a trip to the hospital ER. Though Crystal and Jesse felt like the wind had been knocked out of them, they also sensed God’s sustaining presence. “Little did I know how much I would need that peace,” she says, “for the next year of intense counseling sessions, doctors’ visits, receiving an official diagnosis with multiple letters and labels for our child, the hard road of figuring out the right medication and therapy, more doctors’ visits, tests, and so many, many tears and prayers.”
During that time, Crystal took a hard look at her parenting, and decided to make some changes. “I realized that most of my parenting had been about me. I was parenting for my own approval and reputation instead of for my relationship with my kids and for their well-being. I cared more about what others thought than I did about my kids’ hearts. I worried more about producing kids who made good decisions than kids who knew they were wholeheartedly loved.”
In thinking, praying, and reading about how to love her children better, Crystal boiled down what she found to four choices that have proven invaluable in her own family:
- Lean in and love: When frustrations flare up, instead of lashing out, find a way to praise, affirm, or spend time with that child.
- Listen well: “You don’t have to fix all their problems. It’s more important that kids feel you are a safe place to express their feelings and that you will listen to and love them.”
- Lead with humility: “We get to set an example of a servant’s heart. And we get to acknowledge our struggles, admit when we are wrong, and experience their forgiveness.”
- Let go: “Ultimately, I’m not in control of my kids’ lives and decisions...I need to release them and their lives to God. My kids are His first, not mine.”
When the Paines went through therapy, Crystal was deeply saddened to learn that all her children felt that she didn’t listen to them. She then made the conscious choice to learn how to be a better listener, and says the difference it has made is profound. “As I gradually learned to parent from a place of love instead of a legalist’s do’s and don’ts, my kids slowly began opening up with me, inviting me into the deep places of their hearts, sharing their feelings with me, and having fewer angry outbursts.” She offers five key ways to do so:
- Listen to the mundane details.
- Be available when your child wants to talk.
- Let your child express the full spectrum of emotions.
- Become a student of your child.
- Get professional help when needed.
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