Parenting is one of the more popular topics among researchers, and many studies and debates continue to go into what kind of parenting style and discipline method works best. As parents, we want to do the best possible job we can to raise joyful, loving, confident and kind children who grow up loving God and treating others fairly and well. In many cases, most of us have the what-not-to-do part of parenting down, but we aren’t as clear on what we should do to raise resilient children who are solid in their faith and secure in their relationships. I ran across an article by Elissa Strauss called, “Why The Old Way of Parenting No Longer Works” in which Strauss writes specifically about parenting styles from the past and the best approaches for parenting the children of today. In the article, Strauss quotes Katherine Lewis from her new book, “The Good News About Bad Behavior.” Lewis said that “The I’m in charge” approach to parenting just “doesn’t work.” One critical issue she observes is, “a crisis of self-regulation among kids today.” “This,” she explains, “is the reason why nearly half of today’s children will develop a mood disorder, behavioral disorder or substance abuse problem by age 18.” Gulp. Talk about eye-opening. Without realizing it, Strauss and Lewis are talking about the painful by-product of missing relational skills that help us grow joy (Skill 1), quiet (Skill 2), foster developmental maturity skills (Skill 8), return to joy from distressing emotions (Skill 11) and remain our relational selves during upsetting feelings (Skill 12). These are skills children learn with interactive practice and modeling because mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, teachers, coaches and the surrounding community have and use them. When these skills drop out of interactions, children learn artificial (and unhelpful) means of regulating their emotions, and this is where problems arise. My friends and I addressed some of these problems in our book, Joy Starts Here, and we highlighted how the rapid increase in social media and technological advances create the perfect storm which leads to the frightening drop in relational skills within the fabric of our families and communities. In a sense, we parents work so hard to plant good seeds into the gardens of our sons and daughters minds and identities. Instead of fruit and vegetable trees filling this precious space we find weeds and unwanted plants are also growing that should not be there. How do we change this? Rather than focus on an authoritarian approach to parenting that may have worked in the past, Lewis says the youth of this generation are raised with a culture of democracy and equality, making decisions with collaboration. Those of us who grew up in the 1980’s have reacted to our authoritarian parents, and we have swung the opposite direction into a passive and permitting parenting style which comes with its particular issues. Lewis says, “The key to getting today’s children to behave is forgoing the fear-based methods of yesteryear and helping them learn how to self-regulate instead.” She suggests focusing on consequences instead of punishment. Utilizing the desire-driven circuits of the brain as opposed to the fear centers will yield a more fruitful harvest. No matter where we stand on this parenting spectrum, here are a few nuggets to hold to. We know that reacting from our own unprocessed pain doesn’t work well, so we can begin looking for God’s presence along with community support to help us disarm the landmines that keep us anchored in the past instead of living in the present. Building joy works much better than merely solving problems, so we must work on ways to stay present and available to increase joy with each family member. Learning crucial relational skills our brain relies on to be our best selves help us pass on the elements of our character and identity that reflect the people God created us to be. We practice skills that help us identify and correct character deformities that tend to proceed generationally. Last, the ability to repair is a parent’s best friend. You do not need to be the perfect parent who never fails. Instead, become the “master repairer” so when you do overreact and mess up with your children, they can count on the fact that you will find them and do your best to validate, comfort and reconnect to keep relationships bigger than problems. A big part of helping your children regulate their emotions comes down to your ability to control your own emotions – while you help your children learn to monitor their big feelings. May you find God’s peace and joy as you become the parent God designed you to be! Learn more about these thoughts and ideas at the THRIVEtoday blogs focusing on how to be the best version of yourself. Practice the skills that make relationships work by attending a Joy Rekindled marriage retreat, a True Identity weekend, or a THRIVE Training.