Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Partnering With Difficult Parents

In this line of work, we are trained that parents are the primary faith nurturers and our role is to partner with them in helping their children take their first steps of faith. While a partnership does occur in our attempts to advocate for a Bluebonnet Child, it does look slightly different. As I shared before, 99.9% of the time, Bluebonnet Children were brought into this world by Bluebonnet Children with longer stems. In our service to these children, we will have to learn how to dance with their parents-some more than others. You are the judge of the level of interaction you will have with certain parents. I can recall moments that I intentionally did not share a child’s poor choice with the parents out of fear of what would await that child at home.

While relationships with the parents we serve might vary in appearance, there are some general rules that can be applied to all. One leading voice on this subject is Todd Whitaker. I was blessed to learn from him at an educational conference this year.  And my approach to working with parents has greatly shifted thanks to his concepts. His guidance is not only simple (not to be confused as easy), but also immediately applicable.

There were about twenty of us shoved into a high school classroom in my hometown of Mabank, Texas. Todd bobbed and weaved through the cluster of chairs as he shared. The first challenge was to keep our perspective in check. For example,  if you are dealing with an arduous parent, know that she communicates in a harsh way to everyone. It’s not about you (it has nothing to do with you). But it is the only way she knows how to express herself. Most likely a Bluebonnet Child herself, she is truly living, loving, and communicating to the best of her capabilities. This is not an acceptable excuse, and it doesn't make it right. But that is who she truly is. We must wrap our minds around this awareness before diving into a conversation with this type of parent.

 Once our mentality is in the proper place, we can “sidle up” to this parent before the conversation begins. Instead of facing the person head on, we can stand at their side in a less confrontational way. Knowing that their fury is not about us, we can let them do their own emotional work while we stick to the facts. We are non-reactive, we gather information in note form (where they can see), and above all else, we treat them like they’re good. This is a very powerful point in Whittaker’s teachings. Those who act in such an abrasive or argumentative way don’t know what to do when another responds to them in a calm and collected fashion.

Whittaker challenges us to continually seek these difficult parents out and treat them like they are good.  Go a step further and treat them the same as you do your most faithful and responsible parents. Offer them all of the same opportunities to thrive. Invite them to Bible Studies with other parents and parenting events at the Eagle Nest. Introduce them to other parents at pick-up and drop-off time and ‘like’ their social media updates. Expect the same from them as your most reliable parents, i.e those who volunteer, provide snacks and commit to a timely pick-up. Always (ALWAYS!) welcome them with kindness (even though you might think they are the least capable parent you have ever laid eyes on).  This level of discomfort will slowly alter the dance steps they take with you, which will enhance your ministry as an advocate to a Bluebonnet Child.

Stay tuned as we discuss the value of a Safe Sanctuary policy in your ministry. Be sure to subscribe to the right. 😁

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