Mrs. Karis Kimmel Murray: … And it was just her form of protest. She was all done. She knocked all those shoes off of, you know, the aisles. And it looked like a bomb went off in the shoe department at Walmart. And I just...
Jim Daly: That’s terrible.
Karis: ...Stood there and I went this - this is not something that I’ve ever read about in a parenting book. I don’t know what to do.
End of Excerpt
John Fuller: Well, hopefully you haven’t had a toddler meltdown in the store. Our guest on Focus on the Family, Karis Kimmel Murray, has and she’ll have some ideas on what to do in those situations. Uh, how to handle your kids even when they’re at their worst. Your host is Focus president and author Jim Daly. And I’m John Fuller.
Jim: Kids at their worst just doesn’t happen, John...
John: Not in my household. Never...
Jim: I’ve never had that experience...
John: No, it’s somebody else’s house.
Jim: You know, today, we do - this is our heart. We want to equip you as a mom or dad to do a better job. And I hope you have an appetite. I believe you have an appetite, like - like we do, to want to do a better job in raising our kids, how to figure out how to be a little more effective in our parenting. You know, Hebrews 12:6, it says for the Lord disciplines the one he loves. And I think that’s wonderful. That’s a powerful reminder that we need to respond to our kids the way God responds to us. There’s such a parallel in parenting between our relationship with God and then how we parent our children. Here at Focus, we want to be that daily resource for you in your parenting journey and to be here for you. So call us if you need us. And we’ll have more information about that.
John: And our number is 800-232-6459, 800-A-FAMILY. And we do some great resources. One of them is Karis’ book. It’s called Grace Based Discipline. And I’d also encourage you to take our free parenting assessment tool. It’s a really quick five or six minute online tool to help you understand your strengths, and maybe a weakness or two, as a mom or a dad. Just stop by focusonthefamily.com/radio to learn more.
Jim: Karis, welcome to Focus on the Family for the first time.
Karis: Hi. Thank you so much for having me.
Jim: We’ve had your mom and dad, Dr. Tim Kimmel on and Darcy, your mom, and wonderful. I love their theme on grace-based parenting. And now you’re following up and going a little deeper, specifically with grace-based discipline. It’s running in the family, isn’t it?
Karis: Yes, yeah.
Karis: Yeah. I mean, our ministry, Family Matters, we have one channel, and that channel is grace. And we just love to see hearts transformed by the power of God’s grace and then for that transformation to extend to all of our relationships, whether that’s with our spouse...
Jim: And I think it’s wonderful.
Jim: I really do. Now, let’s get to it. You believe parents have something to learn from firefighters - OK, everybody’s going, what? - firefighters, what can we learn in our parenting role from firefighters?
Karis: Well, actually my brother is a firefighter with the Phoenix Fire Department. And so, you know, I - I saw a lot of parallels with parenting because honestly, our kids’ behavior very often creates an emergency situation in our homes, you know, maybe physically an emergency situation, but I mean more emotionally. And they just do stuff that just lights us up - lights a fire under us. And - and so we need to function like first responders. We need to be able to be calm and approach those situations with our kids the way a firefighter approaches one.
And something I didn’t know, but that my brother taught me, is that firefighters never run into a burning building. You would think that they do, and we see that on TV, so we just assume they, you know, come out of the truck and they run straight in. And that’s really not how it goes. I mean, obviously, they are in a hurry. They’re trying to be fast. But they’re wearing all their gear. And they also don’t always know exactly what they’re coming into. So they’re taking their time to approach the situation, to assess what’s going on, to make sure that they don’t expend themselves before they’re even in it. And - um - and that way, once they’re in the building, they can rescue who needs rescued, they can get the fire put out. They can respond instead of react.
Jim: And the analogy there is for the parents to walk briskly.
Jim: Don’t run into a calamity.
Karis: Right. Don’t run into calamity. Walk briskly. Obviously, we have to respond quickly. And sometimes with our kids that’s split second. But I guess, I mean, I’m using it as a - as a metaphor for how we have to keep our emotions in check.
Jim: You, in fact, had a Walmart experience that brought you, I think, to your knees a little. You tell yours. I’ll tell mine. Go ahead. What was your Walmart experience?
Karis: OK (laughter). Well, my girls, again, were younger. I think a lot of this stuff, you know, hits you hard on the front side of kind of the heavy lifting years of parents, which is when they’re...
Jim: Right. Is it because moms, particularly, are tired and, you know...
Karis: For sure.
Jim: ...Dads, too, but moms, I think, carry that load. I mean, it’s just a lot.
Karis: Moms and dads are tired. And developmentally where the kids are, they just need everything. They need everything done for them. They’re learning everything. And they need correction in everything because that’s the only way that they, you know, form their personalities and their selves into, you know, contributing members of society. And they’re definitely not that when they - when they - when they’re 2 year olds. And so I think my youngest one was - she was still in, like, a - in a baby carrier and my older one was 2. And we’d been sick for, like, five weeks. And we were out of everything in our home. We had no groceries. We had no toilet paper. We had no - nothing. We just needed everything. So you know, I psyched myself up to go on this run with both of my kids by myself to Walmart. And I was spent because I’d been sick as well. And so, I mean, I had them in the cart. And my strategy was just to literally run through Walmart as fast as I could. Grab everything. I mean, it was like “Supermarket Sweep.” Remember that old...
Jim: Yeah, we know that feeling.
Karis: ...You know, show? And trying to just get it done. And it would have been fine, I would have been successful, except that my older one just really, really hated to be restrained. I mean, she saw it as a sign of oppression.
Karis: Like, she just thought if she was clipped into something...
Jim: Sounds like a smart little girl.
Karis: ...That you were oppressing her. Like, she was - she was writing letters to her Congress people...
Jim: (Laughter) She wanted out of jail.
Karis: ...Starting a petition. Like, she was ready, you know, she wants to get out. And so I had a moment of weakness, and I let her out of the cart in the shoe department at Walmart.
And all the veteran moms and dads know that that was my biggest mistake right there. So she’s - she’s out of the cart. And I just thought OK, well, let’s hurry here. Let’s get this done. And she just - she was all done. And so she’s - she stood on one end of an aisle of shoes. And she put her two little arms out to each side. And they were long enough that she could stand on one end of the aisle, she could walk to the other side and knock all the boxes of shoes down...
Jim: On both sides?
Karis: ...On both sides, just (swooshing noises). You know, she’s just, like, walking...
Jim: That’s quite a mess (laughter).
Karis: ... And it was just her form of protest. She was all done. She knocked all those shoes off of, you know, the aisles. And it looked like a bomb went off in the shoe department at Walmart. And I just...
Jim: That’s terrible.
Karis: ...Stood there and I went this - this is not something that I’ve ever read about in a parenting book. I don’t know what to do.
Jim: So what did you do? Did you just go uh, spill on aisle 4, I got to leave?
Karis: Well, this is one of those situations where you run through scenarios in your head and you think like, how quickly could I run out of the store carrying these two kids like a football...
John: Just abandon the cart and get out.
Jim: (Laughter) Abandon the cart and everything.
Karis: ...Girl on each side so they can’t get out. Make my husband go...
Karis: ...Abort, yeah. Make my husband go later...
Jim: The mission is over.
Karis: ...And I was like, well, I can’t do that. And so, you know...
Jim: So you got through checkout?
Karis: We did get through checkout, but...
Jim: That’s a brave mom right there. So when you look at it - let’s move into the grace-based discipline aspect of this again because I think temperament plays a role in this in terms of makeup of mom and dad. You know, some parents and some people are rule followers, and that’s very important to them. And others are maybe like your daughter knocking shoes off the aisle, but they’re, like, 23 (laughter).
Karis: Yeah, yeah.
Jim: Not so much into the rules. How does that play into the grace-based approach of discipline? And define it for us. And then we can get into all that.
Karis: Well, grace-based parenting and grace-based discipline is simply treating our kids the way that God treats us. And we know that God disciplines us because it says so in the Bible. And so we’re just simply following the example that God sets with his children because that’s what we are. We’re God’s children. He’s our parent.
Jim: Now, I hear that. Describe it for me - how God disciplines us.
Karis: So well, God - I mean, God approaches his relationship with us - it’s all because of grace. I mean, the only way we’re able to have a relationship with a holy God is because of grace. And so when he disciplines us, he’s doing it for our good. It’s not about him punishing us. There’s a huge difference between punishment and discipline. And I go into that in my book, but...
Jim: Punishing is often out of vindictiveness or anger, where, yeah, the grace-based approach is out of love for the person...
Karis: Out of love for the person.
Jim: ...But it doesn’t, to the critic who’s going to say, that’s just too soft. You know, especially those dads that can be pretty heavy-handed - not to stereotype. I get it. But oftentimes, the temperament of the hard style is with the dad. Do it because I said to do it.
Karis: Yeah. Well, we have to balance rules and relationships. You know, that - that’s really, really important. And I think Josh McDowell said rules without relationship leads to rebellion...
John: Yeah, we’ve seen that.
Jim: It’s a great - I use that often.
Karis: And my dad, Tim Kimmel, kind of has expanded on that. And he says but a relationship without rules leads to resentment.
So we’ve got to have both.
Jim: Yeah, that’s good.
Karis: If we don’t have boundaries with our kids, they resent us because it doesn’t prepare our kids for the life that they’re going to face some day, for the world that they’re going to face, if they don’t understand how to respond to authority, how to follow rules, how to have, you know, self-discipline in their life. So we’re not - we’re not being gracious when we don’t have rules and boundaries for our kids. And grace does not mean a lack of rules because that’s not how God treats us.
Jim: Karis, you mentioned a tactic in the book, which I found a little interesting. I want to expand on it. You talk about putting things in the basket, kind of, I think, the bad behavior...
Jim: ...the poor behavior, whatever it might be. What are you getting at to help parents understand, to put those bad things in a basket?
Karis: Yeah. Yeah. That’s right the intro of my book because I feel like it’s a first step before you do anything else. And this goes back to what we were talking about with firefighters and being able to respond and not react. You’ve got to get your emotional reactions under control before you can really think, before you can analyze and respond. And so what the basket exercise is is it’s really just a mental exercise. It’s just something that we visualize in our mind. And you can do this in the moment or you can do it after the fact if you’ve had a really hard day with your kids where they have just brought you to the end, and you don’t really like them at the end of the day. I mean, it’s easy for our relationship to become tinted and colored by being angry.
Jim: So you put them in a basket (laughter)?
Karis: (Laughter) Well, it would be nice if we could do that. How this works is, you know, you imagine a basket or some kind of a container. And I like to, you know, visualize my kid, the things that they’re doing that are annoying you, or bothering you, or that are wrong, or that are hurting you, whatever it is, I imagine those behaviors almost like weights that are hanging off of my kids. I see them as external, right?
Jim: It’s not their heart.
Karis: It’s not their heart. Right. We’re separating their behavior from their heart. And so the way you do this is you just imagine those behaviors hanging off your children like weights and then you imagine yourself one by one, you know, name it - being untruthful or talking back or hitting their sister - you just imagine those things, and you pull them off of your kid, you put them in a basket and then you walk that basket into another room and put it up on a shelf.
Jim: What does that benefit you, the parent?
Karis: Well, the way that it benefits you is that it emotionally removes the threat. Because we go into sort of a fight-or-flight response a lot of the time in situations with our kids, when our kids have knocked all the shoes off of the aisle in Walmart. We’re embarrassed. We’re angry. We’re annoyed. We just - it kind of lights us up. And that would be a reaction. And very often, our own emotions and reactions are going to steer us towards what’s best for us, not what’s best for our kids.
Jim: So true.
Karis: So when we remove those, you can separate the behavior from their heart and really see them for who they are.
Jim: Yeah. And what I like is how you tie that, then, to the long view. This is probably, for me - I don’t know about you, John - but for me, this is the aha in my parenting experience. And I feel like I finally got it. And that is to take the long view. And you talk about that in your book by thinking 10 years down the line with that behavior that they’re expressing. And this has been one of the great things that has helped me in parenting my two teen boys, is, in the moment, their minds, their actual body chemistry, their brains are not fully formed. They’re going to say and do things that are very teenager - very teenage boy, in our case. And you need to absorb some of that, and certainly deal with it and talk about it, especially in a spiritual context. But it’ll take some of the sting out of it if you think about, are they going to be doing this at 30? Probably not. And that’s the key, isn’t it?
Karis: That’s the key. Yeah, my dad has a great line that he says, “never drive in a thumbtack with a sledgehammer.” He used to always say that to us when we were kids. And I’m like, I do not understand what this thing means, you know. But then once I had kids, I got it. It’s really easy to overreact to things that aren’t that important, or to underreact to things that are really important
Jim: Well, and, Karis, this comes back to the temperament issue because I think this is really critical for us to understand who we are as children of God and now parents of more children of God, right? Our kids belong to the Lord. And so when you look at that temperamentally - and I’m thinking of moms, particularly, where everything’s a 10, everything’s a sledgehammer to attack, attack, right? And what would you say to that mom to say take a deep breath, you don’t need to use a sledgehammer on everything? And I just - here at Focus on the Family, we hear from so many heart aching mothers who are struggling with their children in one way or another. And some of it is just lightening the load.
Karis: Right. Yeah. Some of it is just lightening the load. Having people who can help you, people who can give you some margin and a break goes a long way. But - but yeah, I mean, if they’re responding at a 10 to everything, first of all, I would just ask them, is that working? Is it working for you? Probably not. It might work in some ways, but you do - you have to take the long view. What is that doing to your relationship with your kids down the line?
Jim: Let me ask you that because again, you are picking up in a beautiful way with your mom and dad and what they’ve expressed over the years, this idea of grace. The opposite is kind of a stern rules based orientation. How do you know you’re struggling, that you’re not blind, that you don’t have a blind spot? You think you’re grace-based, but maybe they’re a little more judgmental.
Karis: Yeah. Yeah. I think it’s easy to have blind spots here, although most people I meet, I think they know. Yeah, I think they know.
Jim: That’s interesting. So it’ll wear on them, even if - maybe even their spouse doesn’t know.
Karis: Well, it’ll wear on them because it’s exhausting to us.
Karis: It’s exhausting to us. We’re trying to constantly earn God’s favor, and we’re putting that same kind of pressure on our kids, to look good, to do good, to be good. And we need to remember that only Christ is good.
Jim: Well, again, Proverbs in Ecclesiastes, it sounds like balance is the way forward...
Karis: Balance is the way forward, right.
Jim: You mention in your great book, Grace Based Discipline, you talk about the sushi menu (laughter). Not everybody eats sushi. So we got to talk about this. What is the sushi menu of discipline tactics?
Karis: Well, I came around to calling it a sushi menu because if you ever have eaten at a sushi restaurant, you - it’s not like other restaurants where you kind of pick one main...
Jim: Thing and it all comes.
Karis: ...You know, menu item and that’s what you get. With - with sushi, it’s just a couple of pieces, so you can order a lot of stuff to make a full meal. And so the analogy there is that with discipline tactics, very rarely are you going just do one thing that you’re always going to do in every situation that’s always going to work. You need to have a lot of different strategies and tactics that you think through in advance. And so when you are facing something with your kids, you can order a little of this, you can do a little of that. You’re going to take a multi-pronged approach to dealing with discipline issues with your kids.
Jim: That’s good. Let’s run through a few of those to give the listeners an idea. What are some of the sushi menu options in parenting tactics?
Karis: In parenting tactics, yes. So the first one at the top of the list and the reason it’s there is because this is one of the things that I say if you don’t know what else to do and if you can’t do anything else, for whatever reason in the moment, do this one thing, and I call this tag behavior - tagging behavior. And what this means is if your child does something, it simply means naming the thing that they’re doing.
Karis: Example, so if your child says something that isn’t true, you just say what you just said was not true. We’re truthful in our home. And that’s tagging behavior. Or they - they’re violent, they lash out and they smack you, and you can grab their little hand and say we don’t hit. That was hitting.
Jim: So you name it for what it is. And it conditions them to know that you know.
Karis: Right. And here, I mean, this is a little bit of, you know, it’s almost like training an animal. And I’m not comparing our kids to animals, although, sometimes...
John: Sometimes there are some (unintelligible).
Jim: It’s fair. You’re training them what’s right and what’s wrong.
Karis: Yeah, but it’s almost like clicker training. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a dog trainer do this. They give a click, and then they give a treat or a positive reinforcement after that. But what they’re doing is they’re immediately marking the behavior that they want with a little tick, you know? And then they treat because you can’t even pull the reinforcement out fast enough to really help the animal know that’s exactly right. And so you can do this with positive things that you want as well. You can say oh, I love how you were so kind right there, you know? But you can also do it with the negative behavior that you don’t want.
Jim: I think it’s important, too, to remind - to remember that, you know, in a moment, to do the positive things, too, and not just always the negative things. All right. Tagging behavior. I got pardon?
Karis: Yeah. And you can pardon. You can choose to say...
Jim: You got that authority?
Karis: Right. You do. You have that authority. But remember, you’ve tagged the behavior. So you’re not saying nothing. You’re not just completely letting it go. You’ve tagged the behavior. You’ve named it. They know that you recognize it, right? But you can choose in that moment to say, you know, we’re not going to do anything more right now, but I don’t want to see that happen again. Right. You can choose to ignore it. Some types of behavior we actually reinforce by responding to them.
Jim: That’s true.
Karis: Things like whining or, you know, negative attention seeking behaviors that our kids do. If we say don’t do that, don’t yell, you know, we’re kind of pulling back on them and it’s almost causing them to get more riled up and lean forward into these behaviors. So ignoring can be powerful. We need to teach. That’s one thing, you know. They don’t know what to do a lot of the time, right? And then my favorite one is distraction. And I think distracting our kids when they’re in a moment is a very underutilized behavior, you know, behavior reinforcement tactic.
And so if you’re in a restaurant and your kid is starting to - you can see that a meltdown is happening, they’re young, they’re having a hard time sitting still, pick them up and say hey, we’re going to go on an adventure. Let’s go find all the green things in the restaurant. And so being able to distract them. Or you know they’re going to react to their brother riding their tricycle at the park, and so you grab their attention, say hey, Tom, let’s go have a race, you know. And you race with them.
Jim: Yeah, those are great ideas.
Karis: You’re taking their attention away from that thing you anticipate they might do.
Jim: Let’s end here, and you touched on this as well, and that is age appropriate kind of consequences. Parents - this is the biggest question parents have. You know, our kids are 3 and 5, what are the right kind of consequences to employ. You break it down to toddlers, preschoolers, school-aged children, tweens and teens. Just give us a couple of examples.
Karis: So, you know, I talk in my book about a concept called developmental currency when it comes to choosing appropriate consequences for our kids. For something to be an effective consequence, it has to cost something, right?
Karis: But if it’s going to cost them something, they have to pay for it in their currency...
Karis: ...Something that they value. If we’re asking them to give up something they don’t value, that’s not going to be an effective consequence. So let’s talk about toddlers, um, because I think a lot of your listeners have kids...
Jim: Sure, yeah.
Karis: ...In that age range. And I - a lot of the people I talk to, this is where they’re struggling. A toddler’s currency is having - is possessing something. And this just follows a developmental, you know, pattern.
Karis: Their brains are developing.
Karis: Um - so mind.
Karis: Right, exactly. You see it happen.
John: You’ve experienced that.
Jim: Yeah, I think (laughter)...
John: Both as a child and as a parent.
Jim: Yeah (laughter).
Karis: Not - if they can see it, they assume that it belongs to them.
Karis: You know, if they see it, and they want it, it’s - they say “mine.” And so it doesn’t help them, it is not an effective consequence to say, you know, if you do that again, you’re not going to be able to go to the park with Billy next Thursday.
Jim: Right. They’re not connecting all those dots.
Karis: They don’t care about Billy. They don’t know when next Thursday is.
Jim: Yeah, right (laughter).
Karis: And they - you know, they can’t even conceive of going to the park next Thursday.
Karis: That’s not effective.
Jim: So what is effective?
Karis: So what is effective is immediately removing maybe something in their possession or removing them from the situation that they’re in.
Karis: And it just kind of takes them out of their head for a minute. And then you can say, “We don’t -” whatever it is that they do. “You’re going to sit here a minute.”
Karis: “And then we’ll go back.”
Jim: And they go ouch.
Karis: So it’s a correction.
Jim: Yeah. So that’s toddlers. You’ve got preschoolers...
Karis: That’s toddlers.
Jim: ...And school-age children...
Karis: Yeah. Preschoolers...
Jim: Let’s pick a tween...
Karis: ...School-age children...
Jim: ...Let’s do a tween one, and...
Karis: Yeah. Because tweens is kind of the other - you know.
Jim: Hopefully they’re not saying “mine” at this point, but they could be.
Karis: Well, they kind of are...
Karis: ...But in a more sophisticated language, right? And so a tween’s currency is belonging.
Karis: They want - yes, they’re trying to find their place in the world. It’s really important to them to fit in. And so all the things that go along with that, whether it’s - you know, fitting in means having the type of possessions that they think they need to have to fit in or being able to go the places that they want to go to fit in or do the things or being around their friends. Even if your child is more of an introvert, that is still their currency.
Karis: So you need to - you know, if you’re going to give them a consequence for something, you need to act on that currency. And so maybe that means they - you repossess their phone or devices for a certain period of time. Or that means that you don’t allow them to go somewhere that they’ve wanted to go. You have to really know your kid...
Karis: ...And know what makes them tick...
Jim: What’s important to them.
Karis: ...And what’s important to them. But that belonging is really driving a lot of what they’re doing at that point.
Jim: And that - and it’s really good. And of course, if... if the toddler or the tween isn’t hitting where you’re at in your parenting spot, Karis’s book Grace Based Discipline will cover the other areas. Get a copy. I mean, here at Focus on the Family we want to equip you. We want you to do the job as best as you can do. And it’s hard to do it without a manual, honestly. I’d love to parent the second time - which I think is called grand-parenting, right?
John: But from a distance.
Jim: But it’s such - you learn it. And then you’ve learned so much through the process that you don’t get to apply again because it’s done. But these are the great things that people have learned - Karis, her family. And I think this is one of those resources that can really help you. So for a gift of any amount, help the ministry here at Focus to touch parents and to do the - you know, help them do a better job in their parenting.And our way of saying thank you is to send you a copy of Grace Based Discipline as our way of saying thank you. And Karis, I’ve got one more question for you. But John, how do people get a copy?
John: Well, they can go online - focusonthefamily.com/radio - or give us a call, 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY. 800-232-6459. And I’ll encourage you to get a CD of this conversation or the download.
And I’ve got to say, Karis, I really appreciated the reminder that we were just talking about - the importance of belonging - to teens. That was a good reminder for me with a 14-year-old right now. So...
Jim: What’s their currency (laughter)?
John: Yeah, that’s a great concept. You’ll find more detail in Karis’s book, Grace Based Discipline. Get a copy from us today.
Jim: Karis, as we end, I’m mindful of that parent that feels they just haven’t done it well. Maybe they have kids that are 15, 16, 17, and they’ve been very rules-oriented. What is something they can do to be more hopeful? What’s an action - I know that’s a very...
Jim: ...Difficult question, but if they’re in that desperate spot, you’ve counseled with parents...
Jim: ...That are there.
Jim: What would you say to them?
Karis: Well, the first thing you do is just pray. Ask the Lord to point out these areas in your life. Ask to receive his grace for the ways that you have messed up and his forgiveness. And accept forgiveness for yourself. And then go - I mean, if you feel like your kids are old enough, and you can talk specifically about this kind of stuff with them - and I would encourage you to - go to your children and say, hey, I just - I kind of have had this awakening about grace, and I realize that I have made mistakes with you. I’m not perfect. And ask them to forgive you.
Karis: Ask your kids to forgive you.
Jim: It could be the best thing you’ve ever done.
Karis: It could be the turning point in your relationship...
Karis: ...And the difference between you having a great, deep relationship with your kids down the road or it just being strained.
Karis: It really can.
John: So good. Karis, thanks for being with us.
John: And coming up next time, helping you understand the consequences of today’s hook-up culture …
Pastor Levi Lusko: So I tell young people, you know, feeling good when the windows are steamed up on a Friday night, that’s - that’s really good. But you’ve got to back it out and ask it, what is this going to look like 20 years from now? You know, because listen, now yells louder. But later lasts longer.
End of Teaser
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Karis Kimmel MurrayView Bio
Karis Kimmel Murray is the author of Grace Based Discipline and Creative Director of Family Matters, a ministry founded by her parents, best-selling authors Dr. Tim and Mrs. Darcy Kimmel. Karis writes and speaks for Family Matters as a voice to the next generation of parents, and is the co-host of The Family Matters Minute, a nationally syndicated radio segment heard by millions of listeners every weekday. Karis resides in Arizona with her husband, Mike, and their two teenage daughters.