Monday I talked about our kids’ issues with us not always being our fault. And that is true. Yet, as in every relationship, we have influence. We cannot determine someone’s response to us, but we can provide fertile the ground in which the relationship can grow. I’m not a fan of how-to lists. They imply a formula that will work for whatever situation of life you need help with. In doing so they imply a guarantee that everything will work out if you do the list. If everything doesn’t work out, you’ve made a mistake. We’re back to it’s all your fault.
That being said, there are things we can do to help the relationship grow and there are things we can do that will damage the relationship. Again, no guarantees and placing no blame, just a few insights to help you grow relationship with your child.
Let’s get the bad news over first. Here are a few things that will cause damage to our relationship with your child and weaken your influence in your child’s life.
- Be absent. Just don’t show up for anything in their life. When you are present, be preoccupied with your phone or computer or TV.
- Don’t listen to them. Don’t listen when they try to talk to you about the seemingly little things in their lives. Don’t listen when they try to explain a bad grade or why they were late for curfew. Dole out the punishment and then send them to their room.
Yeah, those seemed obvious things to not do—right? But if we are not intentional we can easily let those things become habits in our relationship with our kids.
There are a few simple things we can do to be the parent our kid needs and wants in their life.
- Be there—and be present. Be their encourager, their helper (when asked, not overreaching), be in the audience of their life. Do I need to give an illustration of how impactful your presence is to your child? You were a kid once. How much did it mean to you to have your parents at your first ballgame or piano recital? How much did it mean that one of them was at every play or performance? How much did it mean to see them in the audience at your graduation? How wonderful was it to have your mom help out with your first baby? Maybe you could not answer anything positive for the above questions. Maybe you didn’t have parents who were present in your life. Either way you know how important it is. Your presence is vital to building a lifelong relationship with your kid.
- Listen. Put away anything that distracts you from listening to your child–anything that keeps your child from knowing that you are listening and they are your priority. I’ve shared this story often, but I’ll tell it again. When I first went back to school I expected to be invisible to the other students. And that would have been okay. However, in every class I was the student the other students wanted to talk to. The girl who set next to me in math class continually talked to me about her wild weekends while the teacher taught (even though I kept my focus on the teacher). I shared this phenomenon with Katie. She shared her immediate insight, “Mom, you listen to them. No one else listens to them.” I’ve found this to be true as I listen to other young adults, teachers, and even in John Ortberg’s book Soul Keeping. In it he describes the wild applause Dallas Willard received from an audience of thousands of twenty-somethings. Despite Dallas’ sport coat, tie, lack of pop culture references, and low-key demeanor, the auditorium went crazy after John’s interview with him. Ortberg’s conclusion, “The soul searches for a father.”* Yes, our kids need God more than anything. But God gave our kids parents and we are them. They need us to be the parent. God expects us to be there for our kids just as God is there for us.
- Stay the course. No, we won’t always be right as parents. But we are God’s best for our kids and God will make up the difference. Do what you know is best. Pray, read the Bible, talk to other parents who have gone before you and done it well. Hang in there.
There are no guarantees in parenting, but if we don’t give our best and our child takes a bad turn we will have regrets. If we do give our best and our child takes a bad turn, we will know we gave our best and have no regrets. Remember, every parent and every child are a work in progress.
For more ideas to be the parent your kids needs check out Love No Matter What–http://www.brendagarrison.com/love-no-matter-what.html
*Ortberg, John. Soul Keeping. Grand Rapids: Zondervan. 2014. Page 50.
Brenda Garrison is an author and speaker who empowers women with the confidence to live their calling. Brenda is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science Degree in Ministry Leadership with a Concentration in Women’s Ministry at Moody Bible Institute. She and her husband, Gene, are the parents of three young adult daughters and live near Metamora, IL.