How to Be a Parent Your Kid Wants to Spend Time With





If I were one of my girls would I want to spend time with me? This thought occurred to me the other day. What do I do as a parent that makes my girls not want to spend time with me? What does any parent do that makes their kids not want to spend time with them? I asked Katie this question and she responded, “Depends on the age of the kid, but parents can be embarrassing at any age.” Okay, I’m not talking about the usual you’re-my-parent-so-I’m-embarrassed-by-you mindset. I’m talking about real attitudes, words, and actions that parents do that would make anyone not want to be around them.

I think about this often, but not often enough. Now that Kerry is home from college I’m tempted to make every moment count with her. Exhausting for her! Would I want someone pouring into me every minute I’m awake? Factor in that she’s an introvert and that’s a lot of interaction for her to deal with.

So what kind of parent does your kid need? What words, actions, and attitudes would make your kid want to spend time with you or not want to spend time with you?

First, let’s look at what we might me doing to put our kids off.

  • Trying to “improve” them. This includes a steady stream of unsolicited advice and opinions.
  • Critical words. Does your child feel he can never please you? He’s not smart enough, talented enough, or hard working enough? Critical comments about others can also be absorbed by your child, making him feel he will never measure up.
  • Nagging.  Does your child feel you are constantly reminding him about something he needs to do—get a job, go to church, do homework, etc.?
  • Short temper. Does the conversation with your child start pleasant, but before you know it you’ve blown up or left the room in anger?

Our goal is to show our kids that our relationship with them is a safe place where they will be loved and encouraged. We do this when we:

  • Listen. We all need to be heard. One of the most powerful ways you can show your child love is to listen to them.
  • Encourage the good you see in them and their lives.
  • Have family time that is issue-free. In my book, Love No Matter What, one mom I interviewed talked about the family enjoying their vacation together by leaving their son’s issues, not their son, at home. Another former young adult rebel shared her special memory of the family’s Christmas vacation because her parents chose not to make an issue of her current choices in life.  Their family enjoyed being together as a family and skiing.
  • Be yourself. Let your kids see the real you. Our kids love hearing Gene tell stories from his childhood (he and his twin brother were often unsupervised so they found lots of adventures). Talk about your college days, first job, when you first met their mom (dad), when you got your first ticket, what you hope to do in the future, what interests you now. They might not appear to be intently listening, but they are. What would you give to hear about these things from one of your parents or grandparents? We give our kids a priceless gift when we let them get to know us as a person and not just their parent.

Don’t expect an instant positive response from your kids. It takes time to build relationship and trust. Also their mood of the day may mask their true feelings. But persevere, for months even. They will see you are genuine and that’s what our kids want—parents who truly care and show it.

This mom is taking her own advice. Kerry has returned from her freshman year of college more mature and less in need of a “mommy.” I’m giving her space, yet being available for when she’s ready for porch swing time talking to her mom (who will be listening much and talking less).

This summer what will you do to be a parent your kid wants to spend time with?

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.

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