How Do You Feel About Being Friends With Your Kids?
Go ahead. Take a stab at it. What’s the first thought that enters your mind? Indignation? Relief? Yah, whatever? Or you just had a fight with your teen and you know you’ll never be friends?! Maybe you’ve never considered the options for relating to your kids. Or maybe you just do what feels comfortable and safe?
Would you answer like this? — “Friends with my children?! If I do that, I’ll lose their respect. I’m their parent; I need them to obey and not run amuck!”
Or this — “Yeah, that’s why I had them — so we could be buddies. I’d have someone to love and to love me back.”
Possibly this — “I just want to get them out of my home! Why would anyone want to be friends?!”
It’s a confusing topic. And it can’t be covered in a quick post or tip of the day. But, do remember this…
You’re a parent for a lifetime.
And that’s why you need this post!
Don’t worry — your kids won’t be writing on the walls with crayons forever. They’ll learn (hopefully!) and grow (definitely) into young adults and your responsibilities will lessen. Yup, they’ll actually be able to put their shoes on the right feet!
And that’s when it’s vital that you become friends.
The Most Important Tool in Raising Your Kids
Three things to remember:
- Your main goal is to raise kids to adulthood. (There’s a lot more to this goal, but we’ll keep it simple here.)
- It’s a long-range plan and process.
- You’re a parent until the day you die.
This process of growing a human doesn’t happen overnight. As a parent, you won’t get it right the first year, or the second, or…well…you get what I mean. There’s new stuff every year! So hang in there!
There’s one foundational skill that helps all other areas of raising sons and daughters —
To develop this skill and build your relationship with your kids, you need to:
– Enter their world. Ask lots of questions about their life, opinions, and perspectives on the world around them. (“How was your first day of class?” “How did you feel being there – worried, confident, comfortable…?”)
– Be there for them. Let them know you’re their biggest cheerleader. Encourage their escapades. (“I saw that project you’re working on. It looks great!”)
– Listen to the stories of their day, or job, or friends. (Laugh, ask questions, be curious…)
– Offer counsel, ideas, and perspective. Let them know you want to help. (“When I was your age, I had the same thing happen. I felt so stupid. But then I tried….”)
– Give them your trust. Of course you know more than they do — but even though you can do things faster and easier, let them try their own hand at them. (I had a friend once say that she didn’t let her kids cook because she didn’t want a messy kitchen!)
– Give them lots of opportunities to try out a new skill, even when they aren’t quite ready. (We let our kids do tile work, use a backhoe, and help build our house addition when they were as young as 12. The skills and confidence they have as adults amaze me!)
God’s Got You Covered
God’s pretty clear on how He views communication in families. It profoundly affects our ability to teach our kids to love and rely upon God. If they haven’t learned to listen to us as their earthly teacher/authority, how can they learn to listen to God, their heavenly teacher/authority?
“These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.” Deuteronomy 6:6-7
It’s easy to get busy in our adult world — managing a home, prepping meals, shopping, laundry, keeping our marriage healthy, working a job. And we forget how important one-on-one time is to our relationship with our children — plus how much it means to them.
I know — you’re thinking how much energy you already pour into them — each and every day. I get it. It’s non-stop! But believe it or not, when your kids are little, that’s the easy part. (Don’t close the tab yet!)
Think about it. Young children tell us exactly what they need and want. We hear, “Watch, Mommy!” a hundred times a day, then we clap as they show us their latest feat. They cry — we hug. They spit out the food they don’t like — we clean it up.
But then…they giggle with joy over the little things. They deliver a hug and a smooch when we least expect it. We get a reward for all the work!
This phase is really the simple part of parenting — tiring, but simple.
Young children woo us into their world.
But…A Teenager Won’t Woo Us Into His World
As our kids get older, what’s this look like ?
Take a few minutes to think back on the awkward days of being a teen. Of trying on makeup only to realize you looked like a clown…and then your mom gave that look?! Of trying on an outfit that looked cool on your friend only to hear that dreaded, “Take it back” from your dad. Or the time I got a new hairstyle — a bleached white, boy cut — yikes my parents were patient!
Well, just like you looked to your parents, your own teen’s latest feat isn’t as heart-warming as when they were a cute, chubby toddler. It’s as awkward for the parent as it is for this future adult in-the-making!
Now think again about how you felt back then? I bet it wasn’t always pretty. I’m guessing your “confidence” was as thin as a layer of skin hiding what you felt inside.
Our teens are timid about sharing insecurities with us. They wonder if we’ll think they’re silly — or immature — or proud..
What happens at this stage of parenting? What’s our role? How do you stay connected and not just drop out?
No, I don’t have all the answers! And I’ve failed a lot! But what I do have is lots of time and experience raising ten kids. Plus, I’m fortunate that God blessed me with an overactive conscience. It’s a mixed blessing, but, it keeps me tuned into my kid’s hearts. And that’s one thing I’d say is most important.
Stay. Tuned. In.
Yes, you might mess up by entering in when you shouldn’t. You’ll probably get busy with your own stuff while forgetting about theirs. But having your kid’s hearts on your radar screen keeps you aware of their attitudes, moods, and needs.
Will You Be There for Them?
A few more ideas to get the communication started:
– Ask them to show you what’s new in their life — what they’re learning, working on, dreaming of.
– Discover what interests them. What scares them? What thrills them? What makes them mad?
– Ask their opinion of a recent book or movie. (But get ready to cringe! And ask God for the wisdom to know when to have a conversation about your differences. This is the hard stuff!)
– Have them turn on their favorite song, turn on the disco lights and jam it up! (Yah, we do this often. :)
For as many times as I’ve messed up (and that’s way more than I want to admit!), I believe open and honest communication has held our relationships together over the years. We’ve been through hurdles that I thought would never be repaired. God’s grace intervened and the solid habit of communication forged the path to recovering when things got tough.
Communication is the backbone for good relationships with your kids. It sets you up for a lifetime of friendship and guidance.
And guess what? That guidance goes in both directions! Be willing to hear the truth — even when it hurts. You’ll be surprised how many times your kids will have something profound to teach you — if you have ears to hear and a heart that seeks.
Don’t give up!
Stay the course. Don’t think parenting is just about changing diapers, teaching them to obey, and getting them to do their schoolwork. Accept the fact that you’ll need to be available long after they sleep through the night and can wash their own dishes!
Parenting is a lifetime occupation — and with communication as the backbone of your relationship — it will be the greatest blessing you can imagine!
Watch and listen. Ask and ask again. And you will gain a friend.
These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. Deuteronomy 6:6-7