The Relational Side of Parenting
Do you ever feel as though the atmosphere in your home has turned negative because you have to do so much correcting? You know your kids need correction, but at the same time you feel the discipline is taking its toll on the positive environment you want in your home. It may be time to do a relationship check to make sure your family life has a good balance between building close relationships and giving the necessary correction.
Children need firmness, direction, limit setting, instruction, and correction. But don’t forget, they also need a lot of love, teaching, grace, affirmation, appreciation, and relationship. Of course, you know that, but it’s good to be reminded every once in a while, especially when the business of family life gets intense.
What Love Looks Like
Love can come in the form of affirmation, encouragement, support, or just spending time together.
One dad said it this way: “I’m a problem solver. In fact, I show love to my kids by helping them solve their problems. Unfortunately, my teenage daughter sometimes doesn’t want solutions from me. She’s very capable of solving problems by herself. When she shares a problem with me and I go into my solutions mode, she feels uncared for, just the opposite of what I want. I’ve learned that sometimes the best approach is for me to first empathize with her and imagine what she might be feeling. It’s interesting that once I do that, she sometimes asks me for advice, and I can then help her solve her problem. The key for our relationship, though, has been my willingness to connect with her on an emotional level.”
When you come to the conclusion that changes need to take place in your child and that it’s time to put your foot down because you just can’t live this way anymore, think relationship first. Usually parents start imagining the consequences and how they’re going to be more firm. Those are important components of your plan, but don’t forget to add relationship. Children can only take as much pressure as the relationship allows.
God does a lot of instructing, correcting, and limit-setting for us as his kids, but his primary desire is to have a personal relationship with us. All the other things flow from that. In Revelation 3:20, Jesus expressed his desire for relationship by saying, “I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” Remember that relationship is foundational to all the other things that need to get done in family life.
Try this Exercise
Often connecting with children through emotion softens their hearts and prepares the soil for correction to take root.
Try this exercise. Connect with your child emotionally. It might be a hug, a conversation, a common experience, working together, playing together or giving your child some of your time. When you see that delight or smile you know that you have connected emotionally.
Next, celebrate it with a comment. Although thanking kids is good and telling them how much you value them is good, this comment is different. It’s designed to form what the child believes about the relationship between parent and child. “As we were doing that job, we got it done in record time and even enjoyed working on it together.”
One mom had a particularly challenging ten-year-old. During their homeschool day there was a lot of tension most of the time. Mom tried this exercise. She said to her daughter in the evening, “We both enjoy reading. That book I’m reading aloud to you is pretty exciting. I can hardly wait until tomorrow to read more.” Her daughter heartily agreed.
The next day as Mom was reading to her daughter the young girl put her head down on Mom’s lap. Mom was shocked but kept reading. Later she said, “My daughter has never done that before.” Mom was helping to form what her daughter believed about their relationship. As Mom continued these kinds of comments and connections, she saw her daughter’s heart softening more.
Relationship is the tool that God designed for parents to use for passing on values and convictions. That’s why Deuteronomy 6:7 tells parents to pass on the truths of the faith during relationship. It says it this way:
“Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”
REMEMBER: If tension is high in your home, you can bring about major change by taking time to focus on strengthening relationship first. If you’d like some help, we have coaches standing by ready to walk alongside you to give you the best ways to do it. Every child is unique but all kids change when we use a heart-based approach. You can learn more at biblicalparenting.coach