We live with them, but do we really know them? Unfortunately, many parents don’t really know their children! They are so busy coming and going in different directions, and to different activities, that often little communication exists. Or perhaps, they are there with their kids quite a bit physically, but their minds are on so many other things that they might as well not be there. They are unaware of their children and their feelings. As a result, problems surface in their children’s lives that come as a total shock to the parents. The symptoms were there, but they didn’t notice them in the early stages, when the problem could have been easily dealt with.
I know these things from personal experience. When my daughter was young, I remember watching with concern as she fought an attitude problem, and I wondered what was wrong. Finally, something happened that brought it to a head, and we had to talk about it. She then confessed that she hadn’t been reading her Bible. From that experience, I learned to ask her about what she read, or how much. That encouraged her to stay faithful.
Another time she seemed upset, and finally said, “Mom, do you remember when you used to ask me if I remembered to pray? Well I wish you’d start asking again, because I’ve been forgetting, and I’m having problems.’”
From that I learned that if one of the kids was showing a subtle, gradual change in attitude, I should ask about their walk with the Lord, and their daily time with Him!
These are just example of a couple times that I didn’t really know what was going on with my kids. There have been other times where I was unaware of an area they were struggling with, because I was distracted.
How do you really get to know your children? It’s not that hard, but it won’t just happen either! You have to make a point of developing that relationship, and staying close.
Here are some ideas to help you:
1. Talk to your kids.
I don’t mean the usual, “Go do this!” or “Where are you going?” type of talk, either. I mean just talking and sharing as you would with a friend. Listen as they share their thoughts and dreams with you.
Also, let them know when you’re excited, tired, discouraged, or what God is teaching you. When you’re going through a difficulty, ask them to pray for you. Admitting that you have needs as a parent doesn’t lessen your children’s respect for you. If anything, it helps them know better what is happening in your life, and keeps them closer to you.
2. Listen to your kids.
This is usually easier said than done. The normal tendency is to listen to part of what they’re saying, and then interrupt to give them our advice, criticism, and so on. Or we only half listen, as our minds wander.
It’s surprising what you’ll learn as you really listen. If you are alert, you’ll catch things that you need to deal with. Perhaps some comments will indicate a problem with relationships, or perhaps they will give a clue of wrong attitudes.
On the other hand, there are things you will catch that need to be praised and encouraged. Sometimes your children will hint of discouragement or fear, and need some reassuring. By the way, if we don’t catch these needs as parents, they’ll go elsewhere to get their needs met!
3. Observe your kids.
If you’re attentive and watch your kids, you should be able to tell when they’re troubled. Often they need you to just give them some time, and let them know you’re aware and want to help. How sad that some kids go home and cry in a corner, and Mom or Dad are too busy to notice, and offer comfort.
Watch their countenances for changes. Sometimes they may indicate a sad spirit; other times an attitude problem that needs to be dealt with. Find out what caused it, and help them get it right. Observing how they relate to other family members is a real clue to their true character. Watch for things that need to be talked about, and help them grow in their weak areas. Don’t just yell at them, or ignore problems between siblings, believing that all kids treat each other that way. Our children need to treat each other with love and kindness. When they get snappy and sharp, try to find out what’s causing their reactions.
4. Ask your kids questions.
As you observe changes in their spirit or countenance, of course you’ll ask questions, and try to discern the problem or need. But don’t just wait till you observe something!
Whenever your kids go somewhere, ask them questions when they come home. Ask who they were with, what they did, ate, talked about, etc. (Ask out of interest, not distrust, or they’ll resent it!) When you’ve been gone, ask them questions when you get home about what they did.
In other words, show an interest in them and their activities and friends. For one reason, you should be interested in the details of their lives. (Don’t you like to tell your husband all about your day when he comes home?) It’s important to them. For another reason, it will tell you a lot about them, and what’s going on in their hearts and minds.
If you do all these things, you’ll benefit in two ways.
First, you’ll be aware of small problems BEFORE they become big. Second, you’ll get to know your children in a rewarding way, and a wonderful bond will be formed between you as you grow together.
(All of this really sums up the idea of keeping your kids’ hearts. That is THE most important thing you can do as a parent! You can read more about winning the hearts of your children in the posts: Winning Your Children’s Hearts, or you can purchase a download of my talk “Winning the Hearts of Your Children” from our website.