I don’t have people knocking on my door asking me to write books or publish articles, but if I did, I have always thought that the one book I wouldn’t want to have published until after my children have gone to be with the Lord would be a book on parenting.
It is just too easy to speak and act like you know more than you do or are doing better as a parent than you really are. I don’t like that. Plus and this isn’t theologically correct I know but it sort of feels like you are putting a target on your kids back for Satan to shoot at.
Still I do have nine children and so obviously or hopefully I do spend a little bit of time thinking about this subject and thought it might be safe for me to share some ideas for people who have children but aren’t really kid people, if you know what I mean. I am talking about the person who goes to church and already knows what the Bible says about parenting but just doesn’t naturally know how to relate to children but somehow finds himself with children.
How can you improve in your ability to relate to children?
Get over yourself
If you are fascinated by yourself it is going to be difficult for you to develop any kind of real relationship with children. When you spend time with children you will often find that they are interested in things that hold no interest to you. Can you handle that? Or do you always have to think and talk about things that are interesting to you? If you are going to learn how to relate to children you are going to have to learn to be interested in things not because they are interesting but simply because your children are interested in them.
That is part of loving a person.
If you are really concerned about looking important in the eyes of others, then you are going to have a difficult time relating with children. The thing about “stooping down” to look at life through the eyes of a child is that other people often will see you “stooping down” and it is hard to look powerful and important when you are all “hunched” over like that. I am not saying that you have to go rolling around in the grass all the time, but why not at least once in a while? You definitely don’t have to actually become a child yourself, you are not, so why pretend but that doesn’t mean you can’t be a respectable father who sometimes lets loose and has a little fun with his children.
Learn to enjoy your children as people
I remember once talking to a leader who said that he didn’t really like one of his children. Man, that broke my heart. The problem wasn’t with the child, it was with that leader. I am not going to give you a Bible verse that says you have to like being with your children though I am thinking that affection and delight are included in love, but if you don’t enjoy your children, I am telling you, you are missing out.
There is so much you can learn about yourself and so much you can learn about life and so much joy that God has stuffed into the relationship between a child and his parent. I am convinced you shouldn’t be content with not enjoying your children. Maybe you can imagine that you enjoyed being with them and then act like that, do what you would normally do if you enjoyed being with a person. Ask them questions. Think of their heart as being filled with treasures and try to draw those treasures out. It is amazing the power of interest when it comes to developing a relationship with another person and even a child. I have seen quiet people who are not all crazy and joking all the time but have still developed great relationships with children, they are dearly loved by children, and you know what was the magic? They were interested in the children and that interest more than made up for a more introverted personality.
Relate to children as if they were people
Now look, children aren’t adults but they are people and you need to treat them like human beings. What do I mean by that? O.k. here it is. We need to instruct our children and we need to rebuke our children and we need to set rules for our children. That’s part of our job. But when we instruct and rebuke and set rules we need to do so in a gracious and gentle way. We need to remember that they are people. I mean imagine if you had someone following you around all day and giving you instructions about every single last thing you were doing. You would love that, I am sure. Yes, correct them, but learn to tell the difference between principle and preference. Ask yourself is this something I should be really serious about or is this just my own personal opinion and if it is my personal opinion do I have personal opinions about pretty much everything that I am forcing on everyone else. If you do, o.k., but don’t be surprised that other people kind of get tired of that. When you correct your children, ask yourself, have I given them the instruction they need? Ask yourself, am I just correcting them because they are not doing it quite as well as I would? Well, what did you expect? You are like thirty five and they are four. Maybe the most important thing when it comes to instruction and correction and treating your children like people is that you become a person who is constantly encouraging your children. Don’t be quiet. We don’t have to go all American and sit around in a circle with our children all day singing I love myself, but we should certainly look for legitimate ways to let children know that we are one hundred percent for them.
Look out for their interest above your own
I think that the people who have the hardest time developing quality relationships with their children are the people who are at the center of their own world and who are trying as hard as they can to get their whole family to orbit around them.
The world doesn’t orbit around you. It orbits around God. It is about His glory. So why don’t you give up on being the most important and most respected and most valuable person in your family and enjoy dying to yourself day after day in the service of your family and your children. Cry out to God, please help me not make my children my god, but at the same time, help me to really long for their good and to be more excited about their good than even my own.
I know, this is not rocket science.
But, God has given us such a great privilege to be parents and such a responsibility as well, and one of the ways we can actually put the biblical instructions about parenting into practice best (I think) is by learning to develop relationships with our children, even if it isn’t something that comes naturally to us.