In a recent article, I compared training our children to the way that Jesus made disciples. Just like Jesus took a multi-faceted approach to discipleship, we should adopt a multi-faceted approach to raising our kids in the Lord.
One of the aspects of how Jesus made disciples is that He built a genuine connection with His followers.
“Then He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him and that He might send them out…” (Mark 3:14, emphasis added)
The first call of the disciples was to be with Jesus. They ate meals together, walked together, and spent significant time together. This created the context for the instruction, example, and other facets of training that happened.
Our children need a genuine connection with us. As parents, our job is not simply to tell our kids what to do and correct poor behavior. Yes, we must instruct. But we must also be sure to connect. As the old saying goes, “Rules without relationship equals rebellion.”
Our kids are real people with real emotions, ideas, gifts, and personalities. We must be intentional to connect with our children, making time and space for a real relationship to develop. What this looks like will vary depending on the age of your child, their unique qualities, and your specific circumstances. But below are three simple aspects of connection with our kids.
Building relationships takes both quality and quantity time. Find ways to build time together with each of your children. I still have fond memories of my dad occasionally taking me into work with him. Even though I am one of seven kids, he took time to spend with each one of us.
Over the past year, my seven-year-old son and I have had a special time together that we call “daddy talk time.” Once or twice a week, I will spend thirty minutes with him before putting him to bed. Sometimes I will lay next to him in bed and we will talk about life. (One of his favorite questions is, “So, dad…how is life going?”). Other times I will read to him from a Christian book. We put these times on the calendar and always enjoy them.
Carve out the time to engage with your children. Have one-on-one “dates”, read to them, play with them, or simply take time to ask genuine questions and have real conversation.
Another key aspect of building relationships is to show a genuine interest in your children’s lives. I may not gravitate towards playing with a doll house, but I have a five-year-old daughter…so, sometimes I play with a doll house! I would not normally enjoy building with Legos, but my son loves to, so I build Legos with him. If something matters to our children, it should matter to us.
Not only can we take an interest in our children’s hobbies and toys, but more importantly we can take an interest in what is going on in their lives. We can have real conversations with them, learn about the things they are doing, and walk with them through difficulties.
Praying with your children will help to foster a deeper connection with them. This can be before bedtime, during family worship times, or when specific needs arise. If we want to raise kids who love to pray, we should model prayer to our children and spend time praying with them.
After a recent tragedy in which my wife’s brother died in a car accident, my seven-year-old son was wrestling through grief and difficult questions about God’s goodness. We talked about these things and processed them together, and then spent time praying and asking for God’s grace and comfort. This time made a big impact on him.
It is never too early to begin building a connection with your children. Even when a child is in the womb, you can pray over them, talk to them, and bless them.
We should be careful to maintain an intentional connection with each of our children. This provides a foundation of love, a sense of security, and a context for the various other aspects of parenting. So, ask God for wisdom on how to connect with your children. Build a genuine relationship with them that will last a life-time and produce fruit for eternity!