By Sarah Evans
When we build and maintain a healthy trusting relationship with our children, by showing Godly discipline that is both consistent and motivated by love, it is rare that consequences will ever need to be put into place. There will be times where we need to teach our children better ways to speak and act, and there will be times where we must re-direct their behavior but consequences will often not be necessary because our children will want to follow wherever we lead.
And so the question is: “How do we build this healthy trusting relationship with our children?”
Our relationship with our children is built when we consistently spend time with them:
It is important that we take the time to value our children’s God-given individuality, and to listen to them. I mean really listen. Often we are so busy rushing around doing things for our children that we do not even realize that it is not this busyness that our children have asked for, or even what they need. Instead they yearn for us to sit with them….without distraction….without stress….and to just enjoy ‘being’ with them. The act of ‘doing’ something for them does not replace the act of merely ‘being’ with them….and so our children are often starving for this kind of attention.
Trust is built in the relationship with our children when we walk in integrity of heart:
Trust is built by the words we use, the way we conduct ourselves, the kind of character that we have, and by being there when our children need us. There are many times when we will have to put the needs of our children ahead of our own.
Trust can also be broken when we fail to provide our children with their basic needs, when we make false and broken promises, when we expose them to things that they are not mature enough to handle, and when we use demeaning and critical words.
Think about it, would we trust an employer who lets us down, or publicly humiliates us, or who spends most of their time demeaning and criticizing our efforts? If this employer would then ask us to work overtime, or to do them a special favor, how would we feel? Most of us would not feel inclined to meet these requests and we would not want to listen to what they have to say. In fact, we would probably do everything possible to avoid this person.
Now let us think about our children. It is the same way with them. If they can trust us with their hearts; to protect their hearts from being trampled on and if they can feel ‘safe’ with us, they will want to listen to what we have to say.
‘If our children know that we love them and that we care for their needs, and if they can trust us to take good care of them, they will want to please us….they will want to do whatever it is we ask of them’
If we find ourselves constantly disciplining our children for the same behavior over and over again, and they are not a young child, it is clear that the consequence that we are giving is not helping the problem. In fact, it is probably making things worse! It is clear that what we are doing is not working. We need to ask ourselves the following questions:
- What is it I want my child to do?
- Is it realistic?
- Are they actually able to do it on their own?
- What is stopping them from doing what I am asking?
- Is there a problem in the relationship/trust between us?
- How can I help them to be more successful?
The answer is not that our children are just being bad or that they just want to upset us. No! They are trying to communicate something to us. We need to take the time to really listen to what they are saying so that we can find a different solution to the problem.
‘Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for a person’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires’ (James 1:19)
When we invest in building trust and we allow this trust to grow, we will find it much easier to influence our children in times when they are about to ‘step out of line’ and make a mistake. We will have their trust and so will be able to re-direct their footsteps through gentle reminders, supportive discussion, and with healthy motivators. Let us ask the God of all wisdom to help us build healthier relationships with our children, and in doing so we will experience more pleasure and delight within our role as parent.