“One of the most powerful things a parent can do is learn to communicate in a style that values relationship.” – Carey Nieuwhof
When fighting for the heart of your child communication matters. What we say, how we say it, and often times when we say it has a huge affect on how a child views love, authority, trust, and ultimately God. And I believe that how we view God is one of the most defining aspects of our lives. It follows us. It dictates how we view others. It determines how we worship.
I want to give every parent a few things to think about in regards to how you argue and fight in your family. These ideas are not original to me but they are powerful. Please think about each of these and how they affect your life. Most of these come from a great book called Parenting Beyond Your Capacity by Reggie Joiner and Carey Nieuwhof.
1.) Sometimes it is easy to forget that you can win the argument and force the right behavior but lose the heart in the process. This loss happens because the focus is wrong. Right behavior is a good thing, but it isn’t the end result. Your children need to know that love, grace, and mercy exist within a loving Savior. Are you embittering them to the point that any message resembling Christ is lost in the yelling?
2.) If you want to pass on a legacy to the next generation, it has to be transferred relationally. Discipleship is relational. Jesus called men to follow him and then he lived with them, ate with them, and corrected their thinking, in love. He forgave. He rebuked. He taught. And all of this happened well because he had a relationship with them. They knew first and foremost that Jesus loved them. They got to see that love fleshed out in the greatest way possible, his death on a cross. Are you collecting “relational credit” that you can cash in and use to say hard things to your children and get the desired response in return?
3.) How trustworthy we are as parents is much more important for their growth than how trustworthy they are. Just about every time (few exceptions but they exist) a parent tells me that they trust their teenage child I can’t help but laugh inside. Apparently they forgot how 99% of teenagers were when they were one. We focus on their ability to be trusted, but forget about our own trustworthiness. How have you built trust? How are you sustaining that trust? Can your child come to you with anything and know that they will be loved? If you’re fighting for their heart and for their trust, I believe you will discover that your relationship can overcome any struggle.
4.) Just because you have the right to say it doesn’t mean that it’s the right time for it to be said. I believe parents should correct and discipline. I believe it’s their right and responsibility. I believe that you are accountable to God with how you’ve trained and instructed your children. But I don’t believe public humiliation is the best, or even a good, way to go about it. If you want to build trust and relationship while at the same time maintaining discipline and correction, then don’t do it publicly if you can avoid it. The quickest way to lose trust and spur on rebellion is to humiliate your child. When Jesus corrected Peter for denying him he did so in love, privately, and effectively. Follow that example!
I believe that every parent can achieve the necessary relationship with their child to disciple while at the same time disciplining. Think about how each of these affects your current mode of correction and family fighting, and then work on how you can do it better!