Friends, if you know me at all, you know I love coaching kids! And September is the official start of fall sports season! I read about one guy who loves football so much that he describes the first weekend of the new season as “my Christmas.” He even takes vacation time so he can catch all the Friday and Monday games as well!
Now, that’s a guy who loves football way too much!
But seriously, folks, as a football coach, I’ve seen that one of the keys to success in any sport is preparation. I’m talking about studying your opponent, knowing what his offense and defense do in certain situations, and being ready both to react to his moves and to make moves of your own to exploit his weaknesses.
There’s a parallel for us who want to be effective parents. Our kids are not the enemy! It’s just the opposite. However, one of the keys to success as a parent is to study our kids and the century they live in, to learn what makes them tick; to discover what motivates and demotivates them, and so on. To get to know them inside and out.
With that knowledge, we can train them more effectively, better help them develop their God-given interests and abilities, discipline them more efficiently, and just generally help them live with more happiness and less stress.
So how do we go about studying our kids and getting to know them to this depth? In this letter I’ll focus on one way to do it. And in subsequent letters, I’ll offer some more ways.
Are you ready? The first way to study your child is to ask questions and then listen, listen, listen. Sounds simple, right? But in this day and age, when everyone is so busy and our smartphones are often stuck in our faces, it’s easily overlooked.
If your child is still a good bit shorter than you, bend, sit, or squat to his level and look him/her in the eye. Give them your undivided attention.
And what kinds of questions do you ask? The potential list is endless. With school in session, ask how the day went, but also ask, “What was the highlight of your day?” “Did anyone make you smile or frown today?” “What part of school did you enjoy the most today? Why?” In the same vein you can ask, “What part of school was your least favorite today? Why?” Best of all, look at favorite Bible verses together and ask, “What do you hear God saying in this verse?”
Ask about friends, teachers, anything funny that happened, anything sad that happened, what subjects they really enjoy and which subjects are a struggle. Ask how your child feels about those things. Be super careful to care for their feelings!!! Don’t crush a feeling shared with parental advice! If a child feels sad, hurt, discouraged, etc., softly ask, “Tell me about that.” “What’s that like for you?” – Listen with your heart!
If your child is a little older, you can ask things like “What really drives you?” “What can you do that most people can’t?” and “What dreams do you think God has given you about what to do with the rest of your life?”
Another good question for teens, from youth pastor Doug Fields, is this: “If you could design a specific way to serve God and you knew you wouldn’t fail, what would you do?”
Figuratively speaking, you need to have big ears and a small mouth, tough skin, and a tender heart.
Another way to learn by questioning is to talk with others in your child’s life: teachers, coaches, Sunday school teachers, school counselors, youth group leaders, Scout or AWANA leaders, parents of close friends. Ask what they’ve observed about your child’s likes and dislikes, interests and passions, abilities and aptitudes.
Often these people will confirm your own observations. Sometimes, though, they’ll describe a side of your child that you hadn’t noticed—or offer an insight you’d overlooked. Both kinds of remarks can strengthen your understanding of your son or daughter.
This practice of asking questions and listening carefully to the answers will give you insights into your son or daughter that you might not get any other way. And hopefully, moms and dads, it will spark lifelong conversations with your child.
James 1:19 was written specifically about controlling anger. But it’s also a great message for parents who want to better know their kids:
“But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger.”
So hooray for fall sports! And as parents, let’s take a lesson from the winning coaches and do all we can to get to know those young ones God has entrusted to our care. We can start by asking questions and then listening, listening, listening.
Here at Kanakuk, we’re available year-round to help you grow as a Christian parent. Let’s journey together as moms and dads who love God with all our heart, mind, and strength, and who love our kids more than life itself. You can also check out heartofamom.com for more mom specific resources and encouragement.
Together for the kids,