There's a fine line between making our kids serve God and motivating them to have a genuine relationship with Him. For parents, and at times youth leaders/children's ministers we often wonder how to navigate the "faith waters" with our kids in a sincere way. We want them to know God, but how far are we willing to go to make sure they do? For all of us, children or adults a personal decision to serve Christ must be made. This is an individual choice, that needs to come from within. But how do we as parents, mentors, leaders help to guide our kids toward making this life-changing choice? Do we make or do we motivate? I would argue we need just a little bit of both. Here's what you need to know:
Improving communications with your kids is not rocket science. Talk to them. Kids are adults in the making; they can handle good, quality conversation. Many times I'm asked about my strategy or secret to relating to young people and my question back is always, 'how do you relate to everyone else in your life?' There's not a big difference. I don't create a separate set of communication rules for kids or teens versus my adult peers. The themes may be different, and the vocabulary and inferences are very different most times; but the principles of relating and interaction--the same. What I have discovered is that a child will conform to whatever rules you set. If you talk down to them, they won’t think to rise up; if you challenge them, they’ll fight to understand and keep up with you. If you question them and provoke them to think and consider—they’ll do just that. No rocket science required. Don’t buy into a culture of distance and coldness when it comes to you and your kids. Keep the lines of communication open, sincere and honest and be intentional about having meaningful conversation with them. Commit to engaging with your children in a significant way and watch the entire dynamic of your relationship change.
When we try to become too much like the generation we’re called to lead, we miss out on leaving an impression that is uniquely ours. Not only do our kids not want us to act like them in order to relate better, they don’t need us to do that. The most genuine and meaningful moments I have with my students are when I am authentically me. Give your kids your perspective; impart your point of view. No, it’s not what their friends are dishing out, or pop culture—it’s what they need to learn from you. Show them who you are, how you live, how you love, how you thrive. They may not say it but kids rely on their parents and mentors to be a voice of solidarity and maturity in their lives. When I'm teaching, I never apologize for being more seasoned and more experienced. I own it and I use it to help my students become who they are meant to be. Embrace that you are older, wiser and able to help navigate the ups and downs of their lives. Be what they can only get and only want to get, from you.
Successful kids are thinkers, creators and innovators. Do what you have to do to get your child thinking for themselves, making decisions and creating/dreaming. In my class, my students had significant jobs and responsibilities. I gave guidelines but they created the order, gave their ideas, made decisions and made adjustments if needed. I didn’t dictate the “how”, but rather worked with them to make sure they understood the “what” and “why”. As adults, we do all we can to cover and protect our kids. But thinking for them is counterproductive. Put them in situations where they have to problem solve, correct their mistakes and come up with a plan for how they are going to win in any given scenario or circumstance. When I am teaching, I always keep in mind the reality that my students will need life skills that can carry them well beyond their time with me. If we’re not equipping our children for the future, what are we doing? Success is a mindset. Empower your kids to think about who they want to be, not just what they want to do. The phrase, “when I grow up I want to be..” in actuality is more of a declaration of what they want to do or where they want to work. It’s our responsibility as their mentors or parents to cultivate their understanding of what makes them who they are. Your kids will succeed when they are clear, confident and secure. They will try more things when they are not afraid of failure and are willing to take risks—these are areas where we can lead the way and show them just how powerful they can be.
About the Author
Adia Peterson is the founder of KingdomFive! Student Ministries.