Another great article by Jesse and Kara. I love all 3 and think they are pivotal for connecting with our children.
“Hey, watch out for that—”
Two sounds emerged from the other room. The first was the sound of a cup hitting the table and the second was the shriek of my wife. Together they increased my heart rate and blood pressure.
Somehow I found the strength to take a deep breath before stepping around the corner. It’s a good thing I did.
“Rylie, you know you’re not supposed to have drinks around the computer!” Kara’s eyes were wild as she turned the dripping laptop upside down.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” My son was stiff as stone in the corner of the room. Only his lips and fingers twitched. Poor guy had just spilled water on the laptop for the second time. I couldn’t blame the kid for panicking, but “poor guy” wasn’t exactly the sentiment going through my mind at the time. It was more expletives than anything else. In that moment there wasn’t anyone who’d ever done anything worse than spill water on an electronic device.
You might be able to relate to this specific situation and you might not, but everyone who has kids understands anger that burns like fire. Especially when they break something expensive or personal. However, in each situation like this (and many more) there’s an opportunity to examine three reasons why our kids don’t like us very much.
1. You’re Not Vulnerable
People are wired for relationship. We often tend to recognize that fact in our own peer groups and intimate relationships, but the principal can get lost when we consider our kids.
The parent to child relationship is one of the most important and impacting in their lives, and we often don’t recognize it until they’ve grown and we suddenly realize our relationship with them stinks. That revelation can be enough to push us into depression as we wail at the wall, “Oh I was such a terrible mom/dad. Why didn’t I do things differently?” And that wall is so unforgiving.
Our kids need intimacy with us and we need it with them. Using the example from above, intimacy is taking a moment to calm down before explaining to my son how it makes me feel that he disregarded the rule about liquids and electronics. It’s not just telling him that I’m angry, but that I’m hurt and here’s why. My heart opens instead of my ire.
“…We must purpose in our hearts to maintain an attitude towards our children that communicates this message: ‘I will not allow anything to be more important to me than my connection to you.’” –Danny Silk
Intimacy in relationship always carries a risk. It’s the risk of rejection. I’d argue it’s the reason we have trouble opening up to anyone, let alone our kids. But keeping vulnerable hearts behind walls pushes them and any chance of a meaningful relationship away. Our kids can’t relate to parents they don’t really know. However, if we are vulnerable with them they’ll most likely be vulnerable with us. Don’t underestimate their drive and passion to relate to the ones who brought them into the world.
Aside: Kara is an incredible wife and mother, and after the initial shock of water on her work computer, she was able to have a meaningful conversation with our son that promoted relationship.
2. You Don’t Give Them Choices
Nobody likes to be controlled. Control is a knife twisting in our gut. We either submit to the control and resent the person yielding it, or rise up against it…and resent the person. It’s the same for our kids. If we control our kids, they will resent us for it.
We weren’t made to be controlled. We were created to be strong people with minds to think and work with others to come up with the best solution. Perfect world, right? I know, but it doesn’t change the principal.
I can’t imagine any parent wanting their kid to grow up and become a resentful sheep. But that’s what can happen to passive personalities when we command them instead of presenting options. On the other hand, commanding aggressive personalities turns them into jerks.
What if I gave my son the option of selling some of his stuff to pay for the computer or doing extra chores? What if I let him choose what he wants for lunch, when he does his homework, when he spends his allotted time on the computer, how he fixes a problem, starts getting ready for bed, what he wears and how he cuts his hair and so on?
“To fear our children’s poor choices is to teach them to be afraid of freedom.” –Danny Silk
I understand the fear. After all, control comes from fear and never love. Control is all about us and never them. We’re not afraid of how their poor choices (and they will make some) affects them, but how they’ll affect us. But love does whatever it can to help them grow into the best person they can be. The ability to choose is certainly a part of that. Experiencing natural consequences for poor choices is also part of maturing into a competent adult.
If we control our kids, they may love us but won’t like us. If we let them choose, they’ll do both.
3. You Don’t Ask Them Questions
Our kids come to us with emotional issues and conflicts, and our brains go right to problem-solving mode. We might be thrilled that they’re sharing things with us, or angry at the conflict, but we are eager to tell them the way things should be. What we seldom do is ask them questions.
“I’m sorry he/she hurt you. How did that make you feel?” “How did that happen?” “What did they say you did?” “Do you feel like anything they said can be true?” “What are you going to do about this?” “Would you like to tell me about him/her?”
These questions draw us into the conflict together; it makes us safe for them, and they get to be a part of the solution. Resist the urge to get stuck on advice autopilot. They won’t like us for it, even though we might feel like a hero. However, if we make them a part of the team, they’ll keep coming to open their little hearts.
Avoid these three pitfalls, and the relationship you want with your child will begin to grow. Also, I highly recommend you read this book!
Jesse and Kara Birkey
Jesse and Kara live in Tampa Bay, Florida with their two amazing kids. Jesse is a Firefighter/Paramedic and author while Kara is a part time Assistant and full time Wife and Mommy. They are both passionate about marriage and family and helping others succeed where they’ve failed. www.jessebirkey.com