Strong Relationships, Part 3
Priority of conversation
This is a big area that fleshes itself out in all of the priorities we have already talked about. As conversation happens regularly in our homes, we have the opportunity to know one another and build life-long relationships.
My son Grant (20) said the fact that we had already made a practice of talking, and him knowing he had the freedom to ask questions, helped him talk with us during the difficult ages of 12-14:
“Our relationship with one another had to be built on more than just living in the same house or sharing activities…or else when you get older and go to school or move away, you won’t have any means of relationship.”
Priority of dinner time together – there are 10,000 challenges to this! It is a talk all it’s own!
The goal: Sitting at the dinner table together each night should be one of the most attractive and beneficial hours of the day. Sometimes it’s not all that exciting. It’s just showing up!
Dinner time provides a wonderful opportunity to train children in the skill and character of showing an unselfish interest in others. Model for and train children how to ask follow-up questions of others so that you truly get to know one another, rather than simply speaking AT one another. As your children get older, the topics get more diverse: politics, morality, a Christian worldview, questions they have. But during the younger years, it will be more simple and instructional.
Whenever dad is going to be home, work toward that being your special meal. Honor your husband before your children. Form new habits: “Daily Daddy Download”, or Daddys’s new “after work debrief” at the dinner table, helped us all, but especially Grant, to know his dad and the stressors he was under daily at work.
Try to avoid just getting your children fed. See this time as an opportunity for all of you to have fellowship with one another. Begin with the preparation time: have one child assist you each day so that you have an opportunity to spend one-on-one time with that child. Dinner Helper was a regular and rotating part of our children’s growing up. Have another child help you clean up. Make it fun! To enjoy lively dialogue, children can take turns telling one thing they learned at school; Mom can ask and expand upon a character trait that they are working on; they can discuss a challenge they are working on at work or school. Attitudes of gratefulness for family and food can be cultivated. Take time to get to know one another, enjoy each other, laugh together. Serious situations can be discussed, prayer needs addressed. Family matters, apologies, all of it! Seize this time as very special and WORK toward one meal together a day as often as you can!
Again, I encourage you to talk early and often about all topics of importance. The Lord, His Word, faith, morality, character, sin, sexuality… Seek to create an environment that is safe, where they desire to talk to you and ask you questions about anything that concerns them before they seek out anyone else. Your goal is to be the first “voice” they hear about all matters that you truly care about. Don’t allow the culture or their peers to become the teacher of your children because you have allowed a “vacuum” simply by your silence.
Practice while they are young - gain confidence and skill at conversing with your children about what you care about while their questions and concerns are of a less serious manner. For example, talk to them early about what God says about their bodies, gender, sexuality. Use correct terminology and use good, age-appropriate books to help you learn to dialogue about these topics.
Early conversations about these topics become critical as they come into the teen years, when so much is changing in their bodies and they are formulating their own ideas and making their faith their own. If you have already made it a practice to talk about anything and everything, they will be more likely to come to you as they try to sort things out in their mind and make right choices.
As Rochelle shared with me, “Every family has a fingerprint, and part of what makes that fingerprint unique are the grooves that were painful.” God makes even these beautiful as He forms our greater story.
Today our three children are in their early adulthood and I am blessed to say that they are some of my dearest friends and are often some of my greatest teachers. I treasure the relationship that I have with each one of them! But I assure you that it did not come about because we had a perfect home, nor a perfect marriage. Our children did not always get along, and God was not always our highest goal, and we certainly made MANY mistakes. We still do! And so will you! But praise God our hope never lies in us. It is to God that we looked for wisdom and grace as we started our marriage and family 28 years ago, and to Him we continue to look as we seek to walk in relationship with one another each day.
One quote I’ll share:
“Even the best parenting is fraught with challenges and disappointments. There is no formula for parenting that guarantees a perfect child.… Ask God to help you in the ways you can be a better parent. Expect His assistance. In His omniscience, He knows not only your weaknesses and sinful indulgences, but your longing to be a better parent. Trust and depend on the Father who does all things with absolute perfection to strengthen your parenting. Trust Him to use you to mold and teach your child exactly according to His plan.”
He is ever faithful!
Part 3 of 4, written by an anonymous wise mama. Stay tuned for the rest!