I had lunch with a friend today.
I treasure time with friends. We laugh, we cry, and I always leave a changed person. Our conversations inevitably “stir each other to good works.” (see Hebrews 10:24)
Today, I pass on to you something I gleaned from her that I believe all parents need to hear. This can mend relationships, reveal unknown hurts, bring to light changes needed in our own hearts and priorities, change the tones in our homes, restore the hearts of our kids so that they “doth safely trust in us,” and redeem the time we have with them.
My friend, who like me also has a heap of children ranging from young adults to still being homeschooled, said that one by one she has been humbly asking each child this question:
“When you have your own children, what will you do differently?”
This question, with its carefully crafted wording to allow for possible never-before-shared hurts, has given her tremendous insight into the deepest parts of her children’s souls. Their responses have prompted her own heart-searching. And consequently, she has made significant adjustments into her family’s activities and priorities…and even sought to better the ways and tone in which she communicates with them.
This question (or your own version) when asked with humility and a true desire to do things differently, reveals secret scars to the soul, giving us the beautiful privilege of restoring hearts.
The information shared gives an important glimpse into the thoughts, passions, fears, insecurities, hurts and even deep desires of our child. The words shared reveal changes that we can incorporate for the good… in our parenting, our home life, our demeanor, our tone of voice, our schedules, priorities, and the activities in which we invest our time. It most definitely reveals our blind spots. And, this is a good thing. We should always be about the business of confronting self for the purpose of loving others and glorifying Christ.
So, don’t ask until you’re ready to be the one to make changes.
Hearing your child reply, “I will make sure mine are allowed to do sports” may hurt. You may feel offended that out of all the sacrifices you make on his behalf THIS is the thing he brings up! You may even have valid reasons that you want to justify. Caution: Resist the urge to justify or point out your all-important perspective. Focus on him, allowing his heart to be poured out to you. For some children this may come in the form of few words and for others, it may be many. Listen to understand.
Maybe the child feels overlooked, unimportant on your list of priorities, left-out among his peers or siblings, feels he has true talent but is not supported, or is crying out that he does not want to continue with piano lessons which he feels are your interest, not his.
“Do you realize how tired I am after work?” “But, you’ll be glad you took piano lessons one day.” “You could get hurt” or “I just can’t do it all, son” are about you. By interjecting, even if true, you are squelching the very thing you are wanting to accomplish – transparent words landing safely onto your ears so that you can restore hearts and make changes to meet his heart’s cry.
Your attempt to justify will cut open communication. Deep in the heart, he’ll think, “You said for me to be honest. I was. You didn’t really care to hear my thoughts. Next time I won’t speak up. My thoughts don’t matter anyway.”
And, although he wouldn’t use these specific words, let me bottom line the message felt:
“My heart doesn’t safely trust in you.” (heart=thoughts, opinions, perspective)
Receive his perspective with grace. “I didn’t realize that, son. I’m really sorry that I didn’t notice your desire to do that. Thanks for sharing. What sports are you most interested in?” “Tell me more about your interest in this.”
If there’s a legitimate concern, allow him to be a part of the process of finding solutions. Better is, “The logistics to get you there are difficult, but I see your enthusiasm and want to make this happen for you. You get the schedule, and let’s find some friends to carpool with. Thanks for sharing your heart with me, son.” This communicates a supportive message validating his thoughts.
Lord, may we be fully devoted to being parents who humbly invite our children to reveal their hearts and hurts. May we receive them with grace. May we be intentional to make changes that reflect what we’ve heard. May our homes be ones in which hearts are safe.
Rhonda prayingforchildrentobeheard ellis