Dads, do you want to know one specific activity you can do to gather information that will help restore relationships within your home? A way to intentionally understand your child more deeply? An activity that gives you a game plan on how to best invest into the HEART of your child? Want to know how to have a greater influence on your child’s life than his peers?

(and Moms, want to encourage the relationship between your husband and your child?) Here’s one way:

Have a BIRTHDAY BREAKFAST with your child. (actually, you can do this anytime).

But, it’s a little more than eating breakfast together.

It’s not about the food, it’s about the conversation.

Have a questionnaire – one like this one… in which you ask questions with specific goals in mind.

The goal of your time together is to prove you are a safe place for him to share his heart.  This means truly listening to the words spoken and hearing the heart of your child in his responses.

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You don’t have to ask ALL of these questions, maybe just a few. The goal isn’t to fill in all the blanks. The goal is to hear the heart of your child.

Look over them and choose some or all… depending on the attention span and age of your child. Mostly, you’re wanting to choose questions that give insight into what floats their boat or is troubling to them. You’re goal is to understand them and know how to have their heart.

We first heard about this idea when our oldest child was in elementary school. From a mentor to us, Charles Winge. We are so thankful!

This annual check-up is good if you truly want to deepen your relationship. And, don’t beat yourself up if you miss a year or two here and there.

It asks some tough questions in which your child has the opportunity to speak into your life about things that interest him, revealing pieces to his heart… and about specific things that bother him…including what YOU do. (ouch)

You’re not ready if you’re going to be defensive…wanting to clarify or justify…or to set the record straight.

If you’re not truly going to hear his heart and provide a safe place for his true thoughts, then you’re not ready.  Mostly, if you’re not willing to accept that you may have some things to change in yourself or in your family as a result of what he shares with you, then you’re not ready.

Your child longs for a great relationship with you.

Your child wants to be close with you.

And, he wants you to be proud of him.

“Fathers provoke not your sons to wrath.” Ephesians 6:4

This verse is indeed saying that YOU (and I) as parents own part of provoking our kids to wrath. The child speaks up, and we shut him down. We make a rule and give no room for his voice to make a respectful appeal. That’s one way of provoking… and not only does this hurt him, it pushes his heart from the safety of yours.

Most likely, whatever your child says that he would prefer you NOT to do (that’s a question on the questionnaire), will reveal a pattern of hurt that you may be completely unaware of, like..

“Dad, I don’t like it when you call me ‘turtle’ at the race.”

You could laugh it off and say, “Son, I’m just kidding.” Or justify and say, “Everyone else thinks that’s funny.” Or have a multitude of other defensive responses that actually reveal that you are NOT teachable and you are NOT trustworthy of his deepest thoughts.

and, without you even realizing it, you have PROVOKED your child.

How? Because revealing his heart with you wasn’t safe.

Don’t expect him to answer any more questions honestly.


Your child longs to be able to share his heart. You have an opportunity to turnaround a relationship that is distant or maybe even rebellious…

  • by talking with: not at. Share your own shortcomings. (that’s humility – and it opens doors to communication.)
  • by listening: allowing him to talk without being interrupted. Allowing what seems like long moments of silence. Giving time for your child to think or process at his pace.
  • By responding: graciously and with gentleness.
  • By apologizing: nothing bridges hearts together more quickly than one truly being broken over the way he has hurt or offended another.  Say, “I know I was WRONG for …”  or “I see now how I hurt you by doing…”  and, “Will you forgive me?”
  • By changing: If your child said he doesn’t like it when you yell, then stop. If he reveals you belittle, then stop.
  • By coming alongside of: He may reveal frailties. Maybe your little boy reveals that he’s scared of the dark or that he’s being made fun of at school. You can listen, talk, encourage, pray with him, and help him with these things.
  • By investing : Be intentional about the ways in which you spend time with him. If you like sports, but he doesn’t, switch gears… get into his world. Seek to encourage him in the areas of his interest.
  • By expressing: Say I LOVE YOU. (I know many grown men who have yet to hear their father say these words.) Tell him you’re proud of him.
  • By studying your child: Be intentional to look for the uniqueness in each child. One of the greatest gifts you could ever give your child (and anyone, actually) is to STUDY them. What talents, skills, passions, interests, and fears are there? What character qualities are needed? What hands-on skills need to be mentored?
  • By encouraging: point out strengths, genuinely compliment specific traits you see. Come alongside him to set up opportunities to better his skills, pursue his interests, develop his talents.
  • By being present: Stop your world (your interests, your priorities, your tasks) to just be present in his. What does he like? Join in. Take an interest.

Consider an annual birthday breakfast/questionnaire with each of your children. And, if you miss a year here and there, it’s fine. Keep the questionnaires in a file folder for each child. You’ll really be glad you saved these.

Keep the goal in mind – to know the heart of your child and to make changes in yourself and within your family so that each child’s heart is safe with you.

Rhonda mayDadsbeintentionaltoknowtheirkids ellis

Join me on Instagram and Facebook @theRhondaEllis 

  1. Mel

    Mel thiscouldbeimplementedinaclassroomwithyourstudents,teachers Hewiett

    • Rhonda

      yes, indeed! Calling all teachers!! Calling all teachers. You can cultivate a classroom using the same principles as you would in “cultivating a home.”

  2. Kelly

    I like your questionnaire! Matt and I alternate taking each child out for an ice cream or something. We go down the line, usually one or two of them each week. Sometimes we have really good conversation, sometimes not so much. These are some good questions to have on hand when my brain is feeling wilted. Thank you for the ideas on how to use them.

    • Great idea to take the kids out one by one for ice cream. Yum! I’m glad the list is helpful. Have fun. 🙂

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