Helping Dad Connect With The Kids – MBFLP 259

A reader asks: “How can we help dads connect with their kids?”

Moms seem to naturally connect with little ones – even before they’re born! It’s not so easy for dads, though. More than one has said, “I can’t communicate with this baby – I’ll let Mama handle it until he’s six or seven, and can understand me.”

That may be common but it’s unnecessary and really, it’s giving up precious time in your child’s life. It’s true, you’ll have a different relationship when they reach that age, but that’s true for every age – and the longer you put off your child, the harder it might become to build bridges later.

So what can be done about it?

First off, don’t let it become a source of contention between husband and wife. If she raises the issue, he needs to step back a bit and ask, “Lord, is it true?” rather than getting defensive.

Recognize that “connecting” isn’t magic and mystical – it’s just a matter of spending time and interacting with your kids.

Train yourself to be intentional about “dad time.” Hal used to de-compress on the commute home, trying to mentally close the office door behind him and re-focus his mind on his roles of husband and father when he got home. That’s not obvious when you’re working from home, though – you have to remind yourself to step away from work and notice your family around you.

Practice some self-denial. The world really plays on our natural desire for our own needs and interests. Certainly there’s a need for some rest and recuperation just to keep yourself healthy and strong! But being available for your children’s needs means your own will have to wait sometimes. Patience is a fruit of the Spirit – it should not surprise us that we don’t naturally abound in it! (continued … )

Disciple Like Jesus Did

Take your kids along when you can. The American theologian Jonathan Edwards had eleven kids and responsibility for several churches in colonial New England. Whenever he traveled to another village, he took a child along. Even when they’re very little, Dad can bring along the baby or the toddler when he runs an errand. Take the opportunity to talk with them about what you’re doing – even if they can’t talk back, they’ll grow accustomed to your voice and they’ll learn more than you realize!

Invite your kids into your work. Men seem to communicate better shoulder-to-shoulder – working together on some project. Whatever task comes to hand, ask one of your kids to join you – “Come on, let’s change the oil on the car,” or “Let me show you how to unstop a toilet.” Allow for additional time and distraction; it won’t be as efficient as doing the job solo, but it’s important time for training and relationship. What if they’re not interested? Keep asking, and sometimes, don’t give them the option – just bring them.

Jesus trained His disciples this way – He lived and worked with them, and He explained and asked and answered questions as they came alongside Him in ministry.

And don’t be shy about inviting yourself into their world, either. “Hey there – whatcha building?” “I haven’t read that book – what do you think about it?” Initiate conversations! Ask open ended questions. Assume that they can understand and respond, and see if you can draw them out.

Remember that you can’t schedule a heart’s opening – you have to be there when they’re ready to share. That means the time you invest simply being with your children and interacting with them will open doors and opportunities for deeper conversation and counsel.

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Doubling Down on Seventeen – MBFLP 206

We hear from a lot of parents who are struggling with their eleven-year-olds – the preteen uproar is real! But a close second is parents who are wrestling with an older teen – typically a seventeen-year-old. They don’t feel the respect or obedience, they are experiencing pushback and defiance, and they wonder how to make this kid toe the line again. This episode, we look at that question and how we’d answer it – first hint, there’s an underlying problem that you can do something about, without having to change your child or get their buy-in! (keep reading)


What’s the problem?

Society has moved the goalposts. In 1920, it was expected that a 15- or 16-year-old was grown-up enough to find a job or start a family. Now, according to Georgetown University, 65% of jobs in available in the year 2020 will require at least some college education to qualify – that’s two-thirds of all jobs, just two years from now.

That’s telling young people “You’re not old enough to be an adult until you’re in your mid-twenties.” No wonder psychologists Joseph and Claudia Allen say, in Escaping the Endless Adolescence, “Twenty-five is the new fifteen.”

At the same time, the onset of puberty comes four- to five years sooner than it did in 1920. Our teenagers are gaining adult bodies, adult temptations, adult desires, long before they have adult opportunities – whether or not they’re emotionally mature by that time. They are feeling like grown-ups earlier than ever before, even if they can’t live that way.

And studies tell us that frequently, the parent-child relationship is strained or broken in the preteen years – and a rocky time as teenagers often started with the tween years. By the time they’re 17 or 18, they may have long-standing habits of bad interaction – and often, we parents do, too.

So what can be done?

Recognize the transition to adulthood doesn’t happen on the eve of their 18th birthday. We need to be training our teenagers in mature thinking and behavior from their early preteen years. That means we need to …

Recognize their growing adulthood. – They are feeling more and more grown up, and in many ways, they are. We found it helpful to start thinking and speaking of them as young adults, and expecting them to act that way.

Transition parenting from “director” to “advisor.” – Your younger children need your active direction – they need you to be a benevolent dictator! But your teens and young adults need you as an advisor. They need to learn to ask their own questions and do their own research, then make decisions for themselves – not wait for orders nor wrench themselves free of your influence. You want to become a trusted counselor to them, not to order them around but to offer your wisdom and experience as guidance.

Learn to listen. – Often our kids feel like we never listen to them. We are so focused on the parent-child aspect we fail to appreciate them as people. One way to improve that is to always engage a bid for attention: Whenever they speak or whenever they want to show you something, make a point to look up and make eye contact, then engage whatever is on their mind.

Dr Jeff Myers of Summit Ministries says that we must teach truth, but it is only received in the context of a relationship – a relationship of love, trust, and respect.

Psalm 116:1-2 says,
I love the LORD, because He has heard
My voice and my supplications.
Because He has inclined His ear to me,
Therefore I will call upon Him as long as I live

We want that kind of relationship with our adult kids – we want them to love us and we want them to call us when we’re apart. And what does this passage say? “I love the LORD because He has heard and inclined His ear to me.”

If you want your kids to listen to you, then you need to listen to them.
If you want them to pay attention to you, you need to pay attention to them.
If you want them to love and respect you, then you need to love and respect them – in a way that they appreciate!

If you have a 16- or 17-year-old and you find yourself struggling, why not give this a try? Simply recalibrate your own thinking to see them as a young adult—who still needs coaching and guidance, sure! – but a young adult who is truly a complete person with his own needs and concerns and dreams and fears – not just “your kid” who needs correction.

Try reaching out to them as though they were a young adult not in your family.

Treat them with courtesy and not just command.

And see if they don’t respond!


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