April 4, 2008

You're probably wondering how one question can change your relationship with your teenager. It's difficult to believe that something so important could be so simple. You may be feeling angry, confused, hurt or perhaps even alone; but yes, this question can improve or even save your relationship with your teenager.

The tears streamed down Kathi's face as she looked away from her parents. The Jones's were in a classic battle. Neither Kathi nor her parents were feeling loved by each other. Mrs. Jones remembered a time when Kathi used to sit in her lap and stare endlessly into her eyes. The love between them used to be so strong. Those were the days when Mrs. Jones believed that Kathi and her would always be the best of friends. But today was much different. Now their days were filled with yelling and constant battles that were almost hateful. Where had the days gone when Kathi would trustingly leap into her daddy's arms?

As problems develop in relationships, families might spend money on counseling, family conferences, books, and videos. These are important tools for gaining insight, yet most parents don't realize that they have the world's greatest relational instructors living right under their own roofs. We believe that each person has a natural insight into what they need to build a strong relationship. It's like we're born with built-in parenting manuals. The Jones's knew what they wanted— they wanted a happy family. They longed for those lost days of comfort and joy, where they would endlessly play together to pass the time away.

If asked, most families could create a list of the things that they need from each other to have a good relationship. For example, a wife might say that respect, honor, quality time, sharing housework, and going to church are her needs from her family. The key is that each person has different needs and desires which help make a strong relationship. Therefore, the different members of the family are all gold mines of relational skills. All they have to do is learn to tap into their built-in parenting manuals.

Before we get to the one question that can improve or even save a families relationship, two preliminary questions need to be answered. First, determine the type of relationship your family wants to have. By using a scale from zero to ten, with zero being terrible and ten being a great family, a powerful question to ask is where would you like the relationship to be? By asking this type of question, you can clearly see the kind of relationship your family longs to have. Naturally, almost every person answers that they would like to have a nine or a ten. After all, how many of us want to live in misery?

Next, evaluate where the relationship is currently. Ask your family members on a scale from zero to ten, overall, where would you rate the family's relationship today? If a difference occurs between the different members of your family, don't let this discourage you. Be sure to give each other the necessary time to share why you rated the family relationship the way you did. Each opinion can provide such valuable information.

The next question is the crucial one. In fact, in some ways it doesn't matter how the other questions were answered. Potentially, this question can flip open the pages to each other's built-in parenting manuals. The question that can improve or even save a relationship or marriage is: As you consider our family's relationship, what are some specific things we can do over the next week that would move us closer to a ten?

As this question is being answered, listen for the exact things your family members are communicating. The power of this question is that the focus of the relationship is changed. Instead of feeling overwhelmed because the focus is on the problems, listing the ways to improve the relationship turns the attention towards solutions. Being in the middle of a family conflict can feel like you're stuck in quicksand. The more you dwell on the problem and who's to blame, the faster and deeper one sinks. However, solutions are like a rope tied to a tree. They provide the means to change, therefore freeing the relationship from sinking hopelessly in the quicksand.

As your family begins to answer these questions, remember that they may be reluctant at first. Your family may fear that feelings might get hurt. It's crucial to patiently give each other the time to talk. Consistently reassure each other about the security of your relationship—no matter what is said or how things are rated. If you all feel secure in your love, almost without exception you'll be able to provide many helpful specifics which can strengthen the family God has given you.

We are convinced that answering this type of question on a weekly basis could reduce long standing family problems. The key is remembering that love is a decision and not merely a feeling. Many times we do not feel like loving our different family members, especially the teenagers. We can, however, make the decision to love them by doing the things that strengthen the relationship. Questions like the ones mentioned here can help as you make the decision to love each person in your family.

© Copyright 2003 Smalley Relationship Center