The Relational Factor: Part 2
- 2003 11 Apr
In his letter to the Christians at Thessalonica, the apostle Paul wrote, "Having thus a fond affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives" (1 Thessalonians 2:7-8, NASB, italics added). Is that a letter that you could write to your own kids either at home, in youth group, or in school? In answering the question of how to raise kids to live in vibrant relationship with Christ according to deeply held Christian convictions, we've been looking at six biblical connecting points that will allow us "to impart the gospel and our very lives" to our children. In a previous article, we looked at the first three points that help us establish intimate connections with our kids: affirmation, acceptance, and appreciation. Here we will discuss the final three connecting points: availability, affection, and accountability.
Connecting Point #4: Availability -
When my son, Sean, was two, he tottered into my office and wanted to play. I was in the middle of working on an important chapter and responded, "Son, how about a little later?" My son went off. Daddy was too busy for him. Two seconds later, my wife Dottie entered the study and pointed out that I wouldn't always have a two-year-old son who would want to play with me. "If we spend time with our kids now," she told me, "they'll spend time with us later." To be available means T-I-M-E. Availability says, "You are truly important." On the flip side, when we're not available, it says, "Yes, I love you, but other things still come ahead of you. You are not really that important. It takes time and effort to make our kids feel important. Granted, there are those times when you can't stop what you are doing. But, if we're honest, there are lots of times when you can stop if you want. Not only are we often over-scheduled, but our children are too. Rather than scheduling a third activity for your child, plan a night at home together. It might be the best investment you've ever made!"
Connecting Point #5: Affection -
Parental affection to a child is like water to a plant, or food for the starving. Affection meets basic physical and psychological needs that don't change as children grow older. Often parents hug and kiss children when they are young, but do so less the older they get. Often teens brush their parents away, insisting that they are grown up and don't need it. Don't believe them! Kids at any age need affection. If they don't get it, they'll fulfill that need in the wrong way. Showing affection creates an all-important atmosphere in which your children can feel secure. Affection should be expressed in a variety of ways-through notes, hugs, and verbally. Telling your children you love them speaks volumes! Not only is it important for parents to express love to their children, but children also derive security in seeing affection displayed between their parents. When I leave a love note for my wife, and my children see it, it says to them, "Dad loves Mom and is committed to her." Nothing builds greater security than that.
Connecting Point #6: Accountability -
Concepts like accountability and responsibility aren't really popular, especially with children. It's easier to do your own thing and not answer to anyone. But life doesn't work that way, does it? Accountability is closely connected to two biblical concepts-submission and obedience. Becoming accountable and responsible is a crucial part of growing up and becoming mature, balanced human beings. To be accountable means submitting to others and ministering to others' needs rather than being worried about your own. If I am willing to be accountable, that means I am humble enough to submit to others. Accountability means that you are "willing and able to be called account, to explain or answer for your actions in a responsible way." When we provide loving accountability to young people, we give them a sense of responsibility.
Whenever parents ask me how they can teach their kids responsibility, I suggest they try becoming accountable to their kids. This puzzles most moms and dads. After all, aren't kids the ones who need to learn to be accountable? Yes, our children need to learn responsibility, but I am convinced that one of the best ways to teach accountability is to model it. Set the example by being accountable to them. I am not suggesting you put your children in charge. Rather, be humble and submissive enough to give your children permission to "call you to account" when you act in an unloving, irresponsible manner. It can get uncomfortable. It is not automatic. But learning how to be accountable and responsible at an early age will help our children develop into responsible, accountable adults.
As we seek to show affirmation, acceptance, appreciation, availability, affection, and accountability to our children, I believe we will open doors into their hearts and lives in order that we may impart our very selves, our beliefs, and our convictions. My prayer is that as we pass on biblical convictions in the context of intimate relationships with our children, we will see God's incredible work in their lives - that one day we will be able to echo to our children Paul's words to the Thessalonian church: "you are our glory and joy" (1 Thess. 2:20, NASB).