Fostering a Lifelong Relationship with My Kids
When I had young children, I was lucky enough to have a couple of wonderful mentor moms in my life. They compassionately shared with me what they learned when their kids were young, including, how to foster a lifelong relationship with your children. They had several good suggestions for me that I’ll share with you now. One mom suggested creating an acrostic using your family’s last name. For each letter of your last name, list a character trait that you want to cultivate in your family. For example, using the first three letters of my last name, McA, we could select the character traits of: mannered, caring, and attentive. After creating your family acrostic, frame it and hang it in a place that your family will see frequently.
Another suggestion they had was to work together to develop a family vision statement and display it so that all members can see it. This fosters a sense of unity with one another. My mentor moms also advised focusing on your marriage because a united marriage fosters a secure relationship with your children.
Behind these wonderful ideas is the thought that kids who positively identify with their childhood family will grow up to be secure, confident adults who want to maintain a relationship with members of their family after they become independent.
I was so lucky and blessed to have these Godly mentors in my life, and I haphazardly and inconsistently implemented many of their terrific suggestions. But something else influenced the relationship I had with my children even more than these excellent ideas.
It was an exchange that I witnessed between a mother and daughter when I was just a teenager. I frequently baby-sat their two boys and younger sister. One night I reported for baby-sitting duty when their daughter was a pre-teen. She walked into the kitchen as I was talking with her mom, and she excitedly pointed to my purse and exclaimed, “THIS is what I was talking about!”
Evidently, she and her mom had recently gone shopping for her first purse, but their excursion was unsuccessful. I don’t know what she was looking for, maybe it was a zipper, or an outside compartment or some sort of special clasp, but whatever it was, she spotted it on my purse. Try to imagine the scenario. Your daughter has probably been begging to go purse shopping for weeks or maybe even months. You recognize her desperation to carry a purse, but at the same time, you know this isn’t an urgent need. She’s only ten or eleven! But you love your daughter, so you carve out time for a mother-daughter shopping trip. After your sacrifice, your fussy daughter doesn’t like ANY of the purses. Maybe you went to several stores and looked at dozens, perhaps even hundreds of purses, but NONE of them were acceptable to your discerning daughter. Would you be frustrated that your mission wasn’t accomplished? Would you be upset or dismayed over the wasted time? Or maybe you’re just left feeing uncertain about how to proceed and now a recurring concern nags your everyday thoughts.
As I stood in the kitchen of that family all those years ago, I could understand both the mother and the daughter’s perspective. What would you have said if you were the mom in that situation?
That mom’s response to her daughter stuck with me and influenced how I nurtured my children twenty years later. Instead of ignoring or minimizing her daughter’s interruption, this mom briefly paused our discussion and kindly responded to her daughter, “Oh. NOW I understand.” She didn’t look upset or frustrated in any way. She looked … happy, and genuinely interested to finally understand what her daughter had been trying to find. She conveyed respect and support for her daughter, even though this purse would no doubt be used for short time and soon discarded for a more sophisticated model.
This wise mom knew that the shopping trip was never about the purse. It was about a fragile pubescent pre-teen nervously trying to figure out how to become an adult. She saw through her daughter’s fussiness and into her heart. She knew that when we meet the needs of our child’s heart, we’ll foster a relationship for a lifetime.
There comes a time when our kids mature and instead of learning to walk independently, they start to walk toward their independence. These are tough years, sometimes referred to as the “rocky teenage” years. They can be difficult because our children are grasping for, even demanding, their independence while we sometimes feel reluctant to release our grasp. Not only are we learning how to trust their decision making, but we also know how challenging and harsh the world can be and our instinct is to protect them while we still can.
Somewhere in this difficult era is the pivot point where we need to shift from helping them mature to expressing our encouragement in them, and it’s a blurry time where sometimes they need our authority and other times, they need for us to respect their tender needs.
This is the delicate dance that the mom of the family I baby-sat did so beautifully and I was so impacted by it that it became the foundation of my own parenting playbook when I had children over twenty years later.
Psalm 139:1-3 (ESV) says, “O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways.”
This verse states how thoroughly God understands us, and our kids want to be understood too. As their parents, we need to strive to understand the heart behind their behavior.
You can do this by asking God to give you wisdom and discernment. Our goal should be to fan into flame who God designed them to be. That means knowing when to raise them and when to start to release them by respecting some of their decisions and choices.
When you sacrificially become their biggest cheerleader (and wisest, because you prayed for wisdom and discernment), you will earn their trust. This deepens your relationship with them and before you know it, you will have traveled a lifetime having captured a place in their heart while holding their hand forever.
At MomQ we believe that motherhood is a calling from God. While it is both a privilege and an honor, it is by no means easy! Moms have a lot of questions/concerns and need caring support along their journey. Whether you are a brand new mom or a little more seasoned, MomQ is here to help you fulfill your God given role. Don’t see a group in your area? Contact us today about starting one in your community!
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