Early in our parenting, my wife and I read two books which proved to be great tools in our parenting journey. One was Relief for Hurting Parents by Buddy Scott. The other was How to Really Love Your Child by Ross Campbell M.D. These books created an overall strategy or way of looking at our role as parents, especially in terms of love and discipline. Scott’s book was about dealing with teens in crises and my children were not in crises nor were they teens at the time I read the book. However, the principles I read were incredibly helpful in understanding logical consequences. Dr. Campbell’s book was helpful in making immediate application of loving methods of communication and discipline.
Buddy Scott describes the basis of this in the following terms. “We as parents must raise our children consistent with how he or she will have to behave to be successful in the real world (world outside our home).”
He goes on to describe many concepts that will help you grind out the fundamentals. I’ll list just six of them here:
1. If you are rude to the suppliers, don’t expect new supplies.
2. If you don’t do your part in the family, then you don’t get family privileges.
3. Mess it up, clean it up.
4. Abuse it, lose it.
5. Waste it, replace it.
6. Want more, pay the extra.
If those are the fundamentals, then here are three plays from Campbell’s book that help score parenting touchdowns.
The first one I would simply call “eye contact.” That’s the same way Campbell described it and it has to do with being a great listener. The Bible says this about listening:
Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance. Proverbs 1:5
He who answers before listening-that is his folly and his shame. Proverbs 18:13
Eye contact is looking deep into our child’s eyes, so deep as to be able to see the color of their eyes. As they speak you close your mouth and don’t say a word while they speak. When we do this they feel heard. Trust me when I say our kids, and our spouses, have a greater need to be heard than a need to be taught. So often we think our job as parents is to teach our kids all the great stuff we know, and as important as that might be, it is not quite as important as our kids’ need to be heard by their parents. Think about it in the spiritual context; God never interrupts us when we pray. I think that is because He knows our need to be heard. If we really believed God was only a teacher or commander then we would fatigue of that relationship rapidly. It is His listening that causes us to feel loved at a deep level. Guidance and direction are great and necessary. They’re right behind being heard.
The second great parenting strategy is what Campbell calls “meaningful touch.” Throughout the Bible we see references to affection and its powerful impact in people’s lives. The apostle Paul often ended his letters with an admonition to greet one another with a “holy kiss” which is affection without an impure motive. We have a tremendous need for loving affection that is holy, pure, safe and unselfish. I heard Chuck Swindoll say in a radio broadcast 20 years ago “we all need 4 hugs a day.” My mentor and friend Robert McGee used to say, “Dads, if you’re not hugging your daughters, somebody else is.”
I remember years ago a counseling client (a mom) telling me about her 9 yr old daughter standing in front of the mirror looking at herself and then asking her mom, “Do you think Daddy thinks I’m pretty?” Her mom said, “Your daddy thinks you are beautiful. The interesting thing about this story is that the little girl’s daddy had passed away when she was 3. She had a tremendous need to know that if her daddy was alive, would he express that kind of loving affirmation and affection towards her.
The third strategy Campbell described was “focused attention.” This is time set aside without distraction where we practice the first two strategies of eye contact and meaningful touch.
In our home with three girls we would go on “dates with dad.” These dates were not elaborate but they were activities I would do with each daughter individually that were meaningful to them and also fit their personality. For example, one daughter was very introverted so we would stay away from McDonalds and its play land. Too much stimuli! Whereas, another daughter and I could go to McDonalds and she would not be distracted by all the kids playing around us. Obviously these things changed as they matured but the principle pretty much remained the same. Do an activity they enjoy where you can listen intently, express loving attention, and have focused attention on them. Boys need the same thing but the activity could look very different.
To be good at this, or should I say great at this, you’ll have to sacrifice at least three things to make it happen.
The first is energy. We all wake up with a limited supply of energy and the moment we wake up we start making decisions as to who and what gets that investment of our energy. Our investment flows out of what we value. If your life were a store what would the price tags say? Do the tags need to be rearranged? You have to save some energy for this after you’ve done your other job. You can’t come home totally depleted and pull this off effectively.
The second is time. Time has to be scheduled for focused attention on your kids. Time has to be set aside for this. If you do this when you have the time, then you’ll rarely see it happen because other things will come up that you made time for. This will only happen because its value to you pushed other things out of your schedule and calendar. To say yes to this will mean you said no to other things you probably enjoy and value as well.
The third thing you will sacrifice is money. Probably money not earned “yet.” You will have to sacrifice making one less sales call, putting out one less fire, solving one less problem, or working one less shift in order to provide focused attention. Focused attention with your child is not something you add to your schedule. It is something you replace in your schedule and delete something that used to be there.
As you can see, this is not rocket science, but the dividends are huge and I mean huge. Little kids, little problems. Big kids, big problems. Start (while your kids are young) requiring them to face the consequences of their actions. Start while they are young communicating your love in these meaningful ways. If your kids are not young anymore, then start wherever they are. It will impact their lives in positive ways for the rest of their lives. I promise.
I welcome your comments. Have a great day.
God bless, Matt.