Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Cultivating Relationship

One of the most important things you’ll ever do is to cultivate relationships with your children. How will you keep the doors of communication open during difficult times? If you haven’t nurtured the relationship ahead of time, it’ll be almost impossible when the going gets rough.

Here’s a few suggestions for now—ahead of time:

1. Make a study of their interests. My oldest son’s a "man of few words" so I knew that to keep the lines of communications open, I needed to take an interest in the things that interested him. He loves basketball. I learned about basketball. I know the difference in a "three-two" defense and a "two-three" defense. I know about a "box and one" defense. I know the proper way to execute a pick and roll. A friend overheard us talking basketball and commented, "I didn't understand a thing you said."

I didn't learn these things to become an expert or to learn to coach. I did them because I wanted to communicate with my son. My son's now 28, and we still talk basketball. He lives five hundred miles away but he'll still call or text to let me know a game's on T.V. Since I took the time to learn one sport that interested him, he now assumes I'm interested in his side interests. He'll call me to watch a surfing clip on the internet or invite me to go to a concert with him. Neither one of us are perfect people (gasp, shock!) but we do have a relationship that has remained firm even during the difficult times.

2. Make a study of the child himself. My younger son’s the sweetest and the hardest worker ever. He's the type who I never had to ask to take the garbage out. He noticed and did it himself. (I promise, he's real, not one of my fictional characters.) However this sweet and hard-working son is VERY sensitive to verbal discipline. When we homeschooled, I tried to make a study of his learning style. He lands strongly on the auditory side. Not me, I'm so visual I can't remember a name without seeing it first. So I tried to teach him algebra by insisting, "look at this". I struggled to believe that anyone could learn concepts in algebra without looking. He didn't need to look, just needed to hear it. You can tell by the subject matter that it took me quite a while to accept this. But as I realized how auditory he was, I also realized how much words could either wound or bless him. A word of praise will put a song in his heart, and a word of condemnation will crush his spirit. 

3. Give the gift of time. A lot of my interests got put on hold while the kids were growing up. It means I'm a late-bloomer in my fiction-writing business, but I do have strong relationships with my kids to this day. They are 28 and 25 years old, but even though they live over 500 miles away I get text messages, e-mails and phone calls daily. 

4. Give unconditional love. Kids mess up. I messed up. We're all a bunch of messer-uppers, but one thing for sure. We love each other no matter what. This only comes, I believe, from an understanding of God's unconditional love.

What do you do to cultivate a strong relationship with your children?

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