By Keith Lee, Associate Pastor
The idea that parents are the main spiritual leaders for their children sometimes gets an unfavorable response from parents because they are intimidated and feel burdened. However, as they think more about it, they start to warm up to it. The real pushback is from the children themselves. Some of them feel exasperated because of their perception that parents are hovering over them-‘helicopter’ parenting. It might be an unfair assessment but I remember when I was a teenager, any kind of input from my parents was received with protests because I felt that they were interfering needlessly.
Therefore, I would like to make three suggestions to help us as parents become better disciplers of our children.
Discipler – one who encourages and enriches new Christians by nurturing their higher calling in Christ.
Many of our children’s problems and dilemmas are not as serious as those that parents face. One of the natural responses to a child who is struggling with issues at school or church is to dismiss the gravity of the situation. We say things like “it’s no big deal” or “you’ll do just fine” or “you’ll get over it.” It might be true that the problem is not as serious as the child believes. But in order for parents to earn the right to speak into their lives, my suggestion is that parents sympathize with their situations. So one suggestion is that you listen with sympathy and understanding when your child approaches you with problems.
Don’t Offer Suggestions or Solutions
Tied with empathetic listening is avoiding the temptation to give advice. My mentor for pastoral counselling would say, “Don’t try to fix me! Can you just listen?” He was making the point that most people don’t want pastors to fix their problems; they just want someone to listen. To be honest it’s easier said than done, so I’m not good at this. However, when I hold my tongue and listen, the person usually works out his/her solution while talking. At the end of the conversation, s/he feels better because while describing the issue, the solution becomes clearer. Remember, don’t try to fix them.
Learn about Their Lives and Context
Lastly, before parents teach their children, my suggestion is that we should orient ourselves to be learners of their world. This became abundantly clear when I was appointed to Trinity as the Youth/Education Pastor. I realized that I didn’t know much about my daughters’ world. I have a long ways to go, because their world is vast with celebrities, ideas, trends and YouTube artists I didn’t even know existed. By orienting myself as a learner of their world and conveying my need to have them inform me, my relationship with them changed drastically. Hopefully, I’m seen as more relevant and sympathetic to their worldview and concerns, so that I’m perceived less as an intruder and more as an insider.
I hope these suggestions can help all of us be great disciplers of our children. The fact is that they need us more than ever. They need our guidance and wisdom, but many times they feel alienated because parents are perceived as those who has tremendous authority and power over them. The power differential between us and our children can be intimidating and may hinder honest interaction (especially when they hit preteen years and up). I pray this article can help you fulfill the great commission in your household.