A few weeks ago, my family and I were fortunate to head east the day after Christmas and spend 4 days in Ohio with my wife’s family. To say that it was relaxing and rejuvenating would be an understatement. I actually disconnected from my email for several days. I decided before Christmas break that this would be an extremely necessary act for my sake, but mostly my family’s sake.
It wasn’t easy, but, I loved it. For the first time in many months I was able to “unplug” from the usual hustle of work and life and just be in the moment. On the second morning I was sitting in the living room of my in-law’s house when out came a tidal wave of little people. They jumped in my lap and wrapped their tiny hands around my neck. For the next 30 minutes I snuggled with them on the sofa and waited for daybreak. Priceless!
I would’ve missed it had I been consumed by email, text messages, or my twitter feed.
As I sat still, taking in the moment, breath completely gone, the thought came to me- “In this new year, I want to connect more than ever to my family.” This is more important than anything. But it’s really hard for me to do. Sometimes, I’m really bad at putting my devices down and really connecting to my family. How in the world could I connect in the midst of everything I have to do in life? Ever asked this question? If so, you’re not alone! (It’s one of the biggest reasons this blog has the word “Confession” in it’s title! :-))
Here are a few ways I believe you and I can better connect to our children-
1. Make the choice to connect.
The truth is- there isn’t some secret formula or mathematical equation (which is good because I failed algebra) to connecting to your kids. It really comes down to choice. You must choose to put that iPhone down. You must choose to get off your computer and hang out with your family. You must make the choice to connect to your kids. It’s 97% choice, 3% know-how.
2. Lead, don’t lecture.
My wife and I are natural lecturers. She’s from a long line of educators and I was raised by 2 type-A personalities. We can talk your ear off. Plus, being in ministry, we’re both used to teaching and leading. You get the idea. We recently discovered that when talking things over with our children, especially in discipline and correction, we tend to lecture. We do this for really one reason- we want a reaction. Don’t we all as parents? Nothing angers a well-intentioned parent more than when their child gives them the “I don’t care” look. So, we resort to lecturing in order to get a response. The problem is that lecturing almost always causes a child to zone-out.
Think of that college class where the professor spent an hour lecturing. How much do you remember? Children are changed and corrected more by parents who lead them, not those who lecture. The class from college that I remember the most, and was most impacted by, was the class where the professor “led” me to New York City to teach me about urban ministry. He didn’t lecture. You can lead your children in times where discipline is necessary and in times where there are lessons to be taught.
I think the biggest reason I resort to lecturing is that I am connected to so many other things (other people, my phone, my email, social networks, appointments, etc.), and not fully to my kids at times. So when they respond to my direction in a way that frustrates me, I make up for the lost time by lecturing. That might sound strange, but I think we naturally resort to this when we are disconnected in attempt to balance both worlds. The problem is: we can’t be in fully in both worlds. And we cannot manage both worlds simultaneously. Disconnection from work world and engagement into family world is key.
3. Stop thinking that you have a bunch of time.
I’m not a panicky person. I don’t have many worries. But lately it seems my kids are growing faster than I want them to. The daughter I once held tightly in my arms as a baby can almost look my wife in the eye. Scary! And don’t get me started on their “interest” in boys! We get into this mode of thinking that time waits for us. Guess what? It doesn’t. They’re growing, and fast! My challenge to myself and to all of you is this- don’t waste time! Take advantage of every moment you have with your children. Their childhood will be over, and they’ll be heading off to college before you know it.
It’s a tough challenge but it’s one we all need. Personally, I struggle with this a lot. I bet many of you do as well. I’ve found that this is more of a tension we have to manage than a problem we can solve.
Question: What are some other ways you can connect to your kids?
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