When your child makes a mistake, how do you respond?
When he comes home with a poor grade, a note from the coach, a detention slip—what do you say?
Or when she bursts into tears over the mean girl drama happening at school—do you listen to her heart, or just her words?
And when your kids get excited over something you don’t understand, cheer for something you think is dumb, or desire something you believe (from your mature point of view) isn’t worth pursuing—how do you relate?
As parents, it’s our job to supply the support, training, guidance and accountability our kids need, at every stage of their lives. What’s the best way to do that?
It starts with putting ourselves in their shoes.
Remember yourself at their age—True, not many of us can recall our own toddlerhood, but I sure remember being in middle school. High school. Third grade, even. Do you? Try thinking back to your own juvenile perspective and realize you probably weren’t any wiser than your children are. Not only that, but also consider what you valued and how you viewed friends, family, school, expectations and rules. Then empathize from that place of understanding. Kids are not adults. They don’t possess our logic, our self-control, or our hindsight. So let’s be careful not to parent under presumptions that our children know what they don’t know.
Seek to understand their world—Get to know your children’s friends, teachers, classroom, youth group, sports team or daycare environment. Consider the pressures they’re facing, which in many cases are more intense than the pressures we faced at their age. Social media and what I call “youth specialization” (pressure to choose and excel in a particular sport or activity from a young age) are just two factors coloring a child’s reality today that most of us didn’t have to navigate when we were young. The more we understand our kids’ environment, the better we can communicate with wisdom rather than ignorance or speculation.
Pray—Finally but never least of all, let’s always and constantly lift our children up to the Lord. The Holy Spirit can reveal insight that we are not capable of deducing on our own. Remember God loves our kids even more than we do, and what He allows in their lives is somehow going to work out for their good—and even ours. Perhaps one of the reasons He gives us kids is so we can learn to be more like God, the Father of us all. Let’s never stop asking Him for wisdom.
“Cry out for insight, and ask for understanding. Search for them as you would for silver; seek them like hidden treasures. Then you will understand what it means to fear the Lord, and you will gain knowledge of God.” (Proverbs 2:3–5, NLT)
What to Read Next: My Single Smartest Rule for Parenting Well