I am an anxious parent. Scratch that. Petrified parent. I read parenting books constantly. And the sole motivation for reading these books is the sheer terror I feel when I consider that the solutions to the problems I face as a parent are already solved in a book somewhere. And I haven’t read it yet. I have three daughters. They are all extremely bright and independent and beautiful. I’m sure they already intimidate the guys in their classes. Heck, they intimidate me! But I think I’ve already picked up on some things that will be foundation for my relationship with them. For example I have figured out that when raising daughters, the issue at hand is rarely the real issue. The meltdown over not eating vegetables has little to do with hunger. It’s usually a trigger for latent emotion stored up from a hurtful event earlier in the day (or week). I’m a guy so I assume it’s actually about vegetables. Guys, listen up: it’s not about vegetables. The next part of that process is to connect with your daughter in conversation so that she will eventually tell you what the real issue is. To me, that process is one of the most fascinating things about raising daughters…it’s kinda like a treasure hunt. I’ve got some good theories, too – things I won’t be able to test for a long time. For example, I have a hunch that the resistance I will feel from my children at age 16 will return to our relationship when they are 36 if I continue to treat them as I did 20 years earlier. So, I’m thinking about those things now as well…while I try to figure out what’s behind the vegetable “meltdown.”
One of the areas of ministry I oversee at my church is “discipleship.” That simply describes the process of people becoming more like Jesus. It’s a tricky business. I can provide “avenues” for others to engage God. But I can’t make people choose to deepen their relationship with God. Ultimately, I feel the burden for the spiritual well-being of our congregation. However, they are not my most important “calling.” The best place for me to help someone become more like Jesus is in my own home. My children are my ultimate disciples. People at church may get my ideas and programs. And I can counsel and give spiritual direction to them an hour at a time. But rarely can I be available to them like any true opportunity for discipleship needs. That side of me belongs to my children. They get my presence and my ability to teach in the moment.
Parents miss this. We fill our children’s lives with quotes and adages and morality tales as we whisk from one task to another. But we often forget about the most important thing: modeling the beliefs we desire to instill in our children. We provide them no context in which to grasp our “wise words.” So our words fall flat. I call this “windowless” parenting. Children often have no context or “window” to see why parents feel the way they do. They see no action associated with what we tell them are our most cherished beliefs. We can tell our children to reserve judgment and refrain from gossip, but they listen to every phone conversation we have. We can tell them to be honest and authentic, but they hear how we mask our true intentions with others. We can tell them mom and dad love each other, but they rarely believe it until we ask them to not interrupt us while we tell our spouse about our day.
Be a window for your children. They are your disciples.