Welcome! Thanks for joining us for this, our latest post in our year-long blog series we’re calling “Journey Together.” In this post Josh shares 7 tips (his “7 A’s”) to help parents develop great relationships with their kids. Good parenting doesn’t just happen, it’s learned.
The “7 A’s” include Affirmation, Acceptance, Appreciation, Availability, Affection, Approach Their World, and Accountability. If we parents focus on these areas, we’ll significantly improve our family relationships. To watch Josh’s videos on this topic click here. This is good stuff. Let’s dive in!
The #1 Thing Kids Want From Parents
Is it an iPhone? A car? Their own TV? While high on the list, these wants don’t claim the #1 spot. What kids want most from their parent(s) is a happy home life. So not things, but relationship.
Kids want the security of a home life that shelters, supports, encourages, and guides them. A home life that affirms their value. Kids want caregivers — parent(s), grandparents, others — who believe in them and enjoy having them around. In one survey alone, teens overwhelmingly said a happy home life is way more important than being rich.
From the get-go, we crave relationship with our parents. Not gaining that solid connection can have a lasting, negative impact. As an adult, for example, music legend Michael Jackson admitted, “I just wanted a dad. I wanted a father to show me love. But I never once heard my father say, ‘Michael, I love you.’” Clearly, Michael was still hurting from that loss.
If you want to become a better parent, read on! Josh’s 7 relationship tips will help you move from baby steps to confident strides.
Josh’s “7 A’s” for Parents
One of the most effective ways to build relationship with your child is to affirm his or her feelings. To affirm means to “validate or confirm.” What might affirmation look like? It might be telling your kids that you see how hard they are working at developing a new skill. It might be complimenting them on their test grade, or acknowledging how well they handled a tough situation. It might be pointing out areas where they stepped up, without being asked, to do a household task. It might be simply telling them that you’re proud of them.
Tip: Assess if you’re quick to point out when your children mess up, but fail to consistently recognize when they do well.
Our kids want to know that we notice their efforts. But they also need us to affirm their worth when they mess up. Otherwise, we tie their “who” (their person) to their “do” (their actions). That’s not how God sees us! Behaving badly at times doesn’t make us bad people. Behaving selfishly at times don’t make us selfish. It makes us human. Our goal should be to better reflect Jesus — though it might take us a lifetime of small steps to get there. 😉
Never fail to tell your kids how much God is for them! Show them this truth in God’s Word.
Your kids crave knowing that, even on their worst day, you still want them. That you will love them, no matter what. Your acceptance gives your kids a powerful sense of security. Acceptance does not mean that you approve of or endorse all of your child’s actions. What it does mean is that you don’t waver in your belief of their inherent value. You affirm that your love is not conditioned by their actions.
Tip: Don’t make your kids think, act, or sound like you before you show them acceptance. Your child longs to hear you say, “There is nothing you can ever do – NOTHING! – that will cause me to stop loving you.”
If your teen daughter gets pregnant, does she know that you will still love and accept her? If your son lands in jail, does he know the same? Some parents find it really hard to stop punishing their kids for their mistakes and missteps. Perhaps because they overlook their own huge need for grace. God gives us endless chances to grow into our best selves. Let’s do our best to model that grace to our children.
Never fail to tell your kids that God’s love for them is constant. There is nothing they can do to cancel out His love for them!
When we express appreciation to our kids, we gift them with a sense of significance. We remind them that they matter! And we form the habit in ourselves to see the positive. Says Josh, “I’m convinced that the more I caught my three daughters and son doing things right and expressed my appreciation, the less there was to catch them doing things wrong.”
Tip: Parents, what you focus on grows. Focus on finding fault, and fault will grow. Focus on the positive, and your family will glow.
We help our children to become capable and confident when we remind them of their God-given strengths and talents.
Never fail to tell your kids that God delights in their doing their best. And that He made them unique; each person truly is special!
Kids need affection at every age. Our loving words and touch communicates to our kids that they are lovable. That they are worthy of our focus and care. That we’re glad that God has given us the privilege of being their parents.
Josh’s wife, Dottie, shares this personal anecdote from her own childhood:
“My mom had so many creative ways of letting us know how much she delighted in us. One very powerful thing she always did was to warmly greet us every time we’d walk into her presence. It didn’t matter if we had been gone five hours or five minutes! What did this communicate to me? That my mom was happy to just be with me. Did this help me understand that I was lovable and treasured? Absolutely! So when Josh and I had our children, I did the same thing for them. It made perfect sense to me; I had seen it modeled so often.”
Tip: “I love you” doesn’t have to be conveyed only in words.
We can express our love through our smile, our eyes, or appropriate touch — perhaps a caress on the cheek or a tight bear hug. Some families are big huggers. Others like to use high-fives. Others kiss every time they part. Once you learn how your child likes being shown affection, dish it out with gusto.
Never fail to remind your kids that God is fond of them. He created them!
The only way that you and I can demonstration affirmation, acceptance, appreciation, and affection to our kids is if we make ourselves available. Especially if we’re single parents. You might think that your kids don’t need or want you around. But you’re wrong. Your time and focus means the world to them, even if they don’t feel safe in showing it.
A young songwriter penned these lyrics about her absentee dad: “I wear your old clothes, your polo sweater. I dream of another you, the one who would never leave me alone to pick up the pieces – a daddy to hold me. That’s what I needed.”
Tip: “If you spend time with your children now, they’ll spend time with you later. If you love them now, they’ll love you later. If you talk to them now, they’ll listen to you later. If you listen to your children now, they will talk to you later. If you hug them now, they will hug you later.” ~Dottie
The more time you put in, the closer you’ll become. It’s the small, daily, teachable moments that help to cement a deepening connection between us and our children. Our consistent, positive interaction builds a strong foundation of trust that enables us to maintain a connection even during the rocky moments in our relationship.
Never fail to tell your kids that God is ALWAYS with them. Even when they can’t sense Him. Teach them to trust in His goodness, and to relax in His promises of working in their lives.
Approach Their World
When parents show interest in what their kids are interested in, they’re really saying, “I care about you and what makes you you.” You and I need to find out what our kids care about, and then step into those interests to experience them with them. As our kids get older, of course, it’s a good idea to knock before entering. 😉
Tip: If you want to build relationships of substance with your kids, learn what interests them and find ways to support those interests.
Josh admits to having spent a lot of hours playing with his daughter when her Barbie dolls rocked her world. While some dads might think it silly to play with dolls or participate in their daughter’s tea party, Josh says those old memories continue to bring him a lot of pleasure. When his son, Sean, was hot for sports cars, Josh contacted area car dealerships to ask if they would give them test drives. More than a quarter of a century later, Sean still talks about that thrilling afternoon with his dad.
Deep bonding builds as two people enjoy a hobby or activity together. So does understanding.
Never fail to tell your kids that God is interested in every aspect of their life!
Parents, we must show our children affirmation, acceptance, appreciation, affection, availability and a sincere enthusiasm for their world. But we also must balance these relational connecting points with loving limits and boundaries, or our kids won’t learn responsibility. They won’t mature properly. They’ll be only a shadow of their best self.
Tip: As Josh says, “Rules without relationships lead to rebellion.”
Young people do not respond to rules …. they respond to rules within the context of loving, intimate relationship. On a broader scale, this truth applies even to the school classrooms and work environments.
Accountability provides the safe, secure parameters for our babies, toddlers, and especially our teens. Without the loving authority of parents and caring adults, kids will struggle to make responsible, right choices. Our kids think they know everything, but we know just how badly they need our wise counsel. Tell them about the hard lessons you’ve learned over the years, and where you wish you’d been guided in avoiding them.
Never fail to tell your kids that God’s rules and boundaries are for their protection, not to stall their fun. God is wise and loving and way smarter than we are. We can trust Him.
Parents, we have no guarantees with parenting, because our kids have free will. They, ultimately, will decide who they become. But if we have worked hard to establish healthy relationships, we have a much better shot at guiding them to become capable, confident, respectful adults who love and follow God. Let’s rise to the challenge!
√ CLICK HERE to view all of Josh’s parenting videos.
√ Click HERE to view Josh’s Father Factor report.
In our next blog post, let’s look at Josh’s 4 tips on reducing conflict. Hint: it starts with us!
Catch up: The introductory post to this series.