Let’s face it! We each have 24 hours in a day! There are hundreds, if not thousands, of tasks and activities vying for our attention. But ultimately, we all have control of how we allot our time. As a parent, nothing is more important than investing in the lives of our children. But with all the demands on our schedule, how do we make time? How do busy parents connect to the heart of a child?
I’m a full-time working mom with two teenage daughters, and I have recently decided to pursue my doctorate (don’t ask me why I choose to do these things). I understand how ridiculously busy life can be. However, I loathe the excuse that life is just too busy to do the things that matter most, so I found 6 ways to connect to the heart of a child amidst the busy.
Connection is a critical weapon in your arsenal to fight for the heart of your kid. I want to point out, though, that connecting with your child looks different in every season of life.
When my girls were little, lying on their bed at night to read a book and pray was the ticket to connection. The late elementary school years ushered in car-time convos. (These are still some of our all-time favorites!). Turn off the music, put down the handheld devices in the car, and CONNECT.
My 16-year old now has a job, school, and lots of afternoon and church activities. We often reserve time on each other’s schedules. Sometimes, we just set up a Saturday morning coffee shop outing with laptops in tow.
One of the most effective ways to connect at any age is by sharing a meal. Our daughters go to school at the same time, so we have breakfast together in the morning. It is not long and drawn out, but rather a quick 10-minute connection that keeps me tuned in to the heart of my girls. Dinner time can be tricky for us, but we make sure it happens at least three times a week. No matter what meal we share, we have one rule. There are NO phones at the table–that means parents, too!
When you set aside time to connect, what should you say? If you stare lovingly into one another’s eyes, will the connection automatically happen? Maybe…but probably not.
One way busy parents can connect to the heart of a child is to start a conversation that becomes meaningful. Ask specific questions prefaced on things you already know. Here are a few examples:
- What did you do in science class?
- Who did you sit with at lunch? What did you talk about with them?
- What toys did you play with at preschool?
Try to go beyond asking questions that can be answered with a simple “yes,” “no,” or “fine.”
The second way for a parent to connect to the heart of a child is to look for emotion. As you continue to converse, begin to dig a little more. Ask additional questions about the same topic to help them go more in-depth. Be on the lookout for opportunities to connect behaviors to emotion.
Recently, I asked my middle school daughter the science question. Her class had started a unit on evolution that day, and she was HOT! It wasn’t hard to move into emotion with her on that question. Other times you might have to keep digging and asking to get there.
The third way to connect to the heart of a child is to avoid judgment. When you’re fighting to connect, resist the temptation to move into judgment, or you will automatically shut your child down. You can follow up and handle damage control later, but do not allow every conversation to turn into a lecture. Otherwise, your children will come to the following conclusion: “If I tell my parents what’s really going on, they’ll just get mad at me.”
Don’t Be a Drill Sergeant
The fourth way to connect to the heart of a child is to not be a drill sergeant. As a parent, it’s important to guide and help your children as they grow. However, it’s tempting just to tell them what to do–all the time. Of course, there are times you need to tell them what to do! If you’re not fighting to connect with their heart, those commands end up sounding like the barking of a drill sergeant.
Put Down Distractions
The fifth way for a parent to connect to the heart of a child is to put down distractions. In today’s world, we can focus on so many different distractions. So, what do you need to put down to actually “see” your children? If your eyes are on the phone, put it down.
In my experience with teens in ministry, I often see parents on their phones while trying to communicate with their children. As a parent, if you put down your device of distraction, you will see–and connect–with your child.
Heart Vs. Behavior
Last, as a mom who is approaching the “empty nest” stage, the biggest thing I’ve learned is to fight for the HEART of my child and NOT for their behavior to be right. Ultimately, if the heart is in the right place, the behavior will follow.
C.S. Lewis (1951) brilliantly talked about first things and second things in one of his writings. “Put first things first, and we get second things thrown in: put second things first, and we lose both first and second things. We never get, say, even the sensual pleasure of food at its best when we are being greedy…You can’t get second things by putting them first; you can only get second things by putting first things first. From which it would follow that the question: What things are first?”
When it comes to parenting, your first “thing” is to fight to connect to the heart of your kid. When you do that, you also get the “second” things: obedience, respect, honesty, etc.
It’s a simple fact that when you aim your full affection towards the Lord, your morality changes. The same is true for your children, so your focus needs to be on helping them develop their relationship with the Lord rather than parent morality first.
In Deuteronomy 6:5, Moses instructs parents to teach their children to, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”
Knowing what you should and shouldn’t do doesn’t motivate behavior. What motivates behavior is love.
I encourage you to try and use these 6 ways busy parents can connect to the heart of a child. Fight to show them LOVE and point them toward loving the Lord with their whole heart. This step is the first thing. Once this first thing gets established, the second thing will follow.