Building a Bridge to Her Heart – Be Approachable
Welcome to week two of “Building a Bridge to Your Child’s Heart”. If you missed last week it, last week we said we need to Be Aware.
The second way we craft a bridge to our child’s heart is being approachable. Our children are living in times that are both very fast pace and very difficult. They carry the weight of trying to figure out this world and sometimes that’s hard for an adult to do, let alone an adolescent. Often what they need most from us is a safe place to talk. Listen to Amber, age 17 in “Real Teens, Real Issues” :
“If I could tell my mother and father something and they promised not to interrupt or pass judgment or yell, I would tell them all the times I’ve lied to them, the times I said I was going places that I never went, how I told them all about movies I’d never seen. I would tell them about my last relationship, the stuff that they don’t know. I would tell them about the time when we left the school dance and went to a secluded part in the woods and how he tried to make me do things I didn’t want to do. I’d them how hard it was when he was telling me what he wanted to do and how I said no and how he pressured me more than I could take. I’d tell them how I cried myself to sleep every night and how he told me I was nothing and didn’t deserve anything, how he told me that I was a hypocrite whenever I wouldn’t do sexual things, how I came so close to losing my virginity. I’d tell my mom that her stupid curfew kept me safe. I’d tell them how he left bruises on my arms and how when I asked him if he loved me, he would say, “I guess so, as much as anyone really can.” I would tell them I was sorry for breaking the rules, for bending them and wanting them to change. I would tell them that even though I thought the rules were stupid then, they kept me safe. I’d tell my parents that, because of them, I’m okay now.” (p. 96 – 97)
When I first read this passage, I thought, “This poor girl! She needed her parent to understand.” That afternoon after school I read the passage to my son. He said, “I know exactly how she felt! There have been plenty of times when I have wanted to tell you things, but I knew you would freak out!” I couldn’t believe this! I considered myself a pretty cool parent; did my son really feel that way? After much pleading, I convinced him that I wouldn’t in fact freak out and he finally shared with me some temptations and trials that he had experienced way back in middle school. At that point, I decided I would do what I could to be more approachable.
So often what our children need is for us to just listen and to be given permission to feel. I know that often when my child expresses a negative emotion or an opinion that is different than my own, I immediately work to change it. “Don’t say you feel ugly today! Your hair looks just fine!” “Your friend didn’t really mean to hurt your feelings; she just wasn’t thinking before she spoke.” Each time I do this, I am teaching my child that I am not a safe place; she can’t really express how she feels to me. It may start off with small things, but if she can’t trust me with the small issues in life, she will never trust me with the big.
Recently, Madi was telling me about a friendship issue she is having. I asked her, “Would you like me to just listen or do you want advice?” She said just listen; I kept quiet. Romans 12:15 tells us to “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn”. Sometimes what they need from us is to just be happy or sad with them.
So just how do you become an approachable parent?
The key is learning to respond instead of react. The definition of reacting is: to respond to a stimulus in a particular manner or to act in opposition, as against some force.
Unfortunately the one we are against when we react is the exact one that we are trying to have a relationship with!
The definition of responding is to reply or answer in words or to react favorably. I once heard Ron Blue say, “We should be thermostats instead of thermometers.” He was talking about finances, but it works for investing in teens. Thermometers tell us the temperature, a thermostat sets it. By responding instead of reacting we are setting the temperature.
We set the temperature when we exercise self-control. When we react or are unapproachable, communication shuts down; crashing to an end.
Even if they are out of control, we don’t have to be.
Proverbs 15:1 says, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. “ We are the parents; they are the kids. They need a safe place and we need to be that safe place.
What steps can you take to “set” the temperature in your home?
This is something I need to be more aware of. I don’t think I do a good job of this. Thanks for highlighting this one.
Feeling convicted this morning. I want to be a better safe place. I want our home to be a better safe place.
Amy Jo, please don’t be harsh on yourself 🙂 Just take one small step at a time; they’ll notice the difference!
Talking to my kids is what I want but not them. So how do you fix that? I didn’t grow up in a close knit family. In today’s world I would of been considered neglected. I didn’t want this for my own children. I always try to get them to engage with me but my daughter shuts me out. Any advice for this? Thanks
I have gone through different seasons of this with my three kids. Sometimes they are in a time of trying so hard to be independent. Others times it has broken my heart to discover they didn’t want to talk to me because there were things in their lives that they knew I wouldn’t approve of.
Start with conversations that are very non-threatening. “I’d like to make you your favorite meal? What would that be?”. You can find some of these on my website under “freebies”.
Also, I have found that time one-on-one makes a huge difference. All three of my kids will share things they would never share with me when we are alone. Even if another child is just in the house somewhere else, they can be afraid of ease dropping or possibly being made fun of.
I hope this helps friend! Keep trying! Keep investing…they will sense you care enough to invest in them!!
it is not often that i get to read about something i have been fighting with in my own heart. I have a teen daughter of 17 and everything we do as parents or any thing we say is wrong and yet we try and respond with Grace and lots of love. I do have one issue and that is my teen is struggerling with an obssetion with her eye brows they always have to be perfect before she leaves the house or even going to school it has become such a big issue in our home and many times i just have to say they look great. we have approched our doctor and he is not concerned but for me as her mom i am concerned. I was wondering if you might have something to share with me on how to help us as a family.
thank you so much for opening up a door for me to chat and share my heart.
May God richly bless you and your ministry.
Hi Kathy, Friend, I so hear your heart of responding with grace and lots of love to your girl. I have actually heard of the eye brow thing more than once. In fact, I have known two girls who literally pulled out all of their eyebrows, with their fingers, due to anxiety. They would then pencil them in.
Kathy – I think you should listen to your mother’s heart. This obsession, as you called it, I think is an indication of something deeper. I would recommend finding a Christian counselor for your family to talk to. Focus on the Family has a great list of counselors; they could help you locate one.
I am a big believer of counseling; my family has used it on more than one occasion. Sometimes I think we just need an outside resource to help us see what we cannot.
Keep on loving, Kathy! Praying a lot too!
This is SUCH a wonderful post, thnak you! Sometimes I find myself trying really hard with my 17 yo daughter, only to forget that my 12 yo son may be struggling, as well. Thank you so much for using your son as an example, and referencing middle school. That spoke straight to my heart! I try to be an approachable mom, and I think my kids do a great job of talking to me (more than my husband), but I know that I instantly try to ‘FIX’ things for them, and I need to try harder to just listen. THANK YOU, LYNN! 🙂
Thank you so much, friend! Middle school…in the middle of it all, just try to get them through!
Wow! Thank you for this! It made me stop and realize that I have a tendency to turn a lot of what my girls tell me into a “teachable moment’, when just being quiet and Listening would so help me be more approachable!
I do too Debbie! I guess it is just a natural thing for us nurturing moms to do. I guess we should ask more often, “Do you want some advice or do you want me to just listen?” 🙂
Such a great post! Thanks for sharing as i needed to hear this today. Although i try to be approachable and non judgmental, my 16 yr old daughter is very manipulative and continuously shuts me out if i don’t agree or say yes to all she wants to do. We are currently struggling with her involvement with a long time boyfriend who assaulted her a year ago. We’ve tried extensive counseling…even inpatient treatment and she is still drawn to him. In spite of all this she is very responsible in other areas and does well in school. Thanks for your prayers!
This is so good ! Every morning since I read this ( and I come back and read this over again) I pray that I will respond and not react to what my kids says…
Thank you !