Parenting Through Relationship

By John Wagner, M.S.
Certified Advanced Imago Relationship Therapist

So many parents think of the task of parenting as how can I discipline my kid and raise them so they can be responsible. The problem with that approach is we have forgotten the main ingredient of parenting. That wonderful ingredient I continually find in the role model of our Father and that is relationship. Dr. David and Teresa Ferguson in their book “Parenting With Intimacy” illustrates this concept to parenting in a powerful way. Some of their thoughts have been borrowed to illustrate the notion of relationship in parenting.[i]

Whenever you first entered into parenthood, God called you to be a wise steward of what and who He has entrusted to you. Perhaps we should look at parenting as discipleship and your kids are your dearest disciples. As we see in God’s Word there is far more to making disciples than discipline. All you have to see is the role model of Jesus and His disciples. I do not mean that discipline is not an important aspect of parenting, but rather it is not the #1 issue.

So, what is the #1 issue in parenting? Knowing your child, allowing him to know you, and then seeking to become “caringly involved in one another’s lives”. You see, as it is with the Father, it is one thing to know about God and another to know Him. We need to develop the intimate relationship with our kids where we know them and they know us not just about us.

Intimacy is our Father’s idea as Proverbs 3:32 and Genesis 2:18 tells us about our need to relate to our creator and to meaningful others. “God is intimate with the upright” and “It is not good for man to be alone.”[ii] All of us are on a mandate to be connected. For eternity that connectedness is with the Father, but while we are here on earth it is through covenant marriage and the intimacy between parents and kids.

Intimacy means you know me and care about me. Psalms 139:3 says, “ intimately acquainted with all my ways.” This is an old testament word transliterated as, Sakan, which speaks of beneficial or caring involvement as Dr. Ferguson states in his book “Parenting With Intimacy”. This is important to understand as it takes into account the motivation which is behind the “knowing”. In other words you might look at this as God puts a priority in knowing me so He can express His very nature of loving care. His Word also says, “in all my ways.” He knows our shortcomings, our failures, our faults, but still cares through unconditional love. It is not our nature as humans to understand the concept of unconditional love. It is a concept we have to learn. Christ was the only person who naturally understood unconditional love.

Proverbs 3:32 states, “But He is intimate with the upright.” This is transliterated from the word Sod which speaks of God disclosing Himself to us. In John 17:3 Jesus speaks to the eternal significance of this intimate “knowing” when He states, “And this is eternal life, that they may KNOW thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou has sent.” It is this intimate knowing and humble worship that then manifests His love to others as the “love of Christ controls us” (II Cor 5:14) to love a spouse, children, and others.

Developing An Intimate Family

Parents need to understand that when they are dealing with teenagers who are defiant or have conduct issues, that their development began long before adolescent years. I really believe that our children are a mirror of the parents and those parents ask their children to do what they have never been able to.

Developing an intimate family needs to begin in early childhood. However, that may not have occurred and you now have kids who are approaching adolescence. One of the greatest ways to begin developing an intimate family is to have family meetings. This is not just a time of devotions, although devotions can be a part of a family meeting. It is a time to promote openness and transparency between family members. It is an opportunity to teach your kids that they can have a time to discuss (not be lectured) frustrations and affirmations.

I want to caution you that many parents “try” different approaches rather than “do” different approaches. What I mean by that is the common statement I hear from parents in counseling, “We tried that.” Don’t try, do it. The following are some characteristics of a successful family staff meeting. Approach your family meetings with the sense of urgency you would have if you were negotiating the biggest deal of your life. These are some ideas from the “Parenting With Intimacy” Workbook by Dr. David and Teresa Ferguson.

· Schedule a time - don’t leave it to when we get to it.
· Model the honoring of your commitment by protecting the time. It should be agreed there will be no interruptions nor distractions for anyone.
· Co-create weekly schedules for the family.
· Make listening to one another a priority without interrupting.
· Co-develop family goals as well as individual goals - monitor the progress of those goals.
· Discuss frustrations in a safe environment without defending.
· Practice being vulnerable - lovingly share areas of irritation, hurt, and disappointment.
· Develop affirmation time with each other.
· Develop family fun projects as well as being aware that each member also has other friends outside the family.
· Major on majors rather than major on minors. Look at what is working rather than what is not working.

Understand that it takes time to know someone and you may have to compensate for years of not developing this type of relationship with your kids. In other words they may not immediately respond. Don’t give up. Keep reevaluating your walk of unconditional love and acceptance of their world as it is for them, not as you would want it.

The rest of this book centers on a deeper look into some of these concepts as well as 10 basic skills of Godly parenting. Remember as you are looking at each skill, that the foundation of these skills lay on becoming an intimate parent focusing on relationship first and the idea of becoming a disciple to your kids through the role model of our heavenly Father.

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