And like that—summer’s over. Traveling down I-795 this morning I was reminded by the huge highway sign that school is in session and to drive with care. Earlier in my morning devotions, I prayed for my grandchildren as they begin a new school year.
It’s that time of year when families set new schedules and life takes on a bit more structure. Kids are at school about eight hours a day, which is usually followed by afterschool sports or other programs. Finally arriving at home, there’s a quick dinner and then homework followed by an early bedtime.
As things get really busy, it’s easy to lose touch with your kids since school dominates such a large part of their lives. One survey discovered that the average focused attention young children receive from dad each day is 37 seconds. If you’re a dad, I want to exhort you to purposely work to know your children by scheduling time with them.
As a father, ask yourself the following questions and insist on honesty with yourself.
Do I know…
• when my child has had a bad day?
• when my child is upset about something?
• the names of my child’s closest friends?
• what encourages my child?
• what motivates my child?
• my child’s strengths and weaknesses?
• my when my child’s feelings are hurt?
• my child’s most recent disappointment?
If your heart answered “no” to some of these questions, maybe it’s time you went back to school. You may need to learn the steps to knowing your child better. It’s only in knowing our children well that we can create conditions in which they will flourish. If you feel you need help, here are a six things I recommend:
1. Ask them questions. Without being intrusive, seek to communicate concern; you can be interested without being interrogative.
2. Spend time in their world. This provides opportunity to watch their interaction with peers.
3. Provide opportunities for your children to discover their interests, talents, and abilities. Of course, don’t hammer them to get involved in something just because you like it. And make sure church remains a priority.
4. Give encouragement about what you observe. “Wow, you did that really well!”
5. Listen to your wife, other children, and those who influence your child. Including teachers, coaches, and youth workers.
6. Always remember you child is a sinner. I’ve seen naïve parents who refused to believe their child actually did what he did. Then, when confronted with the reality of their child’s bad behavior, made excuses for him. Face it, you may have a great kid, but nobody’s got perfect ones.
In gardening, you use fertilizer based on what kind of plant you’re growing. For example, if you’re growing tomatoes, you’re after healthy fruit; if broccoli, it’s the leaf, if carrots, you want to feed the roots. You have to do a little research to know how to cultivate the plant in order to maximize its potential. Likewise, as a father, you need to know your children so that you can grow them into the person God wants them to be.