By Tonya Cherry
“That’s enough of that craziness. You are 13. No.”
“Mom you are not even listening to me.”
“I don’t need to listen. There is NO WAY my 13 year old daughter is getting her body pierced! Done!”
“This sucks! You just don’t understand!”
“Oh I understand alright. I understand that you’re not getting a belly button ring!”
My guess is that for most of us this is how the conversation would go. Some parenting decisions appear to be just no-brainers right? No tattoos of your girlfriend’s name. You can’t go to parties when the parents aren’t home. You may not drop out of 10th grade to join a band. God is not calling you to move in with your boyfriend. No. No. No. Some things just don’t even seem to warrant a discussion. Some things are obviously wrong. What’s there to understand?
But what if you chose to enter into a discussion with your child about something that seemed non-negotiable? What if you moved in to the conversation for just a little bit? Maybe you would learn something about your child by asking them questions? Maybe you could find out why something so ridiculous really mattered to them?
Could talking through something that seemed so obviously idiotic actually be a good thing? Do they really not comprehend what the consequences are? Would you be wasting
your time or investing in the relationship? I wonder if you might learn about their priorities, insecurities, peer group, belief system, self-worth or fears? Nine times out of ten, they knew what your response was going to be and yet they asked anyway. Maybe what they are looking for a conversation not just an answer. Is there something else that they want you to know? Is there something more you need to understand?
“Mom, Can I get a belly button ring?
“Really? A belly button ring?”
“Yea. Ashley has one and I can pay for it.”
“Wow. You must really want one if you are willing to pay for it.”
“I do. It’s really important to me.”
“I never heard you mention it before. What makes it important to you?”
“Cause it looks really cute!”
“Any other reasons?”
“Well last summer I was fat but now since track I am thinner. I kinda wanna show that off. It would look so good. I need a belly button ring Mom.”
“I didn’t realize that you felt bad about your weight last summer. I am glad you shared that with me. That had to be hard.”
“It was awful. That’s why I NEEEEED a belly button ring.”
“So it sounds like you are feeling better about yourself and this is a way for you to express that?”
Do you see what just happened? Instead of shutting things down this mother now has an opportunity for a conversation, a conversation that is just beginning.
By taking the time to ask questions, the mom was not conveying that the belly button is a good idea but she is letting her daughter know that her feelings matter. Not only that but now this mom has new insight into her child and this insight can be the spark for more important conversations.
Next time your kids ask you something that seems completely crazy, take a deep breath and say, “Tell me why this is important to you.” Then listen. This does not mean you have to change your mind. It just means you are willing to listen. It means that have the desire to understand them. Ask them questions and my guess is that you might actually learn something about your child. You can still say no (which they probably expect) but my guess is, that they will be more willing to hear it, if you took the time to ask questions and listen. As parents we need to care more about the relationship than we do about winning the argument.
This is not easy to do. Our default in parenting is to correct and direct. It takes a heart that trusts that God can work through building relationships and conversations and that he is always working on everyone, including parents. We need help to do this well and we have a Father in heaven who will help us.
Heavenly Father, it is hard to parent. Sometimes I get so impatient and I don’t take time to really listen to my kids when they give me opportunities to know them better. Please forgive me for not being patient and understanding. I am sorry that I get angry with them. Father you have shown me such compassion when my requests have been self-indulgent or impulsive. Help me to trust you enough to engage with my child. Thank you for this repeated mercy. I ask for strength to be able to extend that to this child that you have given me. Help me listen and ask questions in order to love them well. Amen.