Charisse Tierney shares a parenting practice that goes a long way in building a strong relationship based on mutual respect.
I was recently asked about my parenting strategies while visiting some friends. As they asked about specific parenting tools like follow through and consequences, I realized they were really searching for the secret to a strong relationship with their kids.
My husband and I have plenty of tough moments with our kids. Three-year-olds will always have a tendency toward tantrums, and teenagers will always have mood swings. But we have always felt a deep sense of respect from our children. Sometimes they don’t do what we ask the moment we ask them to do it. Sometimes there are deep sighs and eye rolls when we enforce a rule. But they don’t yell at us. They don’t talk back to us. And even the eye rolls stop when they see we are serious about demanding their respect.
How do we build this respect?
Spending time with my children has been a priority since they were infants. As they grow into children, tweens, teens, and young adults, I continue to see the fruits of this lifelong priority.
One simple step I have taken recently is to take one of my children out to lunch once a week. My child gets to choose where we eat (within reason), and the one on one time away from the noise and chaos of our household allows conversation to unfold naturally.
Sometimes I address an issue we need to talk about, but I try to make this time together about simply enjoying each other’s company with no agenda.
When I took my 11-year-old son out one week, we sat eating in silence for much of the time. But he came back home renewed in the security of our relationship. He was much more receptive as I guided him through his schoolwork, and his cheerful obedience reflected a lunch date that consisted of much more than a cheeseburger and fries.
In their book Parenting Your Teens and Tweens with Grace, Dr. Greg and Lisa Popcak say,
[Teens] want a strong family life. They want to feel connected to Mom and Dad. But they need to be convinced of the commitment to keep up the relationship. Teens want either a real commitment from their parents, or they want their parents to get out of the way so they can have a relationship with the people who want to be committed to them.
Taking my kids out for some one-on-one time is just a starting point. It opens the door for deeper conversation, for confidence that I will listen to their opinions, and for trust that the boundaries I set are for their good. Spending time with them makes them believe my words when I say “I love you.”
My husband and I have plenty of work to do as parents. We make mistakes and our kids make mistakes. But by keeping the door of communication open, we also keep the door to grace open. For every step we take towards our children, God takes many more. He bridges the gap.
And it can all start over a cheeseburger and fries.
Copyright 2022 Charisse Tierney
Images: (top) Canva; (bottom) copyright 2022 Charisse Tierney, all rights reserved.
About the Author
Charisse Tierney lives in Wichita, Kansas, with her husband Rob and seven children. Charisse is a stay-at-home mom, musician, NFP teacher, and a Catechesis of the Good Shepherd catechist. She is also a contributing author to The Catholic Mom's Prayer Companion and Family Foundations magazine. Charisse blogs at Paving the Path to Purity and can be found on Facebook.