In the minds of our young kids, there is nothing we can’t do . . . which is easy when you’re all powerful and all knowing.
Every young child knows whose dad is right! Whose dad is the smartest! Whose dad is the strongest! And, Mommy . . . well, she’s just the smartest too! And the prettiest, most beautiful, ever! And, nobody cooks better than my mom. She makes the best macaroni and cheese EVER!
But, that’s how gods are. They can do all that.
And, we get used to our role, don’t we? We become accustomed to having the last word, being deferred to, and making all of the important decisions in the lives of our kids. It’s what we do.
Of course, we know all too well the shortcomings, failures, and flat sides to our parenting but, this role of Cosmic Director comes pretty naturally to us when our infants become toddlers . . . and beyond. And, that’s the way it was Designed to be.
God’s intention is that we fulfill the role of guide, protector, corrector, comforter, teacher, provider, etc. That we would inform their opinions, instruct them in truth, and love them unconditionally is the role expressly given to Dad and Mom – to you and me – in Deuteronomy chapter 6 (you really should take the time to read it!). No wonder our young children have such an elevated view of us. And, that’s exactly how it is supposed to be . . . when the kids are young.
Then things begin change. Opinions begin to be informed from a wider circle of influence and information, and before long that adoring gaze into the vastness of Dad & Mom’s perfectness transforms into an ‘I’m not so sure’ questioning posture.
And, that’s exactly how it’s supposed to be. He’s not eight anymore. She’s not twelve anymore. Only, we were much more comfortable with the first parenting role, weren’t we? Now we have a tree growing in our living room. How did that happen?
Our children have changed. Oh, they’re still the same person but the way they see and understand is changing . . . and we have some changing to do, too. As parents, we need to embrace the adulthood of our children.
But he’s making a big mistake. She needs my wisdom, experience, and understanding to get it right. I don’t know if they’re going to make it. This decision has huge consequences and I need to make sure he makes the right move, etc., etc.,
I’ve never met an adult who didn’t want respect. Have you? Our adult children are no different. They want respect from us but, they also need it. They can function without it but our relationships with our adult children will never be healthy until we protect their dignity by giving them the respect that we, too, want.
Do we know better? In many cases (certainly not all, god . . . er, Dad!) we do. But where were you and I when we were the same age as our adult kids? It makes me laugh at myself when I consider what I was like at 18, 19, 20, 21 and compare that to where my adult children are today. They’re going to do fine, Dad.
Part of respecting our adult children is letting go and trusting them . . . stepping out of that overseer role we used to fulfill and embrace our new relationship as a respectful fellow-traveler.
Are they going to make mistakes? Are they going to make wrong moves? Are they going to stumble? No doubt, they will, just like you and I did many, many times.
What are the basics of respecting your adult children?
- Embrace the understanding that they are a separate, unique entity from you.
- Respect their opinions. You don’t have to agree but you can still communicate respect.
- Don’t offer instruction or opinion unless it is requested. (Wow, was this hard to learn for me!)
- Trust them to make wise decisions. They’re so much more likely to seek you out if you communicate trust and confidence in their ability to make the right choice.
- Exercise real influence in their lives . . . Pray regularly for your children.
God bless you as you enjoy the young adult years by loving your children through genuine embrace of the change in your relationship with them.
Matt is married to Lisa Jacobson; they are raising their eight children in the Pacific Northwest. Matthew is an author, speaker, blogger, and pastor of Tumalo Bible Fellowship. Matthew and Lisa are also the authors of the best-selling “his-and-her” marriage books, 100 Ways to Love Your Husband and 100 Ways to Love Your Wife.