You Want to Influence Your Kids? Here’s How to Do It
One issue I see in society is what appears to be a lack of concern on the part of parents for their children. I don’t mean ignoring basic needs like food and clothing, but rather the often overlooked “invisible essentials” of imparting faith, morals, and character. It appears that most parents have taken a “survival” mentality and simply hope to get through childhood and the teenage years without actually killing their kids. It’s a strange paradox to see parents acting more like kids as they seek approval form their kids, ask their kids permission, and yield to the demands of their kids.
I can’t help but wonder if parents have forgotten that it is not just their job to raise their children “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord,” (Eph. 6:4) but also to be a steady influence into their adult years. Then again, maybe influence or the lack thereof, is the problem. And just maybe what has happened is that in the attempt to be loved by their kids parents have lost all influence and consequently are not much loved either.
So, if influence is the key to maintaining a healthy relationship with our kids then how do we get influence? Well first let’s talk about how to lose influence with our kids. It’s important to understand that there is a big difference between control and influence. We start out with absolute control over our kids as infants. But if we try to assert absolute control over them as they grow it will only cause tension and push our kids away as they seek to assert their independence as maturing adults. Carey Nieuwhof shares a few traps that will cause us to lose influence.
- Threaten consequences, but never carry them out. Just like the boy crying “wolf,” if we as parents continually threaten our kids with consequences but never follow through they will eventually learn they can ignore our threats.
- Shame, guilt, and frustrate your children. Constantly tearing your children down will not force them to be obedient, it will drive them away. Children, especially, need positive reinforcement.
- Try to be their best friend. Nowhere does the Bible tell us to be our kids’ best friend. We are called parents. And while I don’t enjoy being “the bad guy” with my kids, I remind myself that what I do now impacts their future, and their future as adults is more important than my feelings now.
- Treat your spouse poorly. Not only will this cause your kids to look for someone who is the opposite of you to marry (if they marry at all), they will also resent you. I can think of no greater compliment from my daughter than to have her tell me she is marrying a man that reminds her of me. In order to make that happen I must treat my wife with the greatest respect and care so my kids see what biblical marriage truly is.
- Be inconsistent. No one likes or appreciates inconsistency or flip-flopping. Your kids may not like all your rules and standards, but one day they will appreciate the fact that you stood firm and never wavered.
Now that we have discussed a few ways to lose influence as a parent we can talk about some ways to build and gain influence. It’s important to remember that influence can be an unstable thing. Just because we have it now doesn’t mean we will keep it. So in order to get, keep, and build influence with our kids there’s a few things we can do.
- Do what you said you were going to do when you said you were going to do it. If you said you would be there at 4 pm, be there at 4pm. If you said you would play on Saturday then play on Saturday. If you told your son not to do something again or he would get a spanking then follow through. Consistency matters.
- Enforce limits. Letting your kids off the hook with their responsibilities and commitments only sets them up for failure when professors and bosses hold them accountable. Teach them personal responsibility and accountability now so the transition to adulthood is smoother.
- Treat one another with kindness. Your kids should see you being kind to everyone from the checkout teller to the random stranger on the street. But they should see greater kindness to the people closest to you. Just because you are family doesn’t mean you have a right to be any less kind.
- Don’t overindulge your kids. Contrary to popular opinion, your kids don’t need the “latest and greatest” everything. They should know what it means to earn some of the things they have. There is nothing wrong with rewards, but rewards for what is expected of them creates and entitlement mentality.
- Work on your own character. Unless you are going to admit perfection, we all have things that need work. Let your kids know what you are working on then let them see you working on it. As you grow in faith and character it will serve as a lesson to your kids to always be growing in their own lives.
Influence is a tricky, funny thing. How many times have we seen cultural figures rise to fame with great influence only to fall and never again have the same kind of influence. Being a parent is no different. If we want influence with our kids it takes intentional work on our part. It may be difficult, but the lifetime benefits of being an important, influential person in the life of our kids makes it worth any trouble.