Posted by Sarah Anderson
Just two days into the New Year we got the difficult news that my 91-year-old grandmother had passed away. In the days that followed we did what everyone does in the grieving process. We remembered. We told a lot of stories. We recalled conversations and pivotal moments that stood out to us as we recalled the matriarch of the family.
And what we recalled, was that my grandmother was a great question asker. She had a reputation for getting the dirt on everything—specifically any romantic relationships we may have been involved in. This was torturous as teenagers, but endearing as we got older, when we started to see her incessant digging for information as not just a means to know more. It was a means to a different end. It was a way for her to encourage us and support us in whatever it was we were doing. Her great questions made her a great grandmother.
Barbara Walters, the reporter famous for her interviews with high profile people and her uncanny ability to make people cry with the questions she asked, was interviewed herself when her retirement from the broadcasting was coming to a close. About her iconic role in the history of broadcasting, she said this, “The most important thing a journalist or interviewer can do is to listen. Too often we write questions down and no matter what, we go onto our second question and our third question because that’s the way we’ve written them. We shouldn’t. The first question gets asked and the second question should be, why? How come? Tell me more.”
Obviously she was a pro as an interviewer. But her insights at what made her so great at her job are the same things that made my grandmother extraordinary.
Questions are powerful—made all the more powerful when they are a response to what we intentionally listened for first.
Purposeful questions are the best and easiest tool we have as parents to invest in the lives of our kids.
They communicate that we want more than information—we want insight into what makes our kids tick, motivates them, challenges them and hurts them.
A good first question says, I’m interested.
Active listening says, I care.
An intentional second question says, you matter.
And what follows creates relational equity between you and your kids.
So sure, we can start, with the “How was your day?” “What happened at school?” “What did you learn at church?” But what happens next can’t be found in any book, blog, or article. What happens next is up to us. It can’t be scripted or predicted but that’s where the magic happens.
It happens in the quiet, as your child slowly, peels back the layers of their life, and you thirstily drink in what they have carefully entrusted with you. And it happens when your reaction and your response communicate over and over and over again, “You’ve got my full attention, there is no where I would rather be, thanks for letting me in.”
Be prepared. You may get more than you bargained for. You may learn the details of everyone’s show and tell treasures, about the kid next to them on the bus, the specifics of what was served in the lunch line, or the atrocities of their Chemistry class. But you’ll also become the best student of your child and the earn yourself a reputation, and some day a legacy as being the person in your child’s life who did whatever it took to get to the heart of the matter, to get to the heart of them. No one soon forgets that.
They may not know it now, but what you are working towards as a parent who asks a good first question, but even better second question, is becoming the best front row attender to your kids’ lives they’ll ever know. Becoming their cheerleader, their confidant and their biographer of life, who remembers all the big stuff but has managed to tuck away the little stuff too—the stuff that makes your kids uniquely them and uniquely yours.
And that is a legacy worth creating with your kids and worth leaving behind for them.
About the Author:
Sarah Anderson writes for the XP3 student curriculum at Orange. She is married to Rodney Anderson and is mom to two beautiful bouncy boys, Asher and Pace. Follow her on Twitter @sarahb_anderson.
MAKE IT PERSONAL
Posted by Parent Cue
A crucial link exists between your ability to parent and your personal growth.
This parenting value—making it personal—is going to challenge you as a parent in a way the other values don’t. This one will benefit your kids, for sure. But it’s not directly about them, it’s about you. In a very real way, making it personal will help every other step you take as a parent.
When it comes to character and faith, your kids are watching you in a way they might not watch you in other pursuits. Because it’s so personal, you can’t do faith and character for your kids. There’s another factor at work. If it’s not in you, they know it. When it comes to spiritual and character formation, your journey impacts them deeply. If you want it to be in them, it needs to be in you.
As you read this, your anxiety level is probably rising. You feel like you can’t possibly measure up. If you were to level with your kids about your fears, your inconsistencies, or even how shaky your faith is on some days, you’d feel like you were admitting defeat.
But that’s a perfect picture mindset. God is interested in writing a bigger story, and your personal growth is part of the plotline. In fact, your developing story may be more influential than you think. That’s why parents need to let their kids see them struggle to grow. They need to see your authenticity and hear your transparency. Most of all, they need to observe up close that your spiritual, moral, and relational growth is a priority in your life. This is not about a perfect model, just an honest one. Whatever you want your children to become, you should honestly strive to become as well.
Your kids already have a front-row seat to your life. The question is, what are they watching? Is it just show? Or is it a real-life adventure where they see courage and passion to overcome personal obstacles? What if your personal growth was a front-row seat to the bigger story God wants to write in your family?
If you want your children to have it in them, they have to see it in you.
Your kids need to see you . . .
Your children need to see you make relational, emotional, and spiritual growth in your life a priority. If you don’t make it personal for yourself, it may never be personal for them.
Is it possible that you’re the kind of parent who feels guilty if you take a break? Maybe you run a long time because you have more capacity than most. It is possible to be close to empty and not know it. The question is, what kind of consistent deposits are you making in your personal life, for the sake of your family life?
Excerpt from Parenting Beyond Your Capacity by Reggie Joiner and Carey Nieuwhof