First Love...then Love First.
Sometimes one conversation can change everything.
When I first found out I was going to be a dad, I became a nervous wreck.
My own family didn't give me much of a blueprint for what healthy parenting looked like, and I wanted to be a dad that I didn't have growing up.
So I'd been reading whatever I could to compensate, including a particular book that my wife and I were both moved by.
And somehow I got an incredible opportunity to meet with the author of that very book.
As we were sitting at lunch, having a personal conversation about life, faith and fatherhood, what he told me not only put me in my place, but molded how I viewed parenting forever.
"Could I ask you to quit talking for a moment?" he interrupted.
I hadn't realized how much I had been talking. "Oh, sure," I replied.
"I keep hearing you say how much you want your kid to have this amazing relationship with you. You've been talking for several minutes about how you want him to have a different life than you did growing up, and how much you want him to be a follower of Jesus."
I nodded. "Absolutely."
"Those are great things," he explained, "but they have to come second. What has to come first is him knowing how much you love him. Otherwise, when he fails--and he will--he won't come to you with his failures. But if you love him first, he will. And, if the next thing after your love for him is your guidance to follow Jesus, he'll move past his failures. Does that make sense?"
It did. I'm so glad this individual was willing to interrupt and redirect me.
First Love... then love first.
Perhaps you already know that God doesn't want you to talk with him using impressive phrases.
He wants to have a genuine conversation with you, heart to heart.
Your son or daughter needs to have that same opportunity.
If you lead with love and then follow it with guidance, the winning combination of grace and growth will permeate your home:
- Become profoundly relational: Come across as both a parent and friend, even if they claim you're only doing it because you have to. Even when teens turn eighteen, don't abandon the opportunity you have to love and lead them into their next phase of life.
- Seek to understand: Develop a caring curiosity about what your teens are going through. Make them the initial expert, letting them tell their own story without your commentary. Let them know when you have wisdom to offer on the other end, asking for them to be open as you share.
- Accept them as people even if you can't accept what they're doing: Authentically explain that there is nothing they could ever do to make you love them any more or any less. Tangibly welcome your teen into your presence through hugs that communicate how glad you are to be with them. It's an investment that takes time, but it's worth it.