“Your greatest contribution to the kingdom of God may not be something you do but someone you raise.” -Andy Stanley
Professionally, it’s necessary for us, as leaders, to receive and grow through feedback and coaching from those we lead and are led by. It’s through this that blindspots are revealed, and we can evaluate our efforts as they relate to accomplishing our goals. While these conversations can be tough, they can lead to powerful breakthroughs both personally and professionally. What would it look like for us to approach our parenting with the same level of humility and curiosity?
Our methods of parenting are informed by a myriad of things. We lean on our childhood upbringing, cultural observations, personal values, virtues, and faith to guide us in the principles we use in raising our children. As parents, we have goals and hopes we desire for them to one day leave our home with, and we’ll work tirelessly to ensure their success. Yet, while striving for academic, athletic, and social success, we can get caught up in investing so much of ourselves in our kids. We monitor their progress and success through grades, playing time, and accolades and develop plans to improve potential areas of struggle.
However, an area we can quickly look past or under-develop is the relational health of our families.
Regardless of our position within our organization and the size of our platform, our family is our primary ministry. We all want the best for our kids, but the most vital thing we can offer them is not opportunities for success outside the home. The way we invest in our families’ relational health will ultimately inform how they approach friendships, dating, marriage, and parenting. With that being the case, it’s essential to create opportunities to evaluate the relational health of our families.
Being willing to ask our kids for feedback requires a delicate balance of humility and wisdom. The goal is not to give our kids a “Yes Day” experience but, instead, to gain perspective of what their experience in your family is like. It offers a chance for us to learn from and encourage them. We’ll discover new things to celebrate, while at the same time, we’ll bump into areas where we need to seek forgiveness and adjust our methods.
Below are two lists of questions we can use to guide these conversations with the kids in our home. By no means are these lists exhaustive, and they may serve as inspiration to develop different questions based on the dynamics of your own family. It’s less about the questions we ask and more about intentionally taking the time to learn from our kids and their experiences. Regardless of the age of our kids, it is worth fighting through the awkwardness for the sake of greater depth, trust, and relational health in our families. At the end of this article are suggestions for approaching these conversations to make them feel natural and valuable to your kids.
Preschool and Elementary
- What is your favorite way to spend time together as a family? Why?
- Is there anything you would like to do more of as a family? Why do you think it’s important?
- When do you feel most loved by us as your parents? Are there any times that you don’t feel loved?
- What can we do to show kindness and generosity to others in our family? What about people outside of our family?
- How do you feel when we pray together or read Bible stories as a family?
- Is there something you want to learn how to do that someone in our family can teach you?
Preteens and Teens
- Have you felt heard and understood by us as parents? If not, can you share some ways we can improve on this?
- How do you think we can better support each other’s individual goals and interests?
- Is there anything you want to tell someone in our family but haven’t had a chance to say yet?
- Do you feel any additional stress or pressure to perform because of our positions within our church/organization?
- What has been the biggest lesson you’ve learned by observing how we (parents) have dealt with stress and struggle?
- What are some things from how we parent and lead our family that you hope to replicate when you have your own family? Are there any things that you would want to avoid?
How to approach these conversations
- Be intentional with the setting. Telling the kids that it is time for a “family meeting” typically means they’re in for a less-than-stellar conversation. Think about places where your kids will feel comfortable and less guarded—this could be on a walk, a long drive, at a coffee shop, or while playing a game.
- Ask clarifying questions and seek to understand the “why” and the heart behind their responses. The goal isn’t to learn that our kids really loved that time we took them to Disneyland but the reasons why that experience mattered to them, which will allow us to invest in those needs and values going forward.
- Respond, don’t react. Sometimes, feedback can be hard to receive. In the event that something your child shares stings a bit, it’s important that we refrain from trying to justify our actions or turn the purpose of the conversation from curiosity to correction. If we choose to snap back or correct, we will likely cause our child to shut down. If anything, be quick to say things like, “I’m sorry I’ve made you feel that way.”
- Thank them for opening up and trusting you. These types of conversations can be uncomfortable for anyone at any age or in any setting. It’s vital that we celebrate the vulnerability our kids offer during these conversations and that we prove ourselves as trustworthy with the information they share.