How can I overcome barriers between myself and my child?
Good family relationships are a rare treasure. It takes time and effort, love and forgiveness, and wisdom and patience to build healthy bonds with your children.
Often difficulties, hurts, or disappointments can wound your relationships and lead to dishonesty, bitterness, or distrust. When these and other barriers threaten to damage your relationships, recognize and overcome them. Move toward healing. All your efforts to restore openness and love in your home will be worth every investment you make!
A lack of trust often stems from times when you have not been trustworthy. Have you broken promises or deceived your children? Have you callously teased them, mocked them, or humiliated them?
If you have failed to maintain your children’s trust, take responsibility for your actions and ask for forgiveness. Invest the time and care that is necessary to rebuild your relationships. Ask your children if there are promises you made but never fulfilled. Do what you can to fulfill those past promises, and if you are not able to fulfill them, ask your children for their forgiveness for your failure to keep your promises. Be responsible for your words, and demonstrate sincerity. Show your children that their trust is important to you.
Scripture teaches us that humility comes before honor. Children are to honor their parents, but as a parent, are you serving your children in humility before God? Sometimes disrespect is simply a reaction to disrespect. Consider how your attitudes may be negatively influencing your children.
Also be aware of television shows, movies, or friends that encourage your children to have a negative attitude toward you and others who are in positions of authority. Help your children understand the Biblical view of authority. Demonstrate God-honoring attitudes yourself, and lead your children to discern when Godly attitudes are not demonstrated by others and when they need to honor authorities even when it is not popular to do so.
If your children express no interest in spending time with you, find out why this is true. Are there offenses or conflicts that haven’t been resolved? Do you do things together that you both enjoy, or are your activities centered only on your interests and needs?
Take the necessary steps to rebuild harmony in your relationship. When you clear up offenses, your children will feel more comfortable with you. It is also important to do things that your children enjoy. Give them opportunities to discover their interests and develop worthwhile skills, and then join them in things they like to do. Ask questions. Listen. Be enthusiastic. Invite them to join you in things you like to do. Patiently explain new activities. Be kind and understanding when you are together.
When offenses are left unaddressed, bitterness often destroys relationships. Favoritism, disappointments, and misunderstandings are frequently causes of bitterness. Be vigilant to clear up offenses quickly! Admit when you are wrong and ask for forgiveness. By your example, lead your children to maintain both a clear conscience and loving interaction in the family.
When unexpected events break into your day, learn to respond to them wisely. Your response has a dramatic impact on your children. If you become angry and frustrated, your children will reflect your agitation, compounding the disruption. If, however, you respond patiently, your children will learn to tolerate interruptions and even profit from them.
Your reactions also determine whether or not your children will be comfortable coming to you when unexpected needs arise. If they know you’ll be angry, they will fear your reaction and want to keep things from you. However, if you typically respond positively, they will more readily come to you with their needs and concerns.
Make sure your children feel accepted by you, and always encourage them to speak honestly with you. As you demonstrate honesty, humility, and love in your own conduct, you encourage them to respond to you with the same qualities.
Find the right opportunity to ask precise personal questions of accountability. Be sensitive to your children’s feelings and sense of privacy, remembering that some questions are best asked privately. Do not ask personal questions in front of a large group or tease your child about personal issues that he or she has discussed with you privately.
If you sense your children are evading you about an issue or if you know that they have been dishonest with you, the issue needs to be addressed. First, consider your own behavior and determine if you have done something to provoke their wrong words or actions. If confession and restitution are necessary on your part, take those steps quickly.
Sometimes your acts of humility will motivate your children to humble themselves too. However, if there is still resistance, be willing to ask tough accountability questions. Let your children know about your concerns and ask for their honest responses. Pray and seek God’s guidance for rebuilding honest, responsible relationships.
Family relationships will be strained if the parents or the children feel they have to compete with other people or interests to gain time and attention. Are your children’s needs—physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual—left uncared for because you are preoccupied with other friendships or activities?
If you are not available for your children, they will try to build their security around other things. Friends, hobbies, sports, television, movies, books, and music are all areas that can captivate a young person’s life. If your children turn to these things to meet their needs, you’ll find yourself competing for their attention when you do try to spend time together.
Set a good example by making family relationships a priority in your life. Look for ways to spend time together without distractions. For the sake of building a strong family, be willing to give up things that consume too much of your time. Place reasonable limits on your involvement with other people and activities.
Parenting is a challenging calling, but as you seek God’s direction in your role as a mother or father, He will provide the wisdom you seek. (See James 1:5.) May the Lord grant you abundant grace, courageous love, and precise insight for overcoming the barriers in your relationships with your children!
This material is adapted from pages 164–165 of the Rebuilder’s Guide.