Four Ways To Build Connection Webinar


So, Four Practical Ways to Connect with your Child. I can’t help but notice, Brian, that the operative word here is connect. I think that is probably the word that has triggered interest. And, I know a thing or two about connecting a trailer to a truck makes complete, but when we start talking about connecting with our children, with people and all of that type of thing, all of a sudden, it becomes pretty sentimental. So if you could even just help us with that. When we talk about connecting with our children. Can you just give us a framework for what it is we’re after with connection?

I think it’s such a great question and I think it is like in many areas in life, we know in the physical realm, we know what connection means and looks like but when we talk about the emotional realm, the relational realm, it becomes a little bit abstract. And essentially what I’m thinking of in connection, and what we’re gonna try to be focusing on today is how do we, as parents, give kids the impression that we care about them, we’re interested in their world, we’re willing to be impacted and influenced by them, and hopefully vice versa. I think that we tend to think about impacting them and their lives, certainly as parents, but sometimes, that’s a two-way street. And, as we give them the privilege of impacting us, then we have a little bit more opportunity to impact them.

Yeah, I think that’s helpful just right out the outset of just helping us understand what it means to connect. And I think we have certain things that are clear to us as parents. I’m to provide for my children, for example, there is a domain there of providing. I’m to discipline my children. There’s a domain there of discipline and I think really what we’re raising here is another domain of many and that domain is the domain of connecting with our children. And based on what you’ve just mentioned there, there’s an element of interacting at a relational level with these people. So let’s get right into it because you start some distinctions right off the bat, Brian, about what connection can look like. I want you to start right at the center of the screen here as we look at safety and growth. Maybe tease out the difference of those so that we can see that we’re really giving a couple concepts to come alongside connection.

And I think one of the things to say from the onset too, there’s many different ways to look at this and so we are gonna be touching on it at a high level and just giving a framework to look at. But I think to me, as a parent, it’s helpful to have some big buckets to think about. And, so the two big buckets to think about in general would be safety and growth. I think in general, as a parent and parents in general tend to think about how can I help my child grow and mature into who I’d like them to be? Certainly makes sense. And that’s where a lot of time and energy can go. But then I would say prior to that really is this thinking about what’s it look like to have emotional safety.

Maybe an analogy that can be helpful is if we’re trying to teach somebody to swim, we don’t just throw them out into the pool and then instruct them on how they’re supposed to figure it out in the midst of that being the first time in the pool. Rather when they’re in a place of safety, then they’re gonna learn what it means to kick their legs and move their arms in a way that’s gonna move them through the pool. In a similar way with parenting, if we can have some emotional safety with our kids and today we’re gonna talk about two different ways to maybe do that. Then that’s gonna help us move into the growth piece and thinking about two different ways to think about growth. And those will be two other things we dive into in that area.

And I really like that, Brian, because I think that makes a lot of sense. You know, as I talk about providing for my children, disciplining my children, there would be another one, physical safety of my children. That’s certainly within my responsibility as a father, right? But really you’re providing this other, there’s a safety of another type, as we care for our children, and that is this emotional space or this relational space. So safety coupled with growth here is going to be how we tackle the concept of connection. Now we’ve got four words on the screen. If you look just at a really high level, cuz I know we’re gonna go to each of them a little bit different. Attunement and activity. What are those? Instruction and challenge.

So the way we’re gonna be thinking about these terms and just a very broad sense, we’ll start with attunement and I would define attunement very simply. Noticing our kids or paying attention to them. So that’s the attunement piece, and that’s part of the emotional and relational safety. And then number two is activity. And, we’ll define that very simply as just doing something with our child or children. And, then as we move over into the growth piece, again, through a connection lens. And, I think that’ll be a little bit harder on the instruction and challenge piece to see that through a connection lens, because I think they can be seen through several different lenses, but the instruction piece simply defined as gonna be giving them information. And then the challenge piece we’re gonna define as asking them to do something.

And I think you mentioned even at the very beginning that this is gonna be pretty high level, and hopefully we’re just going to provide a skillset for parents to think about connection. And I think these four areas are really, really good to that end. We’re not gonna probably overturn every rock, but at least give us vocabulary and give us some spaces to be thinking about, which is really, really helpful. Let’s go right now to attunement and I’ll…

Before we do that for one second, maybe one thing I’ll say, Matt, and I know, as people signed up, there were some questions and I’ll try to allude to some of those as we walk forward, but certainly feel free to come back. And one question I remember is just what does this look like in maybe foster care or adoption situations? And I would say in general, where there’s hurt, whether it’s biological or a different, foster adoption, when that’s part of the picture hurt, that’s where the safety piece side of this circle becomes that much more important and that much more difficult to grow and have in place as just a high way of thinking about it.

I’m so glad that you paused us to address that. And the other part of that thoughtful question that was submitted, Brian, had to do with having multiple children and doing due diligence with the whole lot when certain children require more. And, I’d like to use that to really set up the attunement piece, Brian? Yes, because I have been convicted in the last month especially. I’ve been convicted that I do not attune to my fifth child out of six, my fifth child, Hans. Okay? I have found myself saying Uhhuh, yeah, yeah, yeah. As he trails along behind me, for example, and I’m enroute to something else. And, I mean this is a total confession here, but I realized that, wait a minute, I’m not sure Hans is being noticed. I know that I, and so it’s now become, and I think what’s helpful here, even through this discussion is I’ve reviewed this content, Brian, it’s been helpful for me to say attune. I need to attune specifically to Hans because he’s flying under the radar here in my family. Simply because, man, that kid can survive on his own. But I when I turn the frequency to Hans, he’s very engaging, but I don’t always attune to that. So let’s go to attunement now, which you’ve defined right there at the top, noticing them, which I think is beautifully simple. Noticing, I want you to first to go to the three different domains to consider. As this safety, there’s skillset here that you’re gonna talk through to attune, but there are some underlying domains of safety. Why don’t you quickly address those three?

So I think as we think about noticing them or being attuned to our kids, we would all say, yes, I know I should do that. But I think it’s helpful to break it down into a few smaller buckets that give us a little bit more tangible things to hold onto of what that might look like. And these three domains do that to some degree, at least for myself. And that would be for us to be able to tune into their inner state of mind with our children. And that would be basically what’s going on internally for them. And, we won’t know that fully. And, depending on their age, they may not be able to articulate that, but for us to pay attention to. Okay, what might they be thinking? What might they be feeling? What might be going on inside. So that’s that domain.

And I just wanna accent, Brian, when you said thinking and feeling, it became clear to me what you mean by interstate of mind. So clueing into what’s going on in the head and heart of that child, I think is really, really helpful.

Yep, exactly. And then the next piece is the developmental piece. And this is the piece that says, and we all know this, but our kids are gonna age and mature over time, but it’s very, very difficult in a specific time and moment to say, where are they at developmentally, what are they actually capable of doing in this state of their development? And I think even for myself, I think of my second oldest, Cash, is a really big boy. So he’s as big as his sister, who’s 18 months older, and it’s hard for me to remember that developmentally he’s still significantly behind his sister, even though he’s bigger. And I have to continually remind myself otherwise I expect the same thing from him behaviorally, emotionally, helping around the house.

So that’s a little bit of that piece, which reminds me too, just as we think about relationships with our kids, it starts off with what I would call, we are their servant. We’re always there taking care of ’em, and we’re hopeful over the course of the lifespan that we’ll be able to move into more peer kind of relationship where there’s interaction and at that kind of a level we can have a really intellectual dialogue and interaction with them. But that’s something that we slowly move towards over the course of development.

And then the third domain is just behaviorally. This is the one that we generally think of, which is really important, but I think the other two are more easily missed and behaviorally is being able to just know and pay attention to what they’re doing in their behavior and what that maybe helps communicate to us of what might be going on in internal state of mind as well as whether or not developmentally they’re able to do what we’re asking or we need to challenge them more and they could be capable of more.

And, I wanna just continually recircle, so we’re talking about attunement, which is notice. So with these domains, noticing this interstate, noticing the developmental level, noticing behavior, and all of this is going to help us with safety. Can you make that connection a bit more?

Yes, exactly. So a story that comes to mind here, as I remember, this is a while ago, but I was in the kitchen with my oldest daughter and my youngest daughter in the morning, and I’m trying to make breakfast and get things going. And my oldest daughter comes and says, Hey, can you hold me? And I say, no. Please go do x I forget what it was, but then my youngest daughter starts crying and I pick her up and this all happens in just a few seconds. And I look at my oldest daughter and behaviorally her head goes down. She’s just, you can tell her interstate of mind seems to be that she’s really sad and picking up on that helps me turn to her and say, sweetie, are you okay? And she looks up to me, I’ll never forget this, and she says, well, you love Ivy more than you love me. And I was like, her safety was compromised in that moment. Exactly. She did not feel like relationally or emotionally, I cared about her and instead I cared about her sister. So the safety, being able to have safety, if we’re attuned to what they’re maybe doing and feeling and where they’re at developmentally, is gonna give us room to restore that safety.

So in that moment, I caught it. I don’t always, we don’t always as parents, but in that moment when we can turn, we realize what’s going on and we can say, Oh no sweetie, I’m sorry. Developmentally you are able to go do something else. Your little sister is not, and therefore that’s why I picked her up because she’s not able to calm herself down. But you are. It has nothing to do with me caring for her more than you.

I think that’s an excellent connection then to safety. That’s very helpful. And, the thought was triggered as you gave that example. And this will, I think, move us to the skillset. Cuz we’ve got some skillsets here that’s going to help us promote safety and attunement. And the skillset, I have realized there’s a phrase that can come outta my mouth with my kids, and that phrase is, I don’t care. I mean, it could be when I’m annoyed and they keep hounding me, I don’t care. I’m embarrassed how quickly and easily that phrase comes out, but just, you used, you mentioned that in your story, and I’ve come to realize that phrase is, not what I want my kids to think about me is Dad doesn’t care. It undermines safety also, doesn’t it?

Right. And I think a lot of times when we as parents say that we don’t actually mean we don’t care. What we mean is something like, you know what? It doesn’t matter if you want to eat your supper or not. That’s something you need to do. I care about you. I care about your health. I care about getting through supper so that we can move to the next thing, and therefore you need to eat it. You know? Very much so. And again, that’s part of, I’ll maybe skip down to the repair part of the skillset.

Sure. That’s where, in attunement, noticing them does not at all mean that we’re gonna do this well all the time. It’s really about if we can stay attuned to them, notice where they’re at, it gives us a chance to repair it and say, you know what? That’s not what I meant, or earlier I really blew it. Or just here recently I was in my vehicle with my son and he’s telling me a story and as soon as he was done, I asked a question and he looked at me and said, that’s just what I told you, dad. Like I was not paying attention at all. I was thinking about a different concept from work that I was thinking about and I was caught just, you know, missed it. Totally missed it. And I’m really sorry, son. I was thinking about something else. Can you share that again with me?

And there’s terrific hope in that repair piece. And you exampled it with your interaction with Ivy. That and your oldest Kennedy, that you were able to say, sweetie, notice this is why I picked up Ivy. And there was a repair moment there, so it’s wonderful news that we don’t have to get it right the first time. Exactly. But part of the notice is noticing when we get it wrong and making that repair. Let’s move to the other two bullets there. Brian, why don’t you, briefly unpack that?

Yeah, and so this first one, again, nothing rocket science about this, but it is so difficult to do and that is for us to be able to be attuned to our kids, to notice them, we’re gonna have to identify and work at moving away from distractions. There are so many things that pull for our attention and we really don’t have the capacity to pay close attention to more than one thing at a time. And so noticing what it is that for you or I that tend to be distractors and working hard to set those down. So technology’s an easy one. That our phones can be distracting or work or a task at home or a relational interaction earlier in the day or so on and so forth can be very strong distractors that keep us from noticing what’s going on with our kids. And when we don’t notice it, we’re not gonna be able to respond well to it.

And I think that makes a lot of sense. And as I look at that second bullet of communicating, I see you again is so beautifully simple and carries out this wonderful objective of promoting safety. But here’s my confession. I think if my kids were to say, does Dad see you. Yeah, he sees me when I’m sleeping. He knows when I’m awake, type of concept. He knows when I’ve been bad, like I’ve got a keen eye on misbehavior. And you’re positing an idea that’s beyond that. An I see you, that goes deeper than that. Exactly. Going out of our way to pay attention and not only pay attention, but then also to verbalize that we did notice it. Even if we’ve noticed something like we noticed, hey, you put your clothes away, or hey, you did a good job on this math assignment. If we notice it and we check it off in our mind without ever verbalizing it. They don’t know that we’ve seen it. And I think that’s such an important piece of the attunement is not only noticing it, but then being really explicit in trying to share with them, Hey, I’m paying attention and not just for the things that you don’t do well, I’m paying attention because I care about you. I’m interested in your world. I’m interested in the things that you’re interested in, even when we’re not, and communicating that to them.

Yeah. That’s great. I’m gonna weave in another question. There was one question that somebody asked about teenage girls and connecting with them. And I’m gonna just throw a notice out cause I’ve got teenage girls as well. And, sometimes I’ve struggled with I notice they’re pretty or look nice. And, knowing how to handle that in an appropriate way because I want them to know, but yet I don’t want them to over fixate on appearance too. So I find myself, is this helpful or harmful? I don’t know if you have thoughts on that. It’s just totally triggered right now.

Yeah. No, I think it’s a really good question and I think, you know what, I guess I would say, to me, and you can disagree with this presupposition if you’d like, but it just that I think God’s created women with a desire to be beautiful and even a very unique way of showing and displaying beauty. And so in that, I think that’s part of what we’re gonna see in our young ladies and for us, whether moms or dads, to be able to say, I believe you are beautiful. Or wow, I really like that dress or I noticed this. Where did that come from? Or, that’s a thing I keep, I think can be a beautiful way of building safety with them, by showing, Hey, I notice you, you are beautiful to me, not just because of physical attributes, but because of other things as well and making sure that we’re explicit in sharing that. But I don’t think we need to shy away from communicating to them that we see them as beautiful.

Yeah. And, I think when we understand it in this with safety, it makes a lot of sense. I want my teenage girls to feel safe with me, in fact, be most safe with me as opposed to safe with another man or another voice into their life. And I think that kind of ties it up, doesn’t it?

Right. When that void is there, when that’s an innate desire for them, and that void is left by us, by not communicating into that, it leaves a lot of space for somebody else to communicate into that and somebody else that we may not want communicating into that.

Let’s move on. We’ve got another safety one. And this one is activity, meaning we want to do this as this is now connecting with them on a doing level. Yes, we have the same domains, emotional thoughts, development, behavioral, but we’ve got a new skillset set. Let’s work through that skillset.

So, this at a starting place, maybe would just be thinking about how can I let them pour out? Pour out who they are. And I would see this as intrinsically, what are some of their temperament or their traits, their tendencies and paying attention to that. And then the next piece of it would be what do they value? What are they interested in? And when we’re attuned to them and we’re doing something with them, we’re gonna see that come out of them and we can notice that. And so we won’t have time to do it right now, but one thing to maybe think about after we’re done here would be to sit down and write out the names of each of your children and with each of them to try to identify what you would see as a strength and a weakness for each of them.

And I think as you do that, that hopefully can give you some indication of how attuned you are to them, as well as where you would see them as being really strong and weak. And I would say for almost every parent, one side of that, either identifying a strength or a weakness is really difficult. We either tend to be really good at identifying strengths or really good at identifying weaknesses and really we wanna pair those together as we do life with them and we begin to say, boy, you know what, like my oldest Kennedy, one of the things that she is, she is super persistent and that is something she’s very, very good at. And, so therefore, and she loves tumbling, so I want to use those things that strength, and that’s something that she has interest in. Encourage that, but then also use that. Those strengths and that interest to then help her grow her weaknesses, which would be to be able to be empathetic or kind or patient, that she’s gonna be much more willing to work on those weaknesses in something that she’s gifted in. And if I, if we can figure out a way to pair those, that can be quite helpful.

As the picture that I have with this one, letting them pour out is really them pouring into us, I guess. Which very often I have the viewpoint as a a parent that I pour into my children, but you’re really in this moment, letting them be a person that impacts me, letting them be a person that I find value in, but benefits my life. Right. And so I wanna couple this with a question that we had about two-way street, but I really liked it. The questioner said, I feel like, right now with my children, it’s a one-way street. And, maybe I’ll put words in their mouth and saying I’m pouring into them. And, basically my experience is exhaustion.

When will it start to be a two-way street? And I think they’re perhaps looking forward to when they get older because this makes more sense, I can see the activities easier with a 13 or a 15 or an 18 year old, right? Where you have these heart to hearts and you can know who are they and that type of thing. And some of those things are starting to manifest by their interests in success and such. Yes. So, but you just gave an example there. How old’s Kennedy? She’s nine. Nine. Okay. So with a nine year old, you were able to, in a way, have a two-way street moment. I don’t know if you have any other advice for what this looks like at the young ages.

So, at the young ages, I think, again, it ties into the attunement piece in the sense as if we can see what they’re particularly drawn to and join them in that, then that’s gonna be really good for us to get a better picture of who they are. We, as parents, have a hard time generally joining without instructing. So I think that would be the piece. If we’re thinking right now, again, through the lens of safety and relational connection, it’s how do I not move into instruction and yes, no, parent into a place of saying, Nope, this is letting them pour out, me getting a better picture of where their interests are, where their strengths are, where their weaknesses are, and then I can log that so that I can in time move into some of those other things. And I think when we can do that, even your example of noticing your girls and wanting to communicate to them that they’re beautiful is a great example. Like when you see them come out and they’ve got a new dress on. If we notice that and say, wow, that is, I really like that, and it’s not even focused on beauty as much as I see it. I can tell by this that having a new dress is a big deal. You know? Then you’re like, oh yeah, and then that gives you something to engage that, try to bring that two-way street on board instead of it always being a one-way street where I’m instructing. Whereas obviously with young kids, it is a pretty well, a one way street.

And, but even as you, if you gave some examples came to my mind, right? Some of my young children like to write stories. In fact, Hans, who I’d already mentioned, likes to write stories. And Dad, I wanna read you my story and I’m embarrassed. This is a complete confession. How I’m like, the first thing I ask is, how many pages is this gonna be? Oh, I don’t, let’s see, 10. Okay, here we go. And, it’s almost painful. But I’m missing it, right? I’m missing what I’m building in that moment. I’m building safety by going to the couch and listening to him tell the story or read the story to me. And in that moment, it is a two-way street. He is pouring into me. Exactly. He’s wanting a response. So, I think I can see it at that level too. Yeah, definitely. And I think that’s helpful. I think that probably leads to this next one, right? Freedom to explore. Say something more about that.

And, it’s very connected to that first one, but I think it’s an important enough one to call out is that I think we, and this is probably true for many things in life, and particularly with parenting, that most things are on a spectrum and this freedom to explore. Some of us can be pretty slow to let our kids explore different things and we’re really focused on physical safety. So, letting them explore new things can feel really scary to us on this side of the spectrum. On the other side of the spectrum, to just say whatever goes and to not have much oversight.

And this is really a place in the middle that says we want to give our kids freedom to explore. That’s wise. So they can learn how to engage the world when they’re not right next to me and through that, give them opportunity to learn. And, if we’re building this relational and emotional safety, hopefully there can also be some communication which we’ll go into just a couple bullets down that helps build in learning and understanding, and freedom to grow.

That makes a lot of sense. I think a common parent child experience is sometimes the disappointment that we as parents have in that they haven’t selected our activity of choice. Right. Does that make sense? Exactly. Absolutely. So does that speak, does this point speak to that, giving them some freedom there?

It does and so sometimes we can identify activities as good or bad. Not because they have an inherent goodness or badness as much as they’re just not what we did, or it’s not what we grew up with or it’s not what we prefer and then instead of giving them the freedom to figure out what they value and what they want to do. We really hard direct them towards this thing over here. Not because it’s better, but because we’re more comfortable with it. And I think that’s hard, particularly if you’re a parent who’s gifted in let’s say, Music, for example, or you’re athletic and sports is important or reading or, you name it. If there’s something you’re particularly drawn to, that’s not a bad thing. But also to be careful that if that’s part of where your kids end up, that it’s more because that’s where they’re gifted and interested in more so than, that’s because they had no choice but that.

That’s good. Touch talk memories. What do you, what would you like to share about that? Yeah, I think just a real quick one and as far as the touch piece is that, and I think even the covid has been a great reminder that when you interact with people, like it’s so hard not to touch each other, whether it’s a handshake or a hug. It’s just, we are geared towards being able to interact with not only just in the same space, but to have some sort of physical touch and our kids are the same. That, and I know this is particularly difficult, at least in our home for moms. It’s like I’ve been touched all day. To, think about at the end of the night to give them a hug or whatever. It’s like, I’m all touched out and certainly that makes sense. But even too, as we think about strengthening weaknesses, my oldest Kennedy is not somebody who wants physical touch at all. But that’s why it’s so important for me when, like last night for example, she was teasing me about something and she got close and it was important for me to see that as a moment to give her a hug. And I knew that it was a playful moment and she would let me do that. Whereas my other two very much appreciate touch and that becomes something that they’re gonna seek out more, but it’s beneficial for all of us. And, then the talking piece, I think, one of the things that I would really encourage parents in this space is to think about asking good questions to your kids.

And I think this starts, if we can start at a young age, which is generally when we think they’re not gonna respond to this, so why even bother? But I think if we start young, then maybe there’ll be enough relationship and safety in place that some more of that can happen as they age. So for example, like to ask them. What are your thoughts on all of this covid 19 stuff? Or, Hey, you know what, I’ve been thinking about this topic over here that I’ve been learning about. I’d be curious about your thoughts and, whenever again, and that’s letting them pour out as well. And that can be scary cuz sometimes we are gonna hear things that we don’t want to hear. And so therefore, I think sometimes we’re much more comfortable in giving them a sermon on what we’ve been learning rather than asking them what they think about it.

And, I think what we would find too that we, it’s often been said, I want to talk to my teenagers. And, building that conversation early as a connecting point is really critical on lots of different topics. Because sometimes when we are like, Ooh, I want to connect now, let me give you an example. Now this is in conversation, but my son likes to shoot baskets. My 16 year old son likes to shoot baskets. And, I’ve gone over now and you know what? I should shoot baskets with him and he lets me, but I can tell he’d take me or leave me. He’s fine shooting baskets alone. And the reason I believe, Brian, is because I didn’t shoot baskets when he was 10 shooting baskets with him. Okay. If that makes sense. So that space has been without dad. Yeah. And doesn’t need dad now. And, now I’m like, boy, I would like a point of contact of entry. Maybe it’s the basketball. Well, maybe the ship hasn’t necessarily sailed, but my point is, I think this applies at many levels, whether it’s talk, whether it’s conversations about girls, for example, with a young man or whatever.

Anyway, I’m not sure what you wanna do with that, but and I think that’s a good example of just having a handful of, and that kind of goes back to as we think about many strengths and weaknesses or interest that our kids have, that those are great topics of thinking of, you know what, if I want to connect with my son, I know an activity I can do with him is baseball, and if I’m doing baseball with him, it’s likely that he’s gonna talk and be open to learning. And that being the something in the back of our minds that we’re thinking about with each of them. And if we’ve missed that opportunity that the ship hasn’t completely sailed, but to recognize it’s gonna take probably some effort and a lot of doing an activity with them that feels like they don’t even care before they’re gonna maybe open back up to inviting me to participate in that with them.

And so another good question that I think is scary to ask kids, but I think is a good one, and that is, what do you think is most important to dad? Or what do you think is most important to mom? And, it gives you good insight into where they think you are and what they think is important to you. And, just thinking about different questions like that and maybe having one that you would give, Brian.

This was so clear four out of the five Father’s Day cards that I got this year had a picture of the project that has consumed for the last two years. When I opened up the card, I was like, oh boy, I think I’m thinking too much about this project. Yeah. It made four out of the five Father’s Day cards. And it was pretty enlightening to myself and what my kids see.

Exactly. And I think that is a great way in my mind, if we go to the slide previous for me to be thinking about what do they see as the things that distract me. Oh, that project’s not a bad thing. But I think they would say that as a distraction for me. And I need to think about what that looks like to balance that.

I think we’re gonna keep moving. I think memory’s in fun make a lot of sense, but I do just wanna. My kids talk about hide and seek, which we used to play a lot when they were, and they’ll still talk about hide and seek. And in fact, they’re excited for me to play hide and seek with my youngest just to watch me play, hide and seek cuz that’s what you know and so anyway, I guess I’m not all lost, which I’m glad to know that there maybe some positive connections, but they’ve connected with those memories. Those memories are important to them. And they were tied with fun. But let’s move now to the, growth instruction. I think instruction makes a lot of sense to us. We’re like, all right, now this is my sweet spot. I’ve got a few things to say. But go ahead to the lenses there and connection, destination, fears.

So again, I think the purpose of our focus here today is really about connection. So I want you to think about, Instruction through connection lens, that it’s not just about getting information to them, a child. It’s about how do I keep the relational connection in place while this information is shared? And, that’s a little different lens than just saying they are gonna get this information, versus how do I do this in a way that connection is still the goal. Destination is really the piece of saying, there is a battle that’s won over the time that they’re under my care and therefore, I want to be thinking about what I want in the end and so that I don’t get consumed or overwhelmed by the moment. That as we think about wanting our children to be Jesus followers who love the Lord, who live sanctified lives and all of these sorts of things to say, okay, that’s where I want to head. That’s what I’m hoping for. And, therefore it’s not all hanging or hinging on this moment. I’m gonna win some, I’m gonna lose some, I want to be aware of that, but, too big of a deal about this moment In light of the journey itself.

Perspective. Exactly. Perspective, yeah. And then the third one here would just be fear. I think for us as parents, rightfully so, there are a lot of things that we can get fearful of, and those fears can be the thing that drives our instruction. But when we are communicating from a place of fear, generally that’s not gonna lead to connection. It leads to frustration and confusion and misunderstanding. Yeah. And panic. I know that from experience. Exactly. And it’s really easy to go down that road, especially as our kids get older and they move into that, the 16 year old and you’re like, oh man, it won’t be long and they’re gonna be moving into college, or maybe they’ll be moving out of the house or whatever. It’s like, boy, time is short and we can move into panic and that’s not gonna be helpful.

So let’s go to the skillset now. As we think about instruction and growth, helping see strengths and weaknesses. So as we’ve been using our safety and attunement and activity to help us see their strengths and weaknesses, now this is about moving into helping them see that and share that with them so that they know what they’re really good at as well as where they have weaknesses and how to work on that.

So, for example, my son, Cash, he knows that one of his weaknesses is that he can get anxiety and fear can be the thing that blocks him from doing things. And as we’ve noticed that in him, we’ve tried to help him see that. And, but also that his strengths of kindness and he cares about people to see that as well. And now we want to help him see that as he’s walking through life. So last summer we were somewhere, forget what, and there was this activity in a park, and he didn’t want to do it, but I knew he didn’t want to do it because he was scared, because he had never done it before. Helping him see the connection between his fear, and that’s why he wasn’t doing it rather than it wasn’t something he wanted to do. And again, whether or not he did it wasn’t important to me, but I wanted to help him see what was going on underneath that was contributing to his hesitancy to participate in that particular activity.

Sometimes, I wonder, Brian, if kids these days need extra support in cradling their weaknesses. And let me set it up this way. They live in a world where they see perfection on everything. They know who the best basketball player is, and it’s not them. They know who the best piano player is, and it’s not them. They know who the most beautiful people are, and it’s not them. And a lot of this is airbrushed on social media and you never really quite know it’s true, right? But, there is a easy ranking metric for them to bounce themselves off of in every domain thinkable. And they’ll never measure up. Right. And so I have found that there’s a lot of coaching around this area of you’ll never be the best, if that makes sense.

Exactly. And, giving them the freedom to not be the best. And, too, I think in that, letting them know and that’s where I think going back to what we talked about in the previous slide of giving them the freedom to explore. I think when we can participate in an activity with them that we are not good at. That is a really good example of helping them say, you know what? Dad’s not good at this, but I’m willing to do it with you and I might look like a fool and I’m probably gonna mess this all up. But I don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to be perfect to coach them through that. Cuz I think you’re exactly right. They are, when we think about social media and technology, they get exposed to a false vo view of reality. And this picture that, like you’ve said, is that, I’ll never be the best. And therefore it can be really easy just to shrink back and say, why even try? Whereas we wanna try to communicate to them is, you don’t have to be the a the best to do this. We want you to try and use your God-given talents at whatever level they can be. And that’s really tricky in the world we live in, both as parents as well as kids.

Yeah, and I think this is a little bit different topic, but it makes me think of how important it is for us as parents not to look at a parent next to us and think about how great they are and all of my deficits but rather to recognize, yeah, maybe they do something better than I do. I wanna celebrate them, but I also want to see that God has equipped me to do what I need to do and celebrate that as well.

That’s excellent. One thing at a time here, I’d like you to, so one thing at a time, I would say that this is like if we’re thinking about an area in life that we want to give them instruction for us to think about what that area is and try to zero in on it. Now, I’m gonna contradict that here right now and just say, You might, one way to look at this would be to pick one area in the relational realm of their life. Like this is an area that you could work on. For example, growing empathy towards other people. Maybe in the emotional realm would be, to get better at being able to manage your emotions, in the spiritual realm to grow at being able to understand the basic storyline of the Old Testament.

And then the fourth area, I forget which ones I’ve said now. So I did relational, emotion. Oh, physical. Like, if there’s an area in the physical realm, like exercise or something like that. But to pick one area that you wanna work on. So for example, I think a question that we maybe got was about back talk. So that would be okay in this area that I would consider that as a relational and emotional area. So relationally we want to teach them how to think about and be empathetic towards other people. And in the emotional realm to not talk back to mom and dad is gonna require emotional regulation skills. So, okay. Those are the zero in points. So I want to be really clear and part of being clear is defining what the goal is. Well, I want us to work really hard over the next month that we reduce back talking to mom and dad. And then the consistent piece is knowing that is gonna be something that you’ll probably have to circle back to anywhere from 10 to 10,000 times a day and being really consistent in that. And then specific, I would see the specific piece as sometimes as parents we have something like back talk or picking up or being a good friend or whatever. That’s not really specifically defined and so I think we need to do a better job of saying, so picking up, for example, would be, picking up to me means that your clothes are off of the floor, that your bed is made, and that’s what needs to be done by the end of the day. And so that would be an example of picking one thing, how to be clear in your goal, consistent in following through with that goal and specific in defining what it is you’re actually looking for.

I think that makes a lot of sense. We’ve got about nine more minutes, Brian, and I want to get to the last slide. So we won’t have time to unpack this last bullet, but we have talked about some of these building blocks. So why don’t you just help us know how to digest that. So that last point really is about, again, as parents, we tend to want our kids to make wise choices, which makes so much sense. But many times for them to make wise choices, there are a lot of skills underneath making wise skills required. Exactly. And so when we want them to make wise choices about social media, we might have to work really hard to build up their social skills so that they know what is appropriate to post publicly versus what’s more of a private information. So that would be a skill that’s necessary to making wise choices in the realm of social media, for example.

And I really like, Brian, I really like how these basic block building blocks are things that we can work on very young. Always we’re working on these. This is the skill set that’s going to be applied whenever they’re making decisions, which I think casts a really great vision. Let’s move on now to the last slide. And the last one is challenge, asking something to be done here. We’ve got the same lenses there. Go ahead and speak to some of these skillset.

So this skillset, again, if we can remember their strength and weaknesses and that can help, I think, guide our expectations. So when we’re asking them to do something, if we’re asking them to do it, and it aligns with a strength, that should shift our expectations. Versus if we are asking them to do something that aligns with their weaknesses. And, so for parents, I think that’s really important for us to say, wow, this is a task that’s really difficult for this child. So therefore I’m gonna need to be extra patient and may need to give extra guidance. Whereas if I’m asking them to do a task out of their strengths, it might be quite easy. And from one child to the next, their strengths and weaknesses are gonna be different. So therefore, just because Child X can do this thing doesn’t mean their sibling should be able to do it equally well, even if they’re ahead of them on the developmental spectrum.

Yeah, that makes sense. And I think that really leads into the second point about I believe in you. We all need to grow as opposed to having a message of it must be done my way or you never get it right. And, so I think there’s something really key here that just eeks out of us parents sometimes with the wrong flavor if we don’t have it on our radar.

Exactly. And I think this is more about just being aware of this because I think most of us would agree with this, but it’s so hard to do. And that is really to communicate when we give a task to a child that this is not about me saying, you have to do it this way, or that you’re in a critical way but, hey, I believe in you. You can do this. And, we need to grow. And I think that’s even hard, like as you’re, so for example, I guess the other day as my kids were trying to sort through, they had heard some things about some of the protests and riots and things like how to sort through that and for me as even in communicating through that with them, to acknowledge in my own heart that I want to do what I wanna do, and I will do that at times, by any means necessary. And, for me to connect with that as I’m talking about different people doing things that I would say are wrong as far as breaking into a store and taking what you want. I would say that’s wrong, but I also recognize in my own heart, that I can feel that and I can actually see how I could do that.

And so therefore, I need to grow rather than, I’m sitting up here and thinking, look, these people, they do everything wrong. I’ve got all the answers. And even when we’re communicating through something like that. That kind of an idea can leak out versus what I think we want to do is say, you know what, this is what’s in my heart and I need to be working on growing. And I think this is what is in our hearts as humans, and we all need to be working on it. Okay, what does that look like? As, I ask you to go pick up the toys out of the yard when it’s time for bedtime. You just wanna do what you want to do. But I would say, nope, we all need to grow. And I believe that in time you can learn how to do those tasks with grace, even though you may not want to do them.

And what I really like about these is you, I can definitely see the relation to connection. I believe in you and we all need to grow is in respect to a relationship. I value them. You must get it right or it needs to be done my way is about the task. Right? That is paramount. The product is paramount, not the person. And I think that is an important toggle. I guess one thing I’d maybe say on this slide is just as we think about challenges to make sure that we don’t frustrate our kids to giving them too big a challenges, and that’s where this last bullet point, just thinking about wherever they’re at just one more rung up, like one thing that’s maybe gonna help them move forward just a little bit is the kind of challenges that we want to do. And, again, I think that’s where it can correspond with our fears, too. Sometimes we want them to, we see all the things they need to grow in and we want to hurdle the whole thing overnight. And that’s just not the way growth works for any of us.

That makes a lot of sense. Arlan just chatted in and said to go ahead and finish up. So, what remaining final comments as it concerns connections, Brian, would you have. I would just say I would encourage I think it’s exciting that you’re here and I guess even in the counseling office, one of the things that I hear from kids sometimes is just that, if my parents would just pay more attention and, give me the indication that they’re interested in my world, that would mean a lot. And I think so just at a very basic level, I think if you and I can work at paying attention, acknowledging that we’re not gonna always get it right, but if we can work hard to let them know that we are interested in their lives, we care about them. It sounds simple. I know it’s hard, but I think it’s something that kids certainly appreciate. And I would say too, if you have questions or follow up things, certainly would be interested and willing to answer questions afterwards if we can through email or phone calls or whatever.

Thanks for that, Brian, and for that conclusion to bring your experience in the counseling room to bear, to see what all of us parents are now, I think, better motivated to do in making that connection and the importance of it. So, with that, we’re again at one o’clock, so we won’t keep you longer than that. And so thanks each one for coming and being on. Again, this has been recorded and you’ll be able to find it on our website for if you have everyone watch it or pass it along.

Parenting Webinar

Building connection is one of the most important, and most long-lasting, activities a parent can do with their children. In this webinar, you will discover four practical ways to connect with your child – attunement, activity, instruction, and challenge. Listen in as Brian Sutter walks through how these skills can both provide safety while encouraging growth in your children. Learn more by watching the webinar recording.

Four Ways to Build Connection Handout