Day 2: Defining Healthy Relationships

Parent-Child Relationships

Another type of relationship the Simple Survey addressed was between parents and children. A majority of the respondents thought they had good relationships with their children. When we asked the question of the parents from the child’s point of view (“My kids consider me to be a good parent”), the responses were identical. The majority of parents think they are doing a good job, and they believe their children would

give the same assessment. So most parents think they are doing OK, but 4 of 10 parents really want to improve.

Survey Statistics

I am a good parent.

56% strongly agree.

41% agree somewhat.

3% disagree somewhat.

0% strongly disagree.

What is your response to; I am a good parent.

Strongly agree           Agree somewhat

Disagree somewhat     Strongly disagree

In fact, when the question was changed to see how many parents were worried about how their children will turn out, the numbers indicate even more concern. Of course, these higher numbers reflect the reality that our children have free will, and even the best parents can have children who disappoint them.

Survey Statistics

I am worried about how my kids will turn out.

29% strongly agree.

38% agree somewhat.

22% disagree somewhat.

10% strongly disagree.

When the question is rephrased to ask how parenting ultimately affects the lives of the children, the concerns are obviously higher. More than two-thirds of parents worry about their kids.

Check your response; I am worried about now my kids will turn out.

Strongly agree           Agree somewhat

Disagree somewhat     Strongly disagree

The comments and the interviews revealed some of the reasons for the concerns. One prominent issue, for example, was the common concern of lack of time, which we addressed last week. For example, Rebecca, a 33-year-old mother of two from Abilene, Texas, said, “My husband and I, as well as the two kids, are so busy with our own activities that we really don’t have time for one another. It’s kind of ironic. We want the best for our children, but we aren’t giving them what they need the most–our time.”

Fewer than one-third of parents strongly feel that they give their children enough time. Yet most of these same parents think they are working hard to be good parents. Their hectic schedule leaves them feeling exhausted, confused, and guilty.

Is your schedule keeping you from giving your children enough time? Yes No

It so, what is the effect on your relationship with your children?

Despite the seemingly best efforts of parents, they tell us they know their children less as the child gets older. Look at some of these disturbing results from our surveys.

Survey Statistics

I strongly feel that I really know my kids.

73% When the oldest child is less than 6 years old

58% When the oldest child is 9 to I I

48% When the oldest child is 12 to 18

43% When the oldest Child is 19 or older

Check your response: I strongly feel that l really know my kids.

Birth to 6;     Strongly agree        Agree somewhat

Disagree somewhat     Strongly disagree

9 to 11;         Strongly agree         Agree somewhat

Disagree somewhat     Strongly disagree

12 to 18;     Strongly agree            Agree somewhat

Disagree somewhat     Strongly disagree

19 and older;     Strongly agree       Agree somewhat

Disagree somewhat     Strongly disagree

Parents tend to get their children involved in a plethora of activities at very young ages. But that busyness often does not provide the desired results. As the children get older, the parents feel less and less that they know their kids. Activities alone do not seem to provide healthier parent-child relationships. On the contrary, they may be at least partly

responsible for doing just the opposite of the parents’ dreams and wishes for their children.

Read Proverbs 1:8-9;

8 Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction

and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.

9 They are a garland to grace your head

and a chain to adorn your neck.

Who is responsible for giving spiritual instruction to children?

The Bible makes it clear that parents are responsible for teaching their children about God and His ways. That’s the best way to guarantee that kids will turn out all right.

Proverbs 22:6 says,

Teach a youth about the way he should go;

even when he is old he will not depart from it.

Bringing Clarity to Your Relationships

As you recall, the first step in the simple life is the determination to move forward with clear, concrete action steps. Let us make some suggestions for bringing clarity to your relationships.

Decide what relationship you would like to improve. If you are dealing with multiple relationship issues, you need to work on just one at a time. Perhaps you can start with the relationship that gives you the most concern or the person closest to you. Which need is greatest?

Select the relationship you most need to work on.

Husband     Wife         Child     Parent     Friend

Coworker     Neighbor     In-Law     Other

Define your “how” as well as your “what.” Write a mission statement for improving the relationship you have chosen to focus on. Remember that a mission statement should have the following characteristics.

° It should be easy to understand. There must be no doubt about what you plan to do.

° It should be a process, including not only a declaration of your intentions but also steps to fulfill the intentions.

° It should be immediately doable. It should not be a lofty set of wishes you can’t fulfill in the near future. Set your sights on something realistic and achievable.

Let’s suppose Faye desires to improve her relationship with her husband, William. She then writes her mission statement:

I will strive to be a better wife to William.

That statement is doomed for failure because although it states the what (to have a better relationship with her husband), it does not state the how (the process she will take to accomplish her goal of being a better wife).

Instead, Faye’s mission statement needs to define the what and the how:

I will be a better wife to William by giving him at least one compliment for the next 10 days and by not making any critical Comments about him or to him during those same 10 days.

Now Faye is getting the job done. She not only has a mission statement that seeks to accomplish her goal, but she also has steps to accomplish that goal.

Don’t overcommit yourself through your mission statement. Faye has made a commitment for 10 days. That’s manageable. She has committed to pay at least one compliment to William each day. She can probably do that. And she has committed to refrain from criticizing her husband during this 10-day period. If she slips up, she can commit to getting it right the rest of the 10 days.

Find an accountability person. When you tell someone about your plans, you have created accountability. And that accountability increases your prospects for accomplishing the intent of your mission statement.

Write your mission statement for the priority relationship you have identified.

So how did Faye do in executing her mission statement? She reported, “the process was amazing. I gave William at least one sincere compliment each day, usually two. I messed up on not criticizing two of the days, but I didn’t let it stop me from keeping at it. I discovered two amazing things. First, selfless love and giving are so freeing. You don’t give expecting anything in return. Second, I noticed a difference in William’s attitude toward me after just three days. I think I like this so much, I will try something new soon.”

Maybe this exercise can help you bring about some changes in your relationships too. Tomorrow we’re going from clarity to movement.


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