When it comes to parenting, it’s easy to think of a few goals for yourself.
You want to help your kids find something they are passionate about.
You want to give them a healthy self-image.
You want to challenge them and encourage them to grow.
You hope that they develop their own faith, instead of just parroting your own.
You could probably list a dozen off the top of your head, but there’s one unexpected goal I can’t stop thinking about.
What is it?
I want my kids to find me approachable.
It’s easy to approach someone with good news. I loved telling my parents I got an A or made the team or finished my project early. The bigger challenge is approaching someone with disappointing news. It’s harder to approach a parent when you’ve messed up or failed or made a mistake.
But that’s exactly when I hope my kids will approach me the most.
The alternative is deadly. The alternative is secrecy and hiding and loneliness for a kid who doesn’t know where to go with the trouble they’re carrying.
Often, when there’s a tragedy, you’ll hear a parent say about their child, “We had no idea.”
That’s one of the saddest situations in life to me. So how do we combat it? I have a few ideas:
1. Say it clearly.
I don’t just tell my kids they can approach me. That’s too vague. I say very clearly, “If you’re at a party and someone is smoking pot, give me a call. I’ll get you home.” Or, “If you make a mistake with some friends, let me know and we can figure it out.” I try to give real examples they can actually understand.
2. Create conversation moments.
If you want your kid to talk to you, you have to create moments when they can. Some people grew up with dads who couldn’t be bothered when they got home. They’d hide behind a newspaper or TV, only emerging when dinner was made. How hard would it be for a kid with a secret to break the sanctity of that moment and share something difficult? Instead, do your best to create lots of moments where it’s easy to share.
3. Keep saying it.
My kids are going to be so tired of hearing me say that I am approachable. They are going to eventually say, “We know dad, we know!” Why? Because I never want them to forget it. I want them to always know they can tell me anything at any given moment. In order to get that to stick, I have to repeat it so that they actually believe it’s true.
A friend used to have a chair in her living room. If her daughter was in that chair, she had full immunity from whatever story she was telling her mom. Would that work for your family? Maybe, maybe not, I think it depends on the kid. But I applaud the parents for getting creative in their goal of being approachable.
It’s not the most exciting word. It’s not even a word we usually talk about when we talk about parenting. But trust me, you want to be approachable.
More importantly, your kids want you to be approachable.