My wife and I worked with teenagers for many years, and one of the skills we learned was to ask great questions, which often lead to great conversations. Now we work with married people; but we get to practice those same skills on our own kids, who are teenagers now. Many of our questions aren’t serious ones; in fact, most of them aren’t. But occasionally we learn things about our kids . . . and ourselves.
Their Lives Depends On Safe Driving.
Recently on a road trip, one of my kids landed on the topic of how they know when I am upset. My oldest, the 19-year-old said, “You drive the car really fast when you are upset.” I said, “That’s not true.” Then my 15-year-old son and 13-year-old daughter both chimed in with, “You do, Dad.” I looked at my wife and asked, “Is that true?” She thoughtfully responded, “You don’t now.” Unable to leave it alone I asked, “What do you mean ‘not now’?” She responded, “You used to drive fast . . . a little, but you don’t do it now.”
She was right and I knew it. There was a time I was guilty of driving fast when I was frustrated. Not high speeds on long stretches; just fast take-offs and stops. How dumb. I thought I had stopped doing that before my kids were old enough to notice, but I was wrong. My oldest remembered, and the other two said they did, too. Even if they didn’t, it was a great way to pick on Dad. I’m okay with being teased; it’s sort of the love language of our family. But not about this. I want my teenagers to only see me drive safely, because their lives could depend on it.
Their Relationships Depend On Kindness.
There is another skill I want my kids to see me model, because the quality of their relationships could depend on it. That skill is kindness. Now before you say, “Kindness is squishy,” I’m not talking about being “nice.” I’m talking about radical, Jesus-like kindness. The kind of kindness that sacrifices and serves, even when they feel someone doesn’t deserve it.
I want to model this, of course by the way I treat my children, but also how I treat servers in restaurants, strangers on the street, neighbors and friends. But one of the most important ways I want them to experience kindness is in the way I treat their mother.
Be Kind the Way You Want Your Kid to Be Kind.
I want my kids to see me holding their mom when she is overwhelmed or sad. I want them to hear me saying, “I’ll do it” (“it” being something I can do that will make her life easier. Even if it’s something I dislike doing, like unloading the dishwasher). I want them to see me listening, really listening to her. I want them to hear me saying, “I’m sorry” when I mess up. And I want them to see me leaving her notes of love and encouragement on the mirror of her car.
Not only is it a win for my marriage, but it’s a win for my kid’s potential marriages. I want my kids to see me treat their mom with the same degree of kindness that I would want them to treat their spouses one day. After all, the goal would be that they would spend many more years with their spouses than with me—especially if they learn to be radically kind.
These acts of kindness fall under the category of what I call “micro-moves”: brief, doing-life-together moments. To help you make this idea of kindness really practical, join the Your Best US Challenge, four 40-second experiences to help you have serious fun in your marriage.