When my sports-oriented son hit pre-adolescence I realized he wasn't going to sit down on my terms and chat. So I started asking him when he came in the door from school, "You want to shoot some hoops?" or "Chris, want to play pingpong?"
Out in the yard, he'd slowly begin to open up and tell me what was going on at school or on the basketball team, or he'd talk about a friend or test. I'd get to hear what he was thinking.
For your child it might be golfing, cooking, kicking a soccer ball or doing crafts. It doesn't have to take long or cost much. Just find out what his "turf" is and get on it with him. Then watch the relationship grow.
Often our children need something as simple as someone to listen to them. Leslie, a high-school senior, said: "My parents are great in lots of ways. I wish sometimes they would just listen to me without freaking out or bombarding me with questions.
"I just want them to hear me, not criticize or judge me. It keeps me from talking to them as much as I would like to."
"My parents never talk to me unless it's about my grades or how I did on a test," one college-age girl recently said. "I wish they would just ask me about me, how I'm doing. What I'm feeling or thinking."
When we take time to build relationships with our children, we open the door for them to receive our teaching.
TEACH KIDS THE TRUTH Along with maintaining a close relationship to their children, parents must be intentional about teaching God's truth. In the past, what children learned at home and at church was reinforced in the community and even in the media, but not any longer.
Because our kids are bombarded with messages that are in conflict with our Christian faith, we must shore up our efforts to ground them in the truth. There is great value in church and Bible class attendance, but we cannot rely on those alone to make sure our children are being taught all they need.
As Christians, our ultimate standard is God and His Word. We must be students of the Bible, allowing it to permeate every area of our lives. Then out of our own spiritual resources, we will have a platform to teach our kids.
In addition to knowing God's Word, we must be able to give our children credible evidence for believing it. One survey revealed that 58 percent of Christian teens believe all religious faiths teach equally valid truth. Because our children are immersed in a society where truth is relative, they question how they can know our faith is valid and why they should believe it over another.
We can answer that. For example, the Old Testament contains 60 major (333 total) prophesies predicting the life and death of Jesus. All of these were written at least 250 years before Christ's birth.
The crucifixion of Jesus was prophesied 800 years before crucifixion was even practiced. Today resources are plentiful for parents to "be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have" (1 Pet. 3:15, NIV).
But don't stop at just teaching God's truth to your children. Go further and explain why God requires standards. Tell them that because God loves us, He asks us to give up the things that can do us harm.
In years past, parents have tried to instill truth through daily devotions. At the pace most families live today, "daily" may be too much, so start small. Begin with a weekly family night.
Heritage Builders, a ministry of Focus on the Family, is a resource for just such evenings. Each Family Nights Tool Chest book helps parents teach a Biblical truth in a creative way while making the event a fun time for kids of all ages.
In addition to planned family times, look for life's teachable moments. Use the times when you are with your children--riding in the car, cooking or throwing a ball in the yard--to talk to them about what's happening in their lives. Listen with spiritual ears and ask God to help you be alert to any truth you can share.
There is also an increasing number of parent-child conferences available to equip parents and youth to maintain high moral standards. Yada-Yada-Yada is one such conference that encourages moms and daughters to attend together. Promise Keepers promotes father-son attendance. The National Center for Fathering now hosts Father/Daughter Summits in many cities.
These ministries and others like them are coming alongside parents to give them nuts-and-bolts ideas on how to help children live righteously in an unrighteous world.
BE A ROLE MODEL If we want our children to accept our faith and live by a different standard from the world, we must model that standard. Paul Baker, who has been in youth ministry since 1986 says: "Parents tell their kids to be honest, but then they go and fudge on their income taxes or call in sick to an employer when they are not. Kids will reject a parent's teaching when it doesn't measure up to their living."