Our goals as parents should be to raise healthy men and women who will be productive in this world. In doing so, we need to ask ourselves, "What are some of the most important areas do I need to focus on to make that reality happen? Is it education? How about sports?"
I don't think it is education or sports. I am not saying those are not important. But what is more important overrides all others. What is key for our children to have success in any area in their lives is their ability to relate.
If our kids can't properly relate with others, then they will struggle throughout life. Just think about it. I would argue that most of the problems in this world are relationship problems. That would comprise relationships between couples, families, friends, employers, etc. Relationships in the government and also between nations are included.
For our children to be a part of the answer and not the problem, they will need to know how to have healthy relationships with others. And where do they learn that?
Our children learn how to relate with people from how they relate in the home. How you relate with your children is the way your children will also learn to relate. Let me share an overview on relationships. Here are the four pillars that apply to every relationship, especially in our relationships with our children.
The Four Pillars of A Relationship
Love is the most enduring. It can take a lot before it breaks down. But I want to discuss a little bit about what love is.
The kind of love I am talking about is unconditional love. I define unconditional love as doing what is best for the other person regardless of their actions and behavior. For that to be possible, that would mean that love is a choice and not a feeling.
You need to think about it. If I love my child and they do something that deserves discipline, then I discipline them because that is best for them. For me not to discipline equates to not showing love.
The problem is a lot of parents show conditional love. They show love to their child when they do well or if they accomplished something. But if they fail or don't have accomplishments, we tend to withhold love. That is conditional love.
So how can you show love while disciplining? First thing to remember is never correct your child out of anger or frustration. Make sure you are in the right frame of mind. Sometimes parent's discipline has nothing to do with what is best for the child. It is the parents taking out their frustration on their child. The child can pick that up and understand love can only be given if I don't fail or have accomplished something.
Second thing to remember is to make sure your child knows what they are being disciplined for. Before we give any kind of correction, our child should be able to communicate what they did wrong. I have noticed when I have done this with our children, about 40 percent of the time our children misunderstand what they did wrong.
I ask them, "What did you do wrong?" and I wait for feedback. If it is clear they don't understand, I explain to them until they do.
Third thing to remember is to show acceptance after correction. That could be done by saying, "I love you" or through a hug or appropriate touch.
If love is the most enduring, then trust is the most fragile. Trust can be easily broken and hard to restore. I would define it as having confidence in the word, the character, integrity and motivation of another person. It believes the best.
We want to be able to trust our kids. We want to be able to know if they are telling us the truth. To teach them the value of honesty, we must first model it.
When your kids are little, do you keep your word? If you say, "We are going to the amusement park next week," do you really go? Or if you say, "I will be at your game on Friday," do you show up? If our kids see us breaking our word over and over again, we are teaching them that our words don't have value. We are also teaching them not to trust us.
Don't tell your kid anything that you are not willing to follow through. I have seen parents say while driving, "If you don't stop acting up then I am going to pull over and you can walk home!" Really? Like you are 20 miles from home and you are going to have your 7-year-old walk home by himself because he is acting up in the car? This is an empty threat.
Make your word like gold. Whatever you say, you need to do it. In so doing you are teaching your child that your word has value.
The pillar of trust reaches into other areas of character, integrity and motivation. I don't have time to get into all of those, but forgiveness is also a key. When trust is broken we need to be willing to forgive. Forgiveness is a choice, not a feeling.
The offense will determine how long it takes to rebuild trust. But you can't rebuild trust without forgiveness. If you have done wrong to your child or have broken your word, you need to ask them for forgiveness.
In all relationships at some point, trust will be broken in some area and will need to be restored. You need to know how to forgive to build solid relationships.
3. Honor or Respect
This pillar is the most neglected. I would define honor and respect as recognizing and acknowledging the other person's worth or value.
Usually in the American culture, respect is earned -- not given. In the Asian culture, respect is given based on position.
I believe, though, that every person has value. Therefore everyone should be respected.
There are different ways of gaining honor and respect. One is through position. You get highly respected if you are a leader, owner of a company, in government office, etc. Another is through achievement whether it be in sports, accomplishments, or some type of success. Another way of gaining respect is through one's character. We need to focus on this in our families. The world focuses on position and achievements but not on character.
Our kids will see how we treat others. Do we show other people respect? If everyone is to be valued, we will accordingly show respect to everyone. We are teaching our children to value other people with how we treat them.
We also need to treat our kids with respect. Just because they are our children doesn't mean they don't deserve respect. Do you value your child? If so, show them respect based on their value.
Also we should correct our children when they don't respect each other. We should expect our children to respect us as parents. We should never tolerate disrespect in our families.
This pillar takes the longest. Also this pillar requires the other three pillars to grow along with healthy communication.
I want to encourage you to have personal, transparent, age appropriate conversations with your children. Without clear and open communications with them, they will not understand where you are coming from or what you are facing. Without honest and open conversations, you can't understand what each of your child is going through.
We all have a longing to be understood. But if you want to be good at relationships, you should desire to understand more than to be understood. Do your best to try to understand what your child is going through.
By nurturing healthy relationships with our children, we are teaching them how to relate with others. Also we are teaching them about healthy expectations in relationships. This will affect their friendships, marriage and careers. When our children grow up, it will affect every area of their lives. Let us equip them as much as possible to face those challenges.
To watch a video on the four pillars of a relationship in Healthy Families, click here.
Dustin Campbell is a proud father of three active children. As a family, they have lived in the Philippines, Thailand and the United States. Dustin has been speaking and teaching internationally on a wide range of topics for the past 20 years, including on relationships and marriage. Dustin and his wife Haydee, with their beautiful kids, currently reside in North Carolina.