“Sometimes you want to go…
where everybody knows your name
and they’re always glad you came.”
We all want to be known. It’s just wired in us.
When it comes to parenting, how do you get to know your kids?
I’ll never forget the AHA moment where I realized I needed to get to know my kids better. I have two kids close in age and for weeks they were both a little clingy/needy, they were both melting down way to often, and I was doing my best disciplining and redirecting. My efforts weren’t working, so I had to try to figure this out.
As I begin to pay attention, I noticed that one was desperately needing attention and the other was needing reassurance. It’s as if the older one was asking, “Can I please have some attention?” and the younger was needing comfort, in a sense, asking “Am I going to be ok?” but all I was hearing or seeing were behavior problems. There was a new baby in the house and life was busy, and if I hadn’t slowed down to get to know them, I might have missed this and grown in my frustration.
When it comes to faith, being and feeling known matters.
If you’ve been around middle school kids, this is very evident. As they enter a room full of other middle school kids, they scan the room – looking – asking – “Where do I belong? Where am I known? Where am I safe?” If they find it, they rush towards it. If they don’t they are (noticeably) uncomfortable.
It makes sense that before a young person can really start to grappling with big ideas and concepts like faith, identity, meaning, hope…they need the sense of stability being known brings. If they have the security and confidence of being known, they are much more willing to engage on a deeper level. I watch a lot of kids spend their time chasing being known and rarely get the opportunity to be comfortable enough to consider issues around faith and life.
Here’s some help.
There’s a great project called, It’s Just a Phase (justaphase.com) and I want to share with you one element of their work in hopes that it will help you know your son or daughter just a little better!
In each phase, there’s a question that is central in a developmental sense. As my example above indicated, these questions can be hiding under a lot of other behaviors and attitudes. Once you know the question, you have a better shot of knowing and understanding your child.
In each phase, this is what each child wants to know:
Zero to One: Am I safe?
One to Two: Am I able?
Three to Four: Am I okay?
Kinder to 1st grade: Do I have your attention?
2nd to 3rd grade: Do I have what it takes?
4th to 5th grade: Do I have friends?
6th grade: Who do I like?
7th and 8th grade: Who am I?
9th grade: Where do I belong?
10th grade: Why should I believe?
11th grade: How can I matter?
12th grade: What will I do?
Next week I will share the One word that the project discovered that helps us engage these questions with our kids. This week, take a moment and see if you can recognize this question in behavior or other areas of life. Take a moment and answer this question, even if they aren’t verbally asking it, and see if it leads to some results.