Thursday, April 27, 2006

Teachable Moments

Children are full of questions. "Why is the sky blue?" "How can Jesus be in our hearts and in heaven at the same time?" "Why do some people have white skin and some have black?"

As our children grow older, their questions grow with them. "How do we know the Bible is true?" "What should a Christians response be to the environment" "Why does God allow people that we love to die?"

Questions like these lead to what I like to call "teachable moments"; those moments in time when kids are open and receptive to hearing us talk about the things of life. Sometimes these questions will lead to conversations revolving around very important subjects, but even when the subject is trivial, the discussion can be equally important, largely because this lays the foundation for communication.

When kids are small, these teachable moments seem to come one after the other and this can honestly be overwhelming. Some parents make the mistake to retreating into the busyness of life to avoid the burden of being consistently available to their children. Not only does this leave children feeling empty, it also leaves a parent without a connection to their child and this gap only continues to grow wider as children grow older.

There is a common thing that happens to children when they become teenagers and it happens almost overnight: they decide that they do not need mom and dad anymore. Friends move into the place where parents have neglected and at this point gaining ground in a child's life is very difficult for a parent. The tables are turned and now the parent is the one longing for relationship with the child, but the child is the one losing himself in the busyness of life.

Taking the time for teachable moments when kids are young is imperative and unfortunately these moments come and go quickly. Trying to retrieve a moment that is past is almost impossible and creating your own can be a challenge. So a parent needs to be flexible and willing to set aside their work and take the time to sit down with their child when a moment presents itself. The parent will generally find that these moments are when their kids are the most open and receptive to drink in what the parent is saying.

I am far from being a perfect parent, but one thing that I work on consistently is taking the time to sit down and answer my kid's questions and listen to what they are saying. I have five kids, ages 4 to 17, so I have plenty of opportunity to capture teachable moments with them. Is this time consuming and sometimes frustrating? Yes, but I can say that I have two teenage girls and I feel incredibly blessed knowing that my investment of time in their lives is reaping a close relationship, one that I know will last for many years.

Teachable moments seem to come like rapid-fire when kids are small. A wise parent will capture these moments and build on a foundation for the future. A close relationship with our children is built through consistent investment--a little at a time when they are young, leading to a rich reward when they are teens.