As the an administrator at Salem4Youth, one of the biggest blessings that I experience is often the privilege of working alongside the men and women whom God has called to serve at the Ranch. Recently, a lunchtime conversation really grabbed me and caused me to think about my own relationships with my kids, and hopefully will be a helpful reminder for you as well.
During the course of our lunchtime conversation, the subject of raising daughters through Jr. High and and young adulthood came up. As you might expect, the usual amount of good natured joking about not letting our daughters date “until they’re 40” was bantered about, but then the talk turned serious. How to slowly loosen the reins of parental control while still maintaining the appropriate influential and protective presence is a hard subject to approach with any kind of hard objectivity. Eventually one staff member said (in reference to his Jr. High aged daughter), “My real hope, my sincere hope, is that the intentional time and effort I have spent with her when she was very young; the relationship we have built, will allow her to trust me and listen to me, even when making her own choices.” I haven’t quoted him exactly, but it’s pretty close. The whole conversation really was summarized in that statement. By a man who communicated, in a few words and an unmistakable tone of voice, volumes of what it means to be a parent. What it means to be the father, particularly of a daughter. The love, past time spent together, fear, hope, and trust were all there in that one sentence. You could hear it immediately and it struck a chord. It was both inspiring, and challenging because it is a thoroughly Biblical concept.
The Scriptures are full of admonitions that parents should teach, admonish, encourage, and value their children even when they are little. It is not a Biblical practice to wait until our kids are older, able to fully reason, or reciprocate a relationship before we value them, teach them, spend our time with them. Deuteronomy 6:6-9 presents a picture of parents who are always with their children, teaching them and talking of the things of God. Sometimes this takes the form of literal, verbal teaching, but often, it means showing them that they are loved and valued. It means spending time with them, holding them, listening to them, rescuing them from dangers both real and imaginary, accepting their gifts, appreciating their attention. It also means setting reasonable boundaries, enforcing standards of respect and care for themselves and others. It means, that when your daughter is introduced to God, and the Scriptures refer to Him as “Father,” that she has something to attach that title to that is glorifying to Him. Before your words are understood, and long after your words are forgotten, these connections will remain.
It’s never too early to build a relationship with your child or grandchild. However, it’s not too late either. Maybe you didn’t have the opportunity to bond with your child when they were very young, maybe you made different choices than you wish you would have; whatever regrets you might have about the past, don’t put off making it right now. It’s not always easy to retrace our steps, but God grants grace to those who trust and ask. Build that relationship now. It will take humility, patience, and perseverance; it will hopefully produce trust, confidence, and a foundation for what your daughter looks for in a man and what your son looks for in himself.
Residential Program Director