fbpx

Devo #3 – The Importance of Listening

importance of listening

by Mark Gregston

There’s an old Ethiopian proverb that says this: “the fool speaks, the wise man listens”. John Maxwell has said this about good leaders, and I would apply it to good parents and good grandparents as well, motivating others by their listening skills. 

First impressions become less self-centered when we withhold initial criticism, stay calm, listen with empathy, be active listeners, clarify what we hear and recognize the healing power of listening. Then we are able to act upon what we hear. And we all know this, out of James 1:19, where Paul writes and said, everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. 

You know, there are things that you hear when you’re a parent that you don’t always like. However, the way in which you hear it, and the way that you engage makes all the difference in the world. If there’s ever a time that our adolescents are looking for someone to listen, it’s now. Over the last few years, I’ve watched our culture kind of move away from some very basic principles and values necessary for relational interaction to an atmosphere where communication is more about the one-way expression of one’s thoughts and beliefs, rather than the two-way street of someone actively listening to the heart of people struggling to be heard. 

Chuck Swindoll made a comment to me once when we were doing some radio programs together and he said this, “I think I could change every parent in their relationship with their children with just one word: listen. If they would just listen.” 

Our response to someone saying that something matters, where we kind of generalize and make other things matter is about as wise as me saying to my wife, when she came to me and said I was sexually abused by a grandfather for seven years, “Well, sweetheart a lot of people were abused by their grandfather.” Or when somebody comes to me and says that they’ve had a real difficult time with their depression. And I say to them, “Well, you know what? A lot of people have problems with their depression.” What if my son came to me and shared with me that he was getting bullied at school and had been beaten up a few times, and my response was, “Well, you know, a lot of people are bullied and are getting beat up at school.” 

I’m sure that this kind of response would shut down our relationship and probably preclude any future communication. If the request for help and reaching out for hope is ignored, then the heart is hardened. Giving a hard-hearted response shows that we’re responding to people in a way that is only thinking of ourselves instead of looking to somebody else.  

A young lady came to me once and she said she was conned by a young fella that subsequently raped her. And she let me know that it was the first time she was able to talk about her incident. She was vulnerable in her desire to share feelings and the heartache that she’d been carrying for a couple of years. I remember that her words were shaky, her heart was pounding, her chin quivered, and the whole time she poured out her heart. If I ever hinted with words that generalized her messages saying, “Well, honey, many girls have been conned by young men and eventually raped.” Do you think she would ever share anything with me again? You know, this is what I found when people aren’t heard, when teens aren’t heard, they scream their message louder. And when the louder message isn’t heard, then they become activists within your family, actively behaving in a way to get other people’s attention. 

I wonder sometimes if unruly children who’ve reached the point of acting out with their parents or someone else significant in their life would still be in the position that they are now if they had actively been listened to? I believe that the key to active listening is to understand what you hear and to be aware of your filters. We all have them; our filters interpret and translate how we hear the message coming from our children and our grandchildren. 

Some of your filters may be traditions, how you were raised, your hurts, your perceptions, your background, your own beliefs, your own values, your own trust issues, your age, or your experiences can taint the messages that we hear. The challenge is to remove our filters and listen through our children’s grid in some way. 

I think this is what Paul is speaking of in Philippians. When he says do nothing out of selfishness or vain conceit, rather in humility, value others above yourself, not looking to your own interest but each of you to the interest of others. There’s something about engaging and talking and listening to somebody else that is all about them. It’s not about us. If anyone has known me for a long period of time, they know that I believe that we need to move out of a teaching model of kids into a training model. And in the teaching model, you and I, as a parent and grandparent, get to talk a lot because it’s a teaching model, but when we start training somebody else, when we train up a child in the way that he, or she should go, we start listening a whole lot more. 

I would tell you to make it your goal to understand your child’s world and to filter their message in a way that looks out for their interests, not your own. Effective parents are good listeners, and they possess the ability to look to the interest of their team’s world and not lean on their own understanding of their world. That’s called participatory listening. Let me give you some tips that may help. People ask me all the time, Mark, how do you get along with kidsHow do you do the work that you do with kids?  

Many people know that I live with 60 high school kids and have lived with over 3,000 kids through the years. They ask, how do you communicate with them? And I go, you know what? I listen. I listen and I focus on them rather than focusing on me. I’m not trying to come up with an answer. I’m trying to engage with them to understand their heart. I’m listening with the intent of understanding, not with the intent of responding. I tell you this, that you’ve got to create an atmosphere that invites them to come to you. Invite them. Let’s make sure the welcome mat is always out. Make sure that they know you will always listen to them. “Hey, if you ever have anything going on, I want you to know there’s a couple of ears here that would love to hear your heart.” And that may sound kind of odd to a lot of people, but I think it’s a message that kids are looking for because there aren’t too many people out there listening to them. If you find yourself saying, “Hey, let’s talk later”, you’re missing some connecting opportunities. 

The other thing is that when you try to understand it doesn’t mean that you have to agree. Chances are you’re at least 20 years older than your children. So, when they become teens, it means that you might try relating to them the way that you remember your teen years, 33 years ago, and that’s a lot of years that have ushered in a world of change. Expect that there will be huge differences in the way your children perceive relationships and newsworthy events versus the way that you do. Call it a generation gap, if you will, these are just differences. Differences that’ll come up in your discussions. Just because there’s differences does not mean that something’s wrong. 

 Sometimes your child is engaging in speaking out loud and getting your opinion so they can process all this stuff in their head. You and I sometimes have this amazing desire or longing or feel like we’re fulfilling our parenting role when we feel like we have to correct them all the time. Quit, correcting and start connecting with your child. They don’t have to say everything right or do everything right. You’re going to have opportunities to talk about serious topics, whether it’s abortion or marijuana or terrorism or politics or what’s going on in the world today, what’s happening with the pandemic that’s spreading across the world. And people have different thoughts on that. It’s almost like you might need to say to your child, Hey, I know that we won’t agree on everything, but by helping me understand how you think you may move me closer to appreciate your viewpoint. Now how many kids really hear that from parents, you know? 

I want you to stay away from those fighting words. Some of those fighting words that infuriate children may be comments like this: Where did that come from? Which sounds just a little judgmental or, Who told you thatAre you kidding me? Or when you say this in a number of different ways, that’s so stupidor did you come up with that on your own

I mean, sometimes kids are moved away from us just by our response. Why in the world would you think that way? How can my child think stupid thoughts like that? Or if you really want to turn your son off and get him where he’ll never come back and talk to you, just say, Hey, you know, that’s wrong. You know, it may be wrong. But if you lose the opportunity to have a lifetime of influence based upon one discussion, because you shut them down and tell them they’re wrong, you’ll never have the opportunity to engage with them at a later date.  

Here are some comments that I always make with kids that may move you in a positive way; move you forward rather than backing you up. When they make a comment that’s interesting or different, simply say: Hey, I never thought of that. Hey, I see where you’re coming from. I’ve never heard it said that way before. Those are all comments that intrigue a child and imply that the welcome mat is still out. I want you to come to me. And at the same time, I want you to be able to talk about things where you don’t feel a sense of judgment or a demand for perfection. You hearing what I’m saying? I hope you’re listening. 

Here’s another one. Don’t interrupt. It’s a no-no. If you ever want to shut down a conversation, just start interrupting your child. What you’ll find is if you interrupt them, they’ll interrupt you. It just elevates the conversation. So now emotions are running a little bit higher and so somebody starts to say something, and they go, why are you so mad? Well, I’m mad because you’re interrupting me all the time.  

If you have difficulty in having a conversation where you’re always interrupting, do this: take a pen, hold it in your hand, and play this little game. Say: when I have the pen I get to speak. and when I’m finished speaking, I’ll hand you the pen. Now you hold the pen and you speak and I won’t say a word. What that does is get you into the mindset where you’re actually looking at what your child is saying. I’m going to listen to everything you say and quit spending the time thinking about a rebuttal, quit thinking about how you’re going to respond

Quit thinking about that quick answer that you’re going to give back and focus in on them at the time when they’re holding that pen, just listen. And here’s another thing: do not correct during conversations. My son used to do this to me all the time, and I found that I just didn’t want to tell stories when I was around him. Then there’s a son and a mom, they would do this: Mom, we spent two hours at the swimming pool, and she would say, no, it was an hour and a half. The son would say, okay, I swam six laps on my own and mom would say, no, it was only four. Okay. Then, we left to go get a hamburger. No, you had a cheeseburger. Okay. We came home. I took a nap. No, it was 30 minutes in the sun. Finally, he says whatever, I don’t even want to have a conversation around you. 

You get the picture from this conversation? What is it about people that can’t leave well enough alone? Just let someone have a conversation without correcting any possible misinformation. What happens in these situations is that eventually your child will have a conversation only in the presence of one avoiding the correctors presence. Most teens would rather not share anything than have a discussion that’s full of correction.  

Here’s another thing that I would encourage you in, in your listening: bring value to the conversation. Parents may have jobs where people listening value their opinions, and can’t wait to hear what they say, but then they come home, and no one wants to listen what they have to say. If you miss the validation you get from your job and your workplace, you may try to recoup it in your conversation with those around you, your spouse and your kids. Ask yourself how much of your conversation is an attempt to get value from the person you’re communicating with rather than bringing value to them. 

When I’m listening to somebody else, I’m not trying to prop myself up. I’m trying to figure out how I can prop them up. Here’s another comment that I would say: focus on your children. You’ve had a lifetime of people listening to you. Now it’s your turn to listen to your children. It’s basic humanism to always share our opinion but even scripture says that a fool appears wise when he keeps his mouth shut. Focus on your children. You may want to do this. Repeat back what they just said. Okay. This is what I’m hearing you say. Am I getting this right? Okay, wait, wait, is this, is this what I hear you sayingOkay, let me understand this. This is, this is what you’re trying to come across to me with? Or you may say this, you know, I don’t understand what you’re saying. Can you help me a little bit here?  

Those are all ways to invite people to have a relationship with you and to engage in such a way that a child will come back to you over and over and over and over again. I love the idea when kids say this, you know, I don’t remember what Mark said, but he listens to me. What’s amazing to me is kids eventually come to a point where they start asking questions and they want to go deeper and deeper and deeper. Kids are dying to be heard. You and I have that awesome opportunity to be before them with our ears to listen. To spend time listening to their heart. 

I know a young man named Mike who struggled at home and he often said to me that he had a tough time finding somebody that would just listen. He came and lived with us for a while and was doing really well because we spent a lot of time listening to him. He was just one of those kids that thought a little more deeply than others. As a result, he felt things a little bit deeper than others and he struggled with a little bit of depression.  

When he went back home, he rejected my suggestion of going to see a counselor so that he would have somebody to talk to. He said this, you know, they’re always trying to fix me instead of listening to what I have to say. He just wanted to be heard and in desperation and really, out of frustration this young man, Mike, got to the end of his rope, figuratively, and literally he tried to hang himself which finally got attention of those people around him. 

He didn’t die, but he did damage his spine to the point that he’ll spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair. Mike told me that his unsuccessful attempt to kill himself was so that people he loved would read the six-page letter he wrote describing what he was feeling and thinking. All along, all Mike wanted was for someone to listen and it almost cost him his life. 

Hey, teens are dying for someone to just listen. Don’t pay that awful price. Be the listening ear that they need. 

To learn more about Heartlight, visit HeartlightMinistries.org

To learn more, visit ParentingTodaysTeens.org


#490 – Six Things to Know about Teens and Respect

teens and respect

by Mark Gregston

In the late 1960’s, one song simply titled Respect, launched the meteoric career of a young artist from Tennessee and raced to the top of the music charts.  Originally written and recorded by Otis Redding a few months prior to Aretha Franklin’s lively rendition, the song has become an anthem for people all over the world.  It’s a soulful, popular song that addresses a topic all men, women, and children struggle with—disrespect

For most of us, I don’t have to describe what it looks like.  We’ve seen it or felt in one way or another over the years from people who do not know how to be polite or kind.  And sadly, for some, disrespect is a way of life.  But!  It doesn’t have to be that way for you and your family.  You can address disrespect and train or re-train your child on how to be respectful, even in their teen years.  It’s your goal as a parent to teach your children about respect in the earlier years so that you can help train them on it in their teen and adolescent years.  To learn more, read on because we’ll be addressing the six things every parent needs to know about teens and respect. 

Six Things to Know 

As I mentioned before, respect doesn’t happen on its own.  It has to be taught and trained.  Mandates of “you will respect me,” will not only be met with resistance, they’ll be ignored.  Wisdom is gathered through observation, reflection, and experience.  So, how your child observes you interact with the world and the people in it, will cause them to reflect on what they saw, and then that reflection will trickle down to how they experience relationships.  So, if we are respectful with and of others, then our children will pick up how to be respectful, too. 

The first step is realizing that respect is foundational.  If you don’t treat someone with admiration and affection, you won’t have a good relationship.  And the key to this is that it starts with you, mom and dad, not your child.  Consider how you’ve modeled disrespect for others.  How do you treat your spouse?  Your boss?  Your friends?  And then consider how you treat authority.  There’s no lack of poor examples in this arena.  So, what are you modelling for your kids? 

Next, you have to know that you can’t bully your child into giving you respect.  Respect must be earned.  It must be mutual, but so many parents don’t understand that concept because they have an authoritative idea of what parenting should look like.  The old “do as I say,” model is outdated and based on a model of fear.  It only leaves your teen feeling humiliated and resentful and fear is not a motivator.  Nor does it have any place in healthy relationships. 

Disrespect is the tell-tale sign that something is wrong in your relationship.  Respect grows out of relationship.  So, you need to ask yourself, what am I doing to keep my child from respecting me?  Matthew 7:5 tells us to pull the log out of our own eye before looking at the speck in our brother’s eye.  Your child is your brother or sister in Christ, so act accordingly.  It should go without saying that you don’t get to an abnormal place by having normal circumstances, so, please consider how you have contributed in causing your child’s hurt or trauma. 

Respect doesn’t happen on its own.  This is the time to really engage and go after your child’s heart.  Find out what has happened and come up with strategies to change it moving forward – and stick with it.  A lack of respect can have devastating consequences for generations to come! 

Talk about it!  Talking about respect and disrespect is healthy and when you can name the ways you’ve been disrespectful and how you’re going to change, you’re opening the door for your teenager to do the same. 

Don’t let disrespect fester.  If you don’t spend time pursuing respect, disrespect will blossom and eventually take over your life and your family.  It may not be easy, but it’s worth it!  So, keep at it. 

Some Practical Tips to Consider 

Respect is the cornerstone of any relationship.  Respecting someone means being polite and kind to someone, even when they may have a different opinion, or when they like something that you do not. 

Respect is not merely given in words, but is communicated in body language and attitudes, as well.  So, be sure to think before you speak and act. 

Create the rules you want to communicate. 

Give it time.  Keep moving forward, but know that if you’ve dug a hole, it’s going to take time and patience to pull yourself out. 

Accept your faults, apologize, and move on to make changes.  Each day we’re given is another day to make a positive difference. 

If your child is spinning out of control, remind them that you’re there for them.  Don’t engage in shouting matches and don’t shame them because shaming has never produced one great relationship. 

Finally, and most importantly, communicate with your teen.  Tell them you love them and that you’re on their side. 

Conclusion 

Mom, Dad … respect within your home is probably the most important feeling of admiration that must be conveyed by actions and communicated by words.  Initially, it begins with the example that you set before your children and then develops into opportunities to show respect amidst conflict and difficulties.  Respect is the one essential element of a home that provides the stage for all other aspects of interaction.  Disrespect destroys relationships and if you’ve been disrespectful to your teens, then admit your attitude and begin a new path that is based on respect of all people.  Your kids will one day thank you for your example and the requirements that you made of each family member. 

To learn more about Heartlight, visit HeartlightMinistries.org

To learn more, visit ParentingTodaysTeens.org


Devo #2 – The Importance of Living your Life with Impact and Significance

by Mark Gregston

True legacy is left through building relationships. People ask me all the time “What are the most important things that a parent ought to be thinking about in a relationship with their teen?”. And I always tell them this. I tell them there’s two things. One is that you learn to listen. And the second one is that you maintain a relationship with your child. 

You know, I can promise you three things. You’re going to die after you listen to this podcast, it’s going to happen sooner than you think, and it’s not going to happen the way you want it to happen, but there’s something about embracing it. The inevitability of life. Ending one day, has a way of focusing you and I on what’s important today, it helps you live smarter and, helps you to look at each day as a blessing. Yesterday, I went to a restaurant and I was sitting there, and this lady asked me, are you celebrating anything today? 

And my comment was, yes, I am. I woke up this morning and that’s worth celebrating. You know, if you’re feeling that brisk fall, wind of change ushering in a transition of the seasons in your life. You’re no doubt also wondering a bit about what your life has been about. You start to focus on what will be remembered, you know, once you’re gone. Some folks don’t care when they’re gone, and their lives will be quickly forgotten except for an occasional search on ancestry.com or when somebody in your family is flipping through some of those old photos. 

 I’m one of those guys that just wants to pass something on. And I think it happens through relationship and listening as a component of that. But there is something about having a relationship with a teen, whether it be your grandchild or our own child, or even any kid around you. 

It’s important to have that relationship because we want to know that our lives meant something more than mere existence. We want to see how we impacted somebody else. We want to make other’s lives better and our time on earth, just a little bit more significant. We want to know that we made a difference, and I would submit to you that how that happens is through a relationship. 

I thought about that when my kids were born; Jan and I were so ecstatic about getting married when we were 20 and having kids. Oh, we were really scared to death about having kids. We didn’t plan on it, it just kind of happened. You know, we were managing apartments, going to school full-time and working two jobs while leading a young life club for kids. 

And then when Melissa and Adam were born, we saw a miracle happen right before our eyes. We never regretted having kids early, but we weren’t focusing on our legacy back then. But then when our grandkids were born, we encountered these new feelings of getting older, wanting to make an impact and thinking about life from a different perspective. 

Our kids change the way we live. Our grandkids changed our hearts and our focus. And so, as you get a little bit older and kids start to leave home and you start entering in that time that now you have grandkids, it gives you a perspective on life that I think is important for parents to know about. 

The reason is if I find that out, when I’m a grandparent, then it’s almost too late in my parenting because I’m using it in my grandparenting. So, if I’m sharing things with you that I’ve learned as I’ve moved into grandparenting, that seemed to be more important things, you can use those in your parenting now and take advantage of the opportunity that you have. 

There was something so different about having grandkids. My whole perspective on life changed. It was no longer about making money or doing a great job, building a career or involving myself in every good thing I could find. It was more about impact. And sometimes I think if parents had more of a concept of wanting to make an impact on their child, then they would quit always trying to make them perfect all the time. 

They would quit being so authoritarian in their pursuit and they would maybe quit being so judgmental in their comments made toward their kids and look for ways to engage with them in such a way that they really change their life and offer them something completely different. You know, after my grandkids got here, I started to ask myself, what do I want to be known for. How I wish I would have asked myself that question when my own kids were in high school, how do I want them to remember me

You know, here’s the thing, short of making history books or setting records or committing some heinous crime, most of us will be forgotten when our grandkids are gone. Our work may be remembered. Something we wrote or videotaped may be read or viewed, but our legacy will only extend as far as our relationships with our grandkids. 

I would submit to you this, that our relationship with our grandkids is determined by the relationship we have with our own kids. And that’s why it makes relationships so important. You know, your legacy will be written in two places and one will be on your tombstone. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t know many people who run around cemeteries with the intent of gathering wisdom from the one-liners on tombstones. 

This headstone monument thing seems a bit overrated to me, always being asked what I want written on my epitaph. Like there’s going to be thousands of people, you know, visiting my buried carcass to see what my life was all about. But I really don’t care what’s going to be on my marker. I’m sure it will say when I was born and when I died, like all the neighbors planted in my new neighborhood. 

Even after the funeral, when does a person ever go back and look at somebody’s headstone? When you’re laying another family member to rest, you may look at somebody else’s gravestone, but there aren’t a whole lot of people hanging out in cemeteries. 

The second place that your legacy is going to be written is in the hearts of those who know you. And in particular, those that you have known. Legacy is not about depositing a few golden nuggets of wisdom that will be remembered by all. You’re not a box of fortune cookies, clever, but maybe not that deep, a legacy is not just doing a whole lot of good for others. 

A real legacy is the connection you made with family through the deep relationships you had with them. It is found within the hope and wisdom that you’ve passed down to your children and grandchildren, the truths they can pass down to the next generation. Parents who leave a legacy are not only remembered for what they contributed, but also for the life-giving qualities they provided to the people around them. It’s not everyone out there.  

My main concern is the health and welfare of my own family. And I hope that is for you too. I hope you care about a million other things, but that you put the main thing into perspective and that’s your family. That’s where I want to make the most difference, in the lives of my wife, my kids, including my son and daughter-in-law, even though I can’t tell the difference between them and all the rest of them, and my grandkids.  

I’ve been to too many funerals. And it’s interesting to see who attends when my mom died, the people who attended were a few of her friends, a couple from her Sunday school, a couple of neighbors, a few folks from some of the organizations where she volunteered and the remaining people attending were our family. There weren’t many others. The attendance at a funeral speaks loudly to the legacy that deceased person left for their family. All the wisdom shared through your legacy. Should it go any further than your life will go? As far as your grandkids and great grandkids, you know what, that’s good enough for me. 

You know, I’ll leave the next generation to take care of the next generation, but I’m just going to try to take care of those that are within my family. And I would tell you this again, like I’ve mentioned before, it’s all about relationship. When I’m introduced to people or run into acquaintances, and when someone introduces me to an audience before I speak, I’ve been described to crowds and individuals in so many ways that many times I chuckled, is that really, is that really how they see me? 

At least a few times I’ve thought, is this really what I want to be known for? I was recently at a Texas Rangers baseball game and I ran into a fellow named Aaron Watson. He’s a country music artist and he’s just a wonderful fella. Him and his wife were standing there, and he looked at his wife and he said, hey honey, this is the guy that sends us that pecan pie for Christmas every year. 

You know there’s other people that just know me as Jan’s husband, or they introduce me and say, “Hey, this is Mark. He’s the guy that lives with all those kids at Heartlight in East Texas.” And some people even say, “Hey, that’s the guy with the mustache!” Heartlight parents introduce me to their friends as the guy I was telling you about that cooks great steaks! And that’s something, what we’re known for. A few weeks ago, Amy Grant, introduced me to her husband. Her husband is Vince Gill, a country music artist. I was excited that I finally got to meet him. Amy and Vince are warm and genuine and so kind, and so Joe Kurt introduces me and says, “Hey Vince, this is the guy who lives with those struggling teens and has all those cabins.”  

I’m not kidding. I thought, man, I’m known for a little bit of everything, but I didn’t know that. I can see it now, on my tombstone: Here lies Mark, the pie guy on the radio, who has a mustache and lives with kids. Who’s married to Jan, cooks a great steak and has cabins all joined by walkways. 

It’s not exactly what I was going for in my legacy. It’s not quite what I want to be known for. I know this legacy and how I am remembered is all about relationships and not just my relationships with my kids, but really my kids’ relationship with me.  

I recently heard a young lady say, “stop trying to be there for me when you know nothing about me”. It reminded me that having an impact on someone doesn’t just happen because we know them or when we can do something that benefits their life. It’s all about relationship, about getting to know them and knowing them well is communicating life across a bridge of friendship, which doesn’t stop. If they don’t respond, it’s offering your life to them, regardless of whether it comes back to you or not. And family relationships are a bit tricky. Many families tell me they can get along. If they don’t talk about religion or politics. Others tell me that they can get along as long as they don’t bring up certain topics, then the holidays will go well. 

I’ve always thought that relationships need to be more than that. Relationships, true relationships, don’t need to be bound by restrictions, but rather need to be freed up a bit just to flourish. If you’re going to have freedom within your relationships, then you might have to accept the fact that it’s okay to disagree. At times you may be polar opposite, but the relationship that you have can still thrive. Most people think when their kids get into trouble and are struggled, then they lose the relationship with their child.  

I would say that one of the main key elements that I tell people all the time is that no, it’s loving your child, even when they are a mess. That’s where I’ve told people, you need to say this a lot and tell your child, there’s nothing you can do to make me love you more and there’s nothing you can do to make me love you less. There’s something about that, that encourages a child. They know that they are loved when they do well, but they also know they are just as love when they don’t do well. 

At times, when you’re at those polar opposites, that’s the time that your child wants to know that regardless of maybe what they think about things, how they present themselves or how they even communicate that to you, even if they’re wrong, that they’re still loved because your relationship with your kids not only can be but will be the most important relationship they have during their teen years. Don’t mess it up by requiring your kids to believe and act and present themselves the way you do.  

The relationship is always the most important thing, because if you don’t have the relationship then you’ll never be able to have those much-needed discussions that bring about a different way of thinking. You’ll never have talks to disperse the wisdom that you’ve accumulated because they will ignore you. They won’t spend time with you and they’ll never have ears to hear what comes out of your mouth. 

You’ll eliminate the chance to have influence and opportunity to shape their thinking and to mold their values. Parents, you know, this is the tough one. Even if you don’t accept their lifestyles and choices, all those that your children have made, don’t throw the baby out with the bath water, because if you do, you’ll never have the chance to touch the hearts of those who long for your presence in their lives. 

I meet kids all the time who were involved in activities I don’t approve of. I hear them spouting off comments and beliefs that I’ll never embrace. I see people living lifestyles I don’t agree with. I meet with girls who are making stupid decisions about their bodies, who are engaged in activities that are immoral at best and destructive at worst. I see young men making poor choices and countering anything that resembles biblical standards and moral principles. I can reject them and their lifestyles and never have an influence, or I can love them right where they are and hope to steer them in another direction.  

I’ll say it one more time. Accepting them does not mean that I accept their choices, lifestyle, behaviors, or actions. I’m not condoning when I don’t correct. I can love them in spite of their behaviors. I know actions are an expression of their hearts and that’s what I want to influence. So, I’ll tell you again, relationship matters regardless of the differences of opinions or the inconsistencies in your beliefs. The relationship with your child is what matters most. You can have an amazing impact on the lives of your kids. Even when your beliefs are miles apart, you are the one that can offer hope when they are desperately looking for it in other places. You have the ability to leave a legacy that no one else can leave. A good one filled with family members who remember in detail the positive impact that you had on their life, just as others had an impact on you and changed your life. I’m sure you have a desire to have an impact on others.  

Let me give you a scripture here that I think is important. It’s out of 2 Peter 1:12, and it says this, “Therefore, I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have”. Hey, legacies, don’t just happen. They’re made, so keep making yours today. And if you haven’t started, there’s no time to waste.