(This post was written by Gina McClain, Director of Children’s Ministries)
There are always Rules of Engagement no matter where you go. From the proper way to engage in a social setting to familiar ways we engage with our family, Rules of Engagement are part of everyday life. The challenge within the family is when the Rules of Engagement change.
As our kids get older the way we interact with them changes. Many times it’s a welcome change. Like when a baby moves from babbling to using real words. When a toddler learns she doesn’t have to whine for something she wants but rather she can ask for it.
But sometimes the way we interact changes, and it’s not so welcome. Personally, I like to give my 11-year old son a hug wherever I am. However, he’s developed an opinion as to when and where that’s acceptable. I love calling my 8-year old daughter “Princess,” but she’s decided she’s a tom-boy and “Princess” no longer suits her. The Rules of Engagement have changed. Sometimes I need to exchange a hug for a fist-bump.
As our kids grow, they become more independent. Our control over them diminishes. But don’t let this scare you, because as your control decreases, your influence can increase. It requires that we adjust the way we engage with our kids. It means we watch for opportunities to connect more on their terms.
It doesn’t mean we fall into a child-centered mentality where the mood of our kids dictates the mood of the home. However, it does mean we choose to set things aside when they express a need to spend time with us. These are windows of opportunity that pass as quickly as they come.
If you start now, with your 4th & 5th grader, to watch for windows of opportunity when they are communicating the need for time with you, then you set yourself up for success in their middle school & teen years when those windows of opportunity diminish with every year that passes. Get a head start now… because the Rules of Engagement are changing.