An excerpt from the new book Relentless Parenting: The Critical Pursuit of Your Child's Heart
By Brian and Angela Haynes
As parents, we have learned the importance of tireless compassion. When our children were younger, they went to school every day wearing a backpack. No matter how much goodness we packed in that backpack as we sent them off to school in the morning, the backpack returned home with entirely different contents. Every teacher and coach they encountered during the day filled the backpack with assignments and expectations, adding a level of stress to their young lives that was not always healthy.
Other students sometimes added emotional “content” to the backpacks weighing our children down. A mean word, rolled eyes, or other discouraging experiences often filled the backpacks by the time they returned home. Some days we could see the discouragement written plainly on their faces. Other days it was not as clear, but over time their backpacks got heavier and heavier until one day they could not bear the weight. They needed someone to help them unload the bags—physically, emotionally, spiritually, or all the above. We found that compassion is the tool necessary to lighten the load. Compassion is a gift. Have you ever heard anyone say that they were shown too much compassion as a child?
The idea of offering your child kindheartedness may seem elementary and natural to you but for many, it is not. Why would you as a parent work hard to offer tireless compassion? We are experiencing four strong reasons:
1. Compassion grants us influence and the right to be heard. Lack of compassion, especially in moments of need, builds invisible, emotional walls between parents and teenagers that will be instantly felt when your influence is most necessary. Things begin to change when a child becomes an adolescent. When our children are young we are able to lead them with our positional authority. Though it is not good or even healthy to lead them only by positional authority, it is possible until they start thinking for themselves. Clearly, children need compassion and heart connection for emotional health and spiritual growth, and it would be terrible to mistakenly undermine that truth here.
While it is right for our children to obey their parents, by the time they are teenagers, typically, positional authority is not enough to give a parent real influence in the life of a teen. Influence no longer comes just because you are “the mom” or “the dad.” Influence is earned in the life of a teenager. One way that influence is earned is through regular deposits of compassion. It is true in your life, too. Think about it. Who are you most likely to bear your soul with or seek advice from? It is likely someone who has a track record of showing you understanding. Your teenager is the same way. If you want influence, offer compassion.
2. Compassion paints a proper picture of God’s love for our children. Psalm 103:13 explains that a father’s practice of showing compassion to his children is an example of the Lord’s compassion toward those who fear Him. Parents who demonstrate tireless compassion help teenagers develop a believable picture of their perfect Father’s sense of compassion for them. And when we lack compassion we skew the picture. We are glad He is a perfect Father.
3. Compassion connects hearts. We have been in family ministry long enough to observe a pattern in family life during the teenage years. Often, we see strained or shallow relationships between parents and teens. Angry feelings among teenagers and their parents are prevalent—breeding contempt. We have heard parents, on so many occasions, heartbreakingly “hating” their teenagers aloud because of relational turmoil and the associated emotional inconvenience. A wise parent cultivates a loving relationship with their teenagers by using authentic and consistent compassion as the glue that connects hearts.
4. Compassionate parents disciple compassionate teenagers. When a child experiences compassion at home, he or she grows into a teenager that understands how to offer compassion in the world. We are not perfect parents at all, but one piece of constant feedback we get about every one of our children is that they are compassionate toward others. It is interesting, because they each have completely different personalities. One is a warrior. One is a peacemaker. One is the life of the party. How is it that they all exhibit recognizable compassion? We think it has a lot to do with the demonstration of tireless compassion at home.
About the Writers: Brian and Angela Haynes have been married 20 years and live in Houston, Texas, with their three children. Order their new book, Relentless Parenting, at www.RandallHouse.com.