I don’t know what your new year’s resolution is, but one of mine is to get back to writing blog articles. Many people have shared with me how much they appreciate them. So, here’s to 2024 and a new blog article every month. You can help out by subscribing, donating, or making a purchase on the store.
And with this blog post, I’d like to add a new year’s resolution to your list: spend time with your children. It sounds simple, and it is simple; but it’s one of the most overlooked – yet most important – needs of children’s development and education. Here are five reasons to invest in relationship.
1. Aids in the development of conscience
A study published in the journal Child Development found, “Especially important in the development of early conscience are a child’s early relationships within the family.”
Sometimes we think of conscience as a rather static, fixed compass that every individual possesses. In reality, the conscience must be developed properly or we risk serious consequences. Much of the poor behavior prevalent in youth today is a result of a poorly-developed conscience – that internal compass wasn’t “calibrated” correctly in childhood. Many psychopathic and sociopathic behaviors are attributed to a lack of a conscience. It is a vitally-important responsibility of every parent to help their children develop a good conscience. How can they do this? According to the science, they can invest in relationship with their children.
2. Helps children resist temptation
The same study found, “Secure children … showed more engagement during the resistance-to-temptations task.”
Now that’s a helpful bit of information. Parents should want to help develop in their child the desire to firmly resist temptation. And how may they do so? According to the science, they can invest in relationship with their children.
3. Strengthens the impact of parental instruction
Perhaps my favorite finding from this study was that, “The quality of the parent-child relationship is an important moderator of the impact of parent-child discourse involving moral themes.”
Scientists seem to have a knack for overcomplicating things. Let’s put that statement in everyday language.
“Do you feel like your child isn’t listening to you? Try focusing less on words and more on time together.”
That’s better. And that’s supported by the science. Invest in relationship.
4. Improves emotional health
This point is worthy of its own blog post – or its own book. With the emotional-health crisis we are facing in the world today, it is time that we took seriously the strong positive effects of parent-child (especially mother-child) relationship on emotional health and the serious, life-long negative consequences of the lack of quality parent-child relationship.
A lack of a strong mother-child relationship in the early years of life is linked to depression and anxiety disorders in adulthood. The quality of interaction between parents and children will influence the development of emotional understanding of children.
A comprehensive look at this topic is beyond the scope of this short blog post, but the science is clear and the evidence abundant that the emotional-health crisis we face today is not so much a crisis of emotional health as it is a lack of quality parent-child relationship in the early years of childhood. According to the science, a simple investment in relationship during childhood could solve many emotional-health problems today.
5. Builds a foundation for a relationship with God
Perhaps the most important of all the benefits of parent-child relationship is that it helps form a foundation for later relationships in life, be that with friends, a spouse, or, most significant of all, with God.
Dr Robert Feldman writes in the book Child Development, “The quality of attachment between infants and their mothers has significant consequences for relationships at later stages of life.”
That time you spend with your child, talking, laughing, snuggling, walking, or just being together may seem trivial, but it is in reality forming the mirror into which they will later look to reflect their relationship with God. It forms a foundation, a jumping-off point, for their understanding of relationship in general and for their connection and intimacy with their Creator – even in their adult life.
How to help your child form a better relationship with God when they get older? Here again, according to the science, invest in relationship.
Plant the good seed before the bad can take root.
Most Christian parents are likely familiar with the agricultural analogy of planting good see before the bad can take root. We usually apply this to parenting and education by focusing on the early years of childhood to teach good lessons, develop good habits, and form strong character, but this principle goes even deeper.
Ellen White wrote in the book Christian Education, “Young hearts yearn for sympathy and tenderness, and if they do not obtain it from their parents, they will seek it from sources that may endanger both mind and morals.
God created us for relationship. We were made with a need to connect. Children have this need just as much, if not more, than adults do, and God designed that they experience this connection in relationship with their parents. If they do not, they will, either consciously or subconsciously, seek relationship from other sources. Perhaps we here find the reason that so many of our youth leave the values of their parents and get caught up in hurtful human relationships. Parents, you can help prevent this problem by investing in relationship – especially when your children are young. Plant the good seed of relationship with you and with God in your children, leaving no room for the bad seed of hurtful human relationships to take root.
How to invest in relationship.
“Relationship” is a big word. Most children spell it differently, as, “TIME”. Time together is the number one greatest method of developing relationship with your children. Relationship is not taught in a class, or a book, or a curriculum, or on a certain schedule. Relationship means being there, being available, responding consistently, and spending time together. It is simple and can be done through the everyday activities of life, but it does require sacrifice on the part of the parent – a sacrifice of themselves and their time.
Perhaps the most common question I receive is, “What curriculum do you recommend?” While I can certainly give some recommendations, the reality is that many times in asking that question we miss the true focus of education. Many parents focus so much on what their children are “learning” that they forget the greatest lesson of all – the lesson taught through time together. There are lessons far more important than math, science, or history to be gained through relationship. For healthy emotional development, children need time, connection, relationship, and to understand that their parent considers them not as a brain to be filled, but as a human being that is worth any sacrifice to spend time with.
Put simply, parents, spending time with your child IS education.
Until next time, may the Lord richly bless you as you seek to educate your children for the kingdom.
1. Laible, D. J., & Thompson, R. A. (2000). Mother-child discourse, attachment security, shared positive affect, and early conscience development. Child development, 71(5), 1424–1440.
2. Developmental Psychology. 1998, Vol. 34, No.5, 1038-1045
3. Robert S. Feldman, Child Development, 176
4. Christian Education, 169