“My kid just won’t talk! Every time I ask him a question, he just gives me the same answer: ‘I dunno’!” Does conversation with your teenager sound like that? If so, let me share with you an idea that my wife and I learned when our kids were very young. It’s called Windows to the Heart, and it’s a very simple concept. A “window to the heart” means that there are moments that arise every so often that contain a peculiar vulnerability to engage your child’s heart and mind. You can recognize these candid moments in a question or see it in a glance.
When your kids say something that demonstrates openness, pay close attention. Openness might come through a question such as, “Mom, do you think I’m pretty?” or “Dad, what do you think I’m good at?” Or it may be a comment like, “I don’t think anybody likes me,” or any number of statements that linger, awaiting your response. Rather than automatically responding, “Of course you’re beautiful,” or “Of course people like you,” recognize that a window to your child’s heart is wide open, and your perception of those window moments can lead to significant life discussions with your child.
The trouble is, you can never quite predict when a skylight to your child’s soul is going to show. It could occur at any waking moment. Most of the time a window is opened at an inconvenient moment when we least anticipate it. We need to be constantly on the lookout for such a moment of openness and, without hesitation, leap through the window. Don’t give in to the passing thought, “Oh, honey, let’s just talk about this in the morning.” Seize the moment!
At times, the window might sound like, “Mom, can we talk?” or “Dad, I want to share something with you.” But most times, your child may just start sharing something with you about his day, and you might feel like saying, “Let’s talk about it tomorrow,” or “I’m too tired.” The fact is, the window is open now, and you don’t know if it will be open tomorrow. Of course, as parents, we’re thinking, Why wouldn’t it be open tomorrow? Tomorrow’s as good a day as today, and I would be more alert if I could get some good sleep. I’ll be able to think and pray about the answers I want to give. None of that makes sense to a kid who’s hurting and just wants to be heard. You might come back the next day and say, “Hey, let’s talk about that thing . . .” and your child will respond with, “Oh, no, I’m fine.” Now the window that was open yesterday is shut tight. You can try to pry it loose all you want, but it will not open. And you can’t force it.
The amount of late night conversations I’ve had with my girls is incalculable. I recently came home exhausted after a long day, and my daughter Charity said, “Hey, you want to make me a cup of coffee?” I said, “You want one?” and she said, “Yeah, let’s have one together.” That was a cue that she wanted to spend time with me; she wanted to talk. I was really tired, I didn’t want to talk. I just wanted to go to bed. But I value the openness of my daughter’s heart more than my own sleep. I would be able to sleep later; the window of her heart might not ever open in the same way again. If I didn’t carve out that time with her, it might have created a memory that whispered, When I’m open, he doesn’t want to talk to me. And I’m not going to let that thought happen between us.
Parenting requires sacrifice. Every time you have a late-night conversation with your teenager, you are sending a positive message, and a window to his or her heart starts to creak open. Your tangible interest and love is what draws your child’s heart toward your own. That’s what you want above all else. Because whoever your children open up to are the ones who will have the most influence on shaping their heart and life.
This article was adapted from Ron’s latest book, Re-Create: Building a Culture in Our Homes That Is Stronger Than the Culture Deceiving Our Kids, released August 1 nationwide. Look for it at your nearest bookstore, or visit www.battlecry.com for more information.