I once blogged about the importance of parental influence and mentioned five things that can increase it.  In my previous post, this post, and the following three posts, I elaborate on what I call the Five Optimizers of Influence.  While nothing guarantees that our kids will make wise choices, my 31 years of youth ministry taught me that parents who become proficient in these five areas will have maximum impact on their kids.

1. Model authenticity.

2. Avoid relational walls.

Adversarial relationships between our kids and us will only cause them to resent us which will influence them in the exact opposite direction that we intend for them.  Exasperating our children is not only unbiblical (Ephesians 6:4), but it also creates bitterness in them, diminishing any positive influence we might have had.  It makes them feel like victims.

Here are ten things that will make your kids feel like victims, ensuring that you have little–if any–positive influence on them:

  • Major on the minors.  Harp on things that really don’t matter and ignore those that really do.
  • Be unfair, inconsistent, and unreasonable in what you require of them.
  • Make decisions that will affect kids without soliciting their input or explaining why the decision was made.  Say “Because I said so!” a lot.
  • If you ask them questions at all, make sure they feel interrogated, and begin all your questions with the word, “Why.”
  • Be sure you let them know how they are such a disappointment to you.  Use creative labels for them like “stupid,” “lazy,” “brat,” and “worthless.”
  • Treat children like property instead of people, making them feel unworthy, unheard, and unwanted.  Don’t let them make their own decisions.
  • Never admit you might be wrong.  Never show weakness.  Never apologize.
  • Be easily offended, quick-tempered, unpredictable, and volatile.  Make them fear you.
  • Make discipline decisions impulsively, in the heat of the moment, when you’re not thinking objectively.  Be as punitive as possible.  Show no mercy.
  • Let the busyness of life keep you from quality family time.  Work excessively.  Don’t plan family fun.  Don’t let them see you smile.
  • Don’t go on dates with your kids.  Don’t read to them.  Let them put themselves to bed.  Be sure not to spend any one on one time with them.

Foolish parents will do the things on this list without giving thought to the relational walls they are building between them and their kids.  How much better it is to build relational bridges by doing exactly the opposite of each thing on that list!

As mentioned previously, there are no guarantees.  Some kids will resent their parents no matter what we do; they also can create walls of relational separation.  Even so, let’s make it our goal that any walls that exist are caused by their sin, not ours.  And let’s pour our energy into taking down walls and building bridges to their hearts whenever possible.  That will maximize our influence on them.

Tomorrow I will elaborate on the third Influence Optimizer!