Oct 142013 14 Responses

How Parents Influence Their Children

No matter the age of parents or the age of children, parents always have tremendous influence over their children.

A few weeks ago I sat at a table next to a 90–something year-old man having lunch with his 60–something year-old son. When one of the son’s friends stopped by the table, the old man said to the friend, “Your dad was so proud of you.” It was quickly evident how powerful those words were even to this man who is past retirement age.

Parents always have influence. In my article 3 Things to Do When Parenting Goes Wrong, I said no matter what mistakes a parent has made, they should always seek to utilize their influence for the well-being of their children. However, parents often forfeit their influence either by failing to realize what they have or by trying to exert power in the wrong ways.

While it is somewhat easy to identify the influence we have with small children, it is more difficult to see the influence we have with teenagers or adult children.

Here are three areas of influence a parent always has no matter the age of their children:

1. Our Example: The most overlooked area of influence we have with others, especially our children, is the example we set. No matter what mistakes have been made in the past, if a parent will admit them, seek forgiveness, and make amends, they can set a tremendous example for their children. Even if forgiveness isn’t given, by developing a healthy lifestyle (spiritual, emotional, and physical) a parent can be a positive model for children.

As a pastor, it breaks my heart when I see parents of adult children failing to utilize their role as models for their children. Many parents raise their children in church, but as soon as the kids move out of the house, the parents become lax in their faith. They foolishly believe it is more important to model faith to small children than adult children. It’s possible that modeling faith is more vital the older your children get. Then they know you are living out a true faith instead of putting on a show for them.

2. Our Story: No one can deny you your story. We all have experiences in life in which decisions were made, outcomes were experienced, and lessons were learned. Our stories are some of the most influential tools we have. As a parent we should leverage these tools often. However, parents often do not leverage their stories to their full potential. Instead of telling the story, they attempt to manipulate, coerce, or dictate the outcome they desire.

I have an older friend who is a master at leveraging influence through story. Whenever I face a situation and seek advice, he will say, “Something like that happened to me one time…this was the situation…I did this…this was the outcome. That’s it. He won’t tell me what I should do; he won’t pretend as though there is a great moral to the story. He will simply tell the situation, tell of his decision, and tell the outcome. What I do with that is my business.

This is how a parent of teenage or adult children should tell our stories—tell the facts, tell our choices, tell the outcome, and empower our children to make their own conclusions.

3. Our Encouragement: No matter the age of a child, they never grow weary of hearing these words from their parent:

  • I love you.
  • You are capable.
  • You can do this.
  • I believe in you.
  • I’m here for you.

Parents are far too concerned with communicating their opinion with their children and not nearly concerned enough with communicating their love and encouragement to their children. Our focus should always be on the latter.

As someone who often speaks with people about the most serious issues of life, I am amazed at the power of parents. If we understood the level of influence we had, I’m convinced we would leverage that influence far more often.

We may not have the control we desire, but we never lose the power to influence the lives of our children.


14 Responses to How Parents Influence Their Children
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