It is one of my kids’ favorite times of the year. They look forward to it for weeks leading up the event. If we miss it, they let us know. What am I referring to?
About five years ago, our family started the habit of taking each of our kids on a birthday date with Mommy or Daddy once a year. It started with me and Anaya (our oldest) in a Burger King eating ice cream and playing in the play place. Since then, it has expanded to include activities like mini golf or a trampoline park at various times, but it doesn’t need to be expensive.
This year, I told Anaya that if we didn’t spend money for her birthday date, I would give her $20 instead. (Anaya is saving for a digital camera, so that was appealing to her.) We went to a beautiful park, rode our bikes, ate a sack lunch, and played in the splash pad. She had a wonderful time.
When we first started this tradition, we were living in California. Now that we are back in Arizona and near my parents, they have jumped in on the tradition as well. So my children get two birthday dates every birthday—one with Mommy or Daddy and one with Grandma and Grandpa. They truly are blessed.
My purpose in writing this article is not necessarily to extol the virtues of birthday dates (though I have to admit, they are great, and I think you should try them 😊 ). Instead, I want to motivate you to spend one-on-one time with your children.
Why Should You Spend One-on-One Time?
The benefits of spending one-on-one time with your kids can be traced back to one of the most important parenting passages in Scripture—Deuteronomy 6. Read these words from verses 6-7.
“And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.”
One-on-one time with your kids isn’t magical. If you fail to develop it, the benefits will be minimal. However, by carving out one-on-one time with your kids, you are creating a context where Deuteronomy 6:6-7 can happen. Spending time one-on-one with your kids will help you to build relationship and engage in heart-level conversations.
Let’s explore those two benefits further.
1. Building Relationships
Have you heard the phrase, “They won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care?” This rule applies to parenting.
When God reached down to fallen man, He did so primarily to restore a relationship, not just to present a list of rules. To be saved is to become part of God’s family (1 John 3:1). God has time for us (Heb 4:16). We are “accepted in the Beloved” (i.e., Christ—Eph 1:6).
In the same way that God shows His love to us, we ought to show our love to our children. Do your children know that you love them? One-on-one time can be a great opportunity to express love and build relationships with your children.
2. Engaging in Heart-level Conversation
2 Timothy 3:16 is essential to parenting.
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
The first part of v. 16 defines inspiration. The second half of the verse describes the types of rich, biblical communication that should flow from that doctrine. If God’s word is inspired, then we should use it for teaching truth and reproving false doctrine. If God’s word is inspired, then we should use it for correcting wrong behavior and instructing right behavior. This is Deuteronomy 6 all over again!
The book of Proverbs models the kind of heart level conversations parents should have with their children.1 In it, the wise parents address their children about attitude, work ethic, friends, speech, and sexual temptation—all issues that our children still face and need help with today!
We need to set aside times to talk with our children—to share with them what is on our heart as it relates to their lives, to cast a vision for their futures, to warn them about dangers we see coming, to ask them good questions and discover what is going on in their heads and hearts, to learn about them,2 to laugh together, to discuss difficult topics, and to tell them our stories. That’s why we need one-on-one time.
Why Not in Groups?
Can’t we accomplish these goals with all of our children together? Isn’t that more efficient?
All of the types of communication listed above can happen during times when we are all together as a family or in groups. There is nothing wrong with that! However, as your children get older, they probably won’t open up in the way that you need them to as long as their siblings are present.
How to Do One-on-One Times?
What are some ways for you to carve out one-on-one time with your kids? Here are a few suggestions.
- If you take two cars to church or sports practice, allow one child at a time to ride with Mommy or Daddy while the rest ride in the other vehicle. Then, use that time to talk about your child’s day.
- If you need to run an errand, take a child with you. Then, instead of being strictly task-oriented, slow down and have a conversation along the way. Stop and notice the funny Christmas decorations at Home Depot. Enjoy the process.
- Choose a day of the week where one child gets to stay up past bedtime and play a game with Mom and Dad.
- Take them to lunch. Teens love to eat, and while you are munching on burgers and fries, you can talk.
- Get them alone in the car if you have a long drive. On family vacations, take turns letting children sit up front next to you. I have a friend who says, “Car time is quality time.” 😊
- Find something your teen enjoys doing and do it together. Talk while you’re at it and during the down times (examples: hiking, shooting hoops or playing catch, hunting, restoring an old vehicle together, baking, crafting/DIY, playing video games).
- Don’t force your teen to look at you while you talk. Teens are more comfortable opening up when they aren’t forced to make eye contact or have something to fiddle with. (I know one parent who would lie on the living room floor beside his teenage daughter and look at the ceiling while they talked.)
- Take advantage of the times when your teen is in the mood to talk. The car ride home from school may be a bad time. But if she suddenly opens up at 10:30 p.m., don’t cut it short because you are tired.
Let’s slow down and make time for our kids, not just in groups, but as individuals. I think you’ll find that the benefits are amazing.
In fact, the entire book is a letter written by a father (and parts by a mother) to a teenage son! ↩
Don’t forget that biblical communication is not one-sided. It involves listening as much as talking! ↩