What your child wants more than anything else is a relationship. Here are ways to build that relationship.

Don't let Conflict Get in the Way

The kids we are closest later is life are usually the ones that we have fought with the most as kids. The ones that love us the most and we love them the most are the ones that have turned our hair grey. Conflict does that. Those relationships that stick together through conflict are closer relationships in the end.

Conflict has the opportunity of pulling your family together more than you would be pulled together in any other way. And that should change your perspective on the conflicts you are having with your teenager.

You can enter into conflict with your teen for the sake of destroying her, or you can enter into the conflict for the sake of saving her. Our goal as parents must be to communicate a sense of love across a bridge of friendship that doesn’t stop if the teen doesn’t respond or makes a mistake. Mistakes are what pre-adults do, and hopefully thry'll learn from their mistakes before adulthoold. Rubbing your child's face in her mistake, creating conflict out of a valid learning opportunity, is destructive. However, sharing your concern and reasons for concern can salvage a relationship because you are speaking out of love and friendship.

Time Together

Calculate and develop strategies for the amount of time needed to further the relationship that moves beyond “entertaining” into “developing.”

For their best interest, and no matter how nasty things get, we need to continue to love them and spend time together. Fathers, if you have a daughter, you’ll never spend enough time with your daughter. You can’t do that. In any kind of a group setting, the number one item is always the daughter saying, “I want more time with my Dad.” If you spent 24/7 with your daughter, it would never be enough time, so just know that. But they do want the time together. So make sure you’re spending time with them. “You and I are going to eat breakfast. Just you and me.” Or just mom and daughter. They need the time.

Shared Experiences

Find a challenge for the both of you and pursue it with excitement, resources, time, effort, interest, and vigor.

Go do some things that are out of the ordinary. Learn to scuba dive together. Go snorkeling down in the Grand Caymans. Go on a fishing trip five miles from your house. Go camping - buy some good camping gear - you can always turn around and sell it. Do something that’s different and don't expect it to go perfectly. In fact, if it all goes haywire, it will be even more memorable and bonding with your child.

Start doing something now that’s different. Don’t wait, and don't think that you can’t learn. Start doing something with your child this week. Find something that your kids will remember when they’ve grown up and don’t live with you anymore. You’re going to want shared experiences to come back and be the foundation of your future relationship.

Opportunities for Discussion

Look for opportunities to lead into a discussion where the wisdom of a parent can be communicated along a common focal point.

Go to a movie once a week. Make sure that movie is appropriate. Movies that we see here, we want to follow up with some kind of discussion so they can talk about it.

There’s experiences to learn by listening and talking with older folks. That’s history. It’s wonderful when they share stories. Look for opportunities for discussion.

Develop a Sense of Humor

Learn to laugh, share the good jokes, lighten up, do some fun things, be impetuous, and smile a little more.

Some of you are sour, bitter, up tight all the time. Get on the Internet and find some jokes and have a joke night. Everybody come to the table sharing a joke, even if it’s just a shade off color, just a little bit, just enough that’s it’s funny. Everyone needs to share a joke so the whole group can laugh.

Find something the kids can laugh about and have fun. Go into a video store and find something country. It’s fresh, relational, good, clean stuff. Find those things that are good and laugh about them. Maybe everybody tells a joke at dinner, trying to outdo one another. Pull some stunts. Create a sense of humor. Have fun. This is developed over time. You aren’t born with stuff like that. Discover the goofiness of who you are - kids will enjoy that goofiness. Live it up and enjoy this with your kids in some way.

Sharing of Thoughts

Look for those times that you are invited to share your thoughts…not just throwing out your ideas for the sake of filling silence.

Sometimes it’s okay just to sit and watch a movie or do something without talking. This could be a monumental time in the life of your child - spending time with his Dad and loved it. (Dad may feel the day is wasted, but child has it etched in his memory). Share your thoughts. Kids enjoy it when they just sit around and do nothing with their parent(s), enjoy just sitting back and looking at the stars. Go to an observatory and go look at Saturn. Make that a deal - I want you to see Saturn. Take blankets and go out and see the stars in the middle of the night. You may see a meteor shower. Play music while you’re watching the stars and talk about the stars.

Start a fire and sleep outside. These are manufactured times and they just don’t happen all at once. Learn a special song and sing to your child in front of an audience. Come up with ideas that you’ve got to make happen for that special time with your child. Share your thoughts during those times and look for them. Even when they don’t want to do it. Build up to it, “when we get home, we’re going to do this.” Every Sunday is my night and your night. We’re going to do something.

Opportunities to See You “In Action”

Take them to work, share your frustrations, hurts, and longings. Enter their world. And always keep an invitation open for them to come into yours.

In some way, they need to see what you do and what you deal with and the frustrations - so they can identify with you and your world. Tell them how you deal with problems. How you seek guidance. How you don’t have all the answers.


Don’t forget who this child was, who he is, or who he will become. The benchmark is the joy at birth…not at the struggles and difficulties in the teen years.

Get an image of your child, say at age 2. Your child is the same image when you brought him home or if you adopted her. When you looked at your child for the first time and thought this is an unbelievable baby - it’s the same child. And they’re made up the same and they’re the same purpose they were created for that day. It may be covered up with stuff, but it’s the same one. If you keep that in mind, whatever circumstances there are surrounding the child, he or she is there for a reason.

Seek right things for your child, for the right reasons, confront with calmness, and correct with firmness, out of a love that seeks their best interest.

The Arena for Parent/Teen Relationships...
-Allows for change and growth
-Doesn’t opinionize
-Looks for the good in every situation
-Is marked by acts of kindness (even when you’re not being treated nice)
-Doesn’t operate out of fear

Develop a relationship that doesn’t stop if they don’t respond (and they won't sometimes). A relationship that loves them through the tough times (teens can be brutal at times), and always shows them your best side. Give them a taste of goodness and communications that will motivate them throughout life and teach them how to also communicate with others.

Author's Bio: 

Mark Gregston is the Founder and Executive Director of Heartlight Ministries, a residential counseling program for teens in crisis, located in East Texas. See more at http://www.markgregston.com or http://www.heartlightministries.org .