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Sunday, January 10, 2010

Conversations that Count

My stepson is in between college semesters right now and is enjoying some time hanging around the house. One day last week, he and I engaged in a conversation on priorities of life. He had a difficult semester in the Fall and made some choices that led to less than desireable grades. He knows he is in jeopardy of losing his academic scholarship and must make different choices.

I was proud of the attitude he showed of wanting to make it right this semester. He talked about changes he was going to make to his work schedule and his social calendar to allow more time for studying. He recognized his lack of attentiveness to classes he didn't enjoy and the damage done by missed assignments and poor class attendance. He talked about a desire to succeed in college, not just get by.

I later relected on a similar conversation he and I had shortly after his grades came out. Unfortunately, that conversation had turned defensive and volatile. Emotions were heightened as we talked about the consequences of losing his scholarship. Instead of supportive statements toward what it takes to succeed in college, I criticized his lack of discipline and poor choices that led to near failure in some classes.

That conversation was damaging to our relationship and accomplished little toward solving the problem at hand. It took several days before we could even broach the subject again. But I was determined that we have another discussion on the matter with a positive slant. I wanted him to know I believed in his success and supported his efforts as a student. I wanted to affirm his commitment toward his goal, despite the results of the prior semester.

Following our discussion on his grades, we were able to talk about other priorities. I encouraged him to nurture his spiritual growth and look toward an area of ministry on campus. We talked about a current relationship with a young lady on campus, as well as other relationships his friends were engaged in and consequences of their actions. It was an extended conversation that allowed me to guide him toward healthy thinking on critical issues. But it would never have occurred if I had not been willing to be encouraging, rather than critical, of his behavior and choices he made.

Our kids are hit with critical remarks from friends, teachers, and employers regularly. They need a safe haven at home that provides support and encouragement from us daily.



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