Being a Cool Adult

Last week, my wife, son, and I were driving down the road. My son said to his mother, “Mom, you are cool.” She thanked him for his kind words. For a moment, there was silence in our car. Finally, I said, “Son, what about me? Am I cool?” Evan paused longer than I wish he had, but he finally said, “Yeah, I guess you are cool, too.”

You guess? I’m cool “too?” Seriously? Was that the best he could do?

Well, truth be told, I never really thought of my parents as being cool either. You know how it is. Parents and adults are just old and out-of-touch. Kids think that adults don’t understand what it’s like being a kid these days. Adults don’t dress the right way, don’t talk the right way, and certainly don’t understand kids at all.

Over the years, I have noticed that some kids are drawn to certain adults and see those adults as “cool.” I’ve watched those kids hang out with the “cool” adults, spend time at their homes, and go places with them.

Have you ever wondered why some adults are like magnets to kids and some simply aren’t? Have you ever wondered why some adults are “cool” and some aren’t?

Some general observations come to mind that’ll help us understand children better (even if we still won’t be the "cool adults" in the room).

First, to better understand children, we need to spend time with them. When we spend time with kids, we tell them that we value having a relationship with them. Every Friday morning, my nine-year-old son and I go on what we call a “daddy date.” We get up a little early, get his stuff ready for school, and then head to a fast food restaurant for breakfast. Nothing fancy. Nothing expensive. Certainly nothing good for my cholesterol level! We just spend some time together as father and son. Sadly, many adults don’t see the value of taking the time to build relationships with kids. However, what I’ve learned in spending time with my son is that I can’t wait for him to need me before I make him comfortable with me. I think that applies in all adult/kid relationships.

Second, kids need to know that they are loved. How do you show them love? Yes, spend time with them. Go to their football games or watch them march in the band. Ask them about their favorite pets. Don’t judge them if they have long hair or tend to let their pants droop a little. Be positive with them. Kids need to know they are genuinely loved by others. And when adults show them love and friendship, they learn how to better model that with their friends and classmates.

Third, talk with kids. Some people will say, “Duh! Everybody knows that!” Do they? Unfortunately, what we too often see are adults talking down to children and not talking with them. OK. Before you freak out and say, “What in the world do I have to talk with kids about?” or “I wouldn’t have a clue where to begin,” just slow down a little. Talk about whatever interests them. Maybe it’s their favorite football team. Maybe it’s their schoolteacher. How do you find out what kids are interested in? ASK! Talk with them about sports, hobbies, school, etc. By taking time to actually talk with kids, you’ll know better how to speak their language. And when the time comes to talk about God, Jesus, church, or missions, they’ll know you genuinely care about what they think.

Fourth, never forget that you are the adult and kids aren’t. I realize that this can be difficult. It also seems to be a forgotten reality today. However, kids really do need clear boundaries. Kids have a way of pushing and pushing and pushing to see just how far they can go. Whether it’s with a curfew, or what they watch on TV, or how much time they spend on the computer, kids need to know that there are rules and that the rules apply to them. You see, children need to know that they aren’t the adults. They need clear boundaries, and they need to know who’s in charge and who isn’t.

Finally, be consistent with children. Consistently show them respect. Listen to them. Talk with them. Don’t talk down to them. Be honest with them. Over time, kids will see that you are being consistent with them. They will learn what to expect from you.

Will we ever be the “cool adults” in the room? I don’t know. But what’s important isn’t being the cool parent or teacher or adult. The important part is modeling for children a godly life of respect, love, and kindness.

M. Steve Heartsill loves his wife, his son, and exploring the world.

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