IMPROV PARENTING: Part 1

In 1998 ABC and Drew Carey combined forces and launched the American version of “Whose Line is it Anyway?” At the start of each show Drew would welcome his guests by saying, “Welcome to Whose Line is it Anyway? Where everything is made up and the points don’t matter!” If you think about it, that kinda feels like parenting!

“Welcome to parenting, where you will make it up as you go and the points don’t matter!”

I don’t know how many times, either as a child or as a parent, I have heard (or even said) the cliche phrase, “When you were born I didn’t get an instruction manual!” I have often wished and hoped for a step by step guide to help me through the varied and unique experiences I have blindly fumbled through in the role as parent!

Ever on the search for ways to be a better parent and help my kids discover faith in Jesus and equip them to live it out in this often crazy world, I began to talk to my friend Sean. Sean is an improv comedian. I was interested in what he did and how it worked, so I asked. To my astonishment he began to unveil the secrets that improv comedians (at least good ones) follow to help them prefect their trade and deliver the laughs to their audience. As I listened I began to hear some life changing principles that would actually help me be a better father to my 3 children. I would like to share with you what I learned about how to be an effective Improv Parent…

Who would have thought that improv comedy has rules. But it does…11 of them in fact. Today, I want to share a few of them that deal with relationships. You see, for improv to truly be funny it is absolutely dependent upon 2 very important relationships:

1. The relationship between the 2 comedians 2. The relationship between the comedians and their audience.

lightstock_111354_xsmall_user_2799486As parents, sometimes we get so stuck on making sure we are being good parents and equipping our kids to be good people and teaching them about how to love Jesus and helping them get good grades and driving them to their sports practice and helping them practice their piano and making sure that they are well behaved enough get the citizen of the year award at school that we don’t leave much time for relationships. Now, don’t get me wrong…I don’t think it is wise for us to treat our children as friends…but, do we know them? Do we know what makes them tick? Do we know what gets them excited or what bums them out? Do we know their fears, questions or concerns? Do we have a true CONNECTION with them? Good comedians know how to connect with each other; their scene and with their audience. Truth is, our kids are apart of the scene that God has given us to act out…how is our connection with them?

Sean shared with me a few secrets of connecting as an Improv Comedian (I mean parent):

  1. Bring out the relationship.(Deut. 6:7-9) Simply put, set aside time for your kids. Do it in groups if you have more than one, but also make 1 on 1 time a priority. While you are driving take time to play a game (like slug bug), ask about your kids highs and lows of the day, or share a story about your day. One thing that I love to do (because I am a soda junkie) is to take my kids to Soda Works and buy them a soda (and since I am there I probably should get one too). Have daddy-daughter dates or mother-son dates and teach your kids what it looks like to love and be loved. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. Just make time for them…and be fully present! Truth is, you can’t have quality time unless you have quantity time.
  2. Listen. If you were to ask your kids if they felt listened to, what would they say? In order to listen, we have to slow down, maybe even stop, and remove distractions so we can be fully present for our kids. To be completely honest, this is my biggest struggle, but God has shown me a significant nugget of truth: when my kids ask me questions it is for a reason. I have noticed over the last few months that Madelyn (my 4th grade daughter) will often approach me with a question that starts a little something like this…”Dad, when you were in 4th grade…” What is she really asking? “Hey Dad, you know I’m in 4th grade and this thing happened at school and I kinda want to know if you had something similar happen and how you handled it?” I am beginning to recognize these moments and stop and take time to listen.

Parenting is sometimes made up along the way. But there really are some guiding principles that help us navigate this often fast paced unpredictable role. The first one is really pretty simple…make the time to get to know your kid!

What can you do today to allow yourself to have 30 undivided minutes of focusing on your children and talking to them?

Matt Priebe - Family Pastor