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Commentary: Are you connecting with your children?

When I think of what it takes to be a great dad, one of the key characteristics is a consistent commitment to connect with your children; to get into their world, their turf, their interests; to discover and discern their needs and hear their perspective; to be a great listener even when you are tired.

As parents, it takes great self-leadership to connect with our children, but there is a powerful potential unleashed when we authentically connect with them.

On April 21, 1968, my dad dismissed the congregation at the Evangelical Church in Danville, Ill., after concluding his sermon. He told those in attendance, "I will see you next Sunday." He had no idea that he would not live to see another Sunday. The following Wednesday he was misdiagnosed as having the flu and by the time they realized he had a form of meningitis, it was too late. He slipped into a coma and passed away on Saturday, April 27, 1968. I was one year old at the time.

So, I grew up in the home of a single mom. It was my mom who took me and the neighborhood kids to every Williston Coyote high school basketball game from the first grade on. It was my mom that took us to several regional and state basketball tournaments. It was my mom that took me and some junior high friends fishing. She read a book in the car while we wet our lines. She made my interests a priority to her.

My mom and I watched a lot of sports together. When my mom's health declined, she and my step-dad moved to Fargo to be near family. In the final years of her life she and I watched a lot of North Dakota State University Bison football and Minnesota Timberwolves basketball together. The Timberwolves caused us pain and the Bison football team brought us comfort.

A few years before my mom passed away we were watching a game together and I asked, "Mom, when did you become a sports fan?" I will never forget her answer. I assumed she liked watching sports long before I came along. She said, "I became a sports fan when I saw how much you loved sports. When you were a small boy I decided if I want to know my son as he grows up I need to know about sports." Wow, that is the selfless act of a great leader, a great connector and a great parent!

The most basic rule to connecting with our children is to find common ground. And when you find common ground, invest the time and energy required to connect through conversation.

Whether you are an introvert, an extrovert, male or female, conversation takes energy. And it is an investment well worth it. We are paying a huge price for the lack of authentic conversations within our families. We have more ways to communicate with each other than ever before, yet we have less authentic conversations and encouraging words exchanged than ever before. We have more time-saving conveniences and gadgets than ever before, yet we invest less and less time in each other.

As I read about the life of Jesus Christ it is clear that people weren't a project or a problem to Jesus. They were a priority! May connecting with our children and grandchildren be a priority for us.

God bless you. See you next Sunday!