Serve and return is an interesting parenting concept. It is how we teach almost anything to our children. We serve information to the child, the child returns it back, and we respond again. It is a process that allows the child to process information, give the new skill a try, and get feedback.
It starts in infancy with coos and smiles that begin a child’s lessons on learning language and human interaction.
It continues through childhood as children are able to engage in conversation. They learn to negotiate, they learn to ask questions, they learn to apply new information and it all centers on that parent . . . child . . parent . . .child back and forth interaction. We think they are not listening to us, but they are. It is just that learning happens slowly and deliberately and it needs repetition; lots of repetition.
But what about a child, a tweenager, or an adolescent who rebels? What if we have proof they did not listen? What if we have the same conversation over and over again? What if they walk away and refuse to talk? How does serve and return work here?
The beauty of serve and return is that the lessons start early and build one on top of the other. The self-regulation you taught your toddler is still tucked away in your teenager’s brain. The discernment you taught your school-age child is still a part of the confusing tweenager you see before you. Even if you don’t think they are listening, or heeding your words, you still need to keep on serving that communication and love. It does sink in. You will just not always see evidence of the wisdom you have been trying to teach.
It is much like how we are in our relationship with God. He tells us over and over, again that He loves us, that He protects us, that He has our best interests at heart. What we return is not always the trust and reverence God deserves.
Yet, God still keeps on loving us. When your child does not seem to be learning what you are trying to teach – keep on loving – keep on praying – keep on sharing your faith.
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one. John 10:27-30