Parenting Math (Part 2): The Influence Formula

There's this part of parenting that no one prepares you to do. Actually, most of parenting falls under that heading, but hear me out for a sec. It's the part we looked at in Part 1 of this series. You can feel it the strongest in moments of transition. When your Kindergartener walks into the classroom all alone and doesn't cry for you. When your tween finally shares a secret she's been holding close. When your new driver takes the keys and drives away... alone. We realize that when our kids grow up it means letting go.

For many of us, that sets off a mini war inside us where the mind says "Growing up is good and healthy. Let him go." but the heart wants to want to wrap him up in our arms and hold on tighter. Good news. You're normal!

How can we get our heart and our head to sit down together and negotiate this growing up process? Perhaps if we understood the gradual shift that happens in our ability to influence our child, we can help calm the internal struggle and pursue intentionality as we watch them grow.

From Positional Influence to Relational Influence

Those moments of transition are like neon signs that alert us to a shift in influence that might otherwise go undetected. The littlest ones depend on parents and caregivers for everything. Those people hold virtually all the influence in a child's life. They choose what the child wears, what the child will eat, what the family will do on the weekend, and more. As the child grows that influence diminishes. A parent who is attuned to that shift will seek to build a new type of influence that has staying power when "Because I said so" no longer holds the weight it once did. It's a choice to fight for the heart.

When we must let go with our hands, we grow influence by learning to hold each other well in our hearts.

Ideally our positional influence and our relational influence have a negative correlation. That means as our positional influence decreases, our relational influence will increase. The variable that makes it grow is our intentionality in building that relationship.

When we must let go with our hands, we grow influence by learning to hold each other well in our hearts.



  1. Spend some one-on-one time together. It doesn't need to be elaborate or expensive. You can throw a ball in the yard, run errands together, do something creative together at home like a project around the house, cooking/baking or even learning a new skill together from a tutorial video. Create an opportunity for you to laugh or talk. These little deposits, even a few minutes, can add up over time!
  2. Build them up. Your words hold so much power in the heart of your child. Drop in some uplifting words as she gets ready in the morning. Let him know that you are for him.
  3. Tell a piece of your story. Kids tend to forget that parents were once kids, too. Look for an opportunity to make it personal by sharing an age-appropriate snapshot of what you were like or experienced as a child or teen. It's fun to get to be Superman in their eyes, but seeing your Clark Kent side gives you a chance to build our relational influence as they get to know the real you.

The relational deposits you make now will mature in time. The payoff comes in those moments when your hands must to let go, but your hearts continue to hold on with mutual trust.