My morning’s Scripture reading in 2 Samuel 15, reminded me of a lesson I learned from an interesting source. The Bible story goes like this. King David was at odds with his son Absalom. A lot of bad stuff had gone down, you can read that for yourself in 2 Samuel 13-14, and Absalom had left home.

In order to try to restore some semblance of peace, David encouraged Absalom to come back to the hometown, but David also said that Absalom had to stay in another house. He wanted him back, but at a distance. Later in the story, Absalom, hurt and angered by this incomplete reconciliation, starts a rebellion against his dad.

As I read that story, and as a father of 4 sons, I wonder “what turns a kid’s heart so against his parents that he is willing to ‘take them down?'” How is it that parents and children can be so at odds with one another? And how do we keep that from happening if we can?

I remember some advice a cop gave me about 12 years ago. My boys were young and he and I were talking about parenting. The situation of our conversation doesn’t matter as much as the wisdom he gave. He said, when a kid disobeys, “bring him closer.” He said one of the worst things parents can do is to ground their kids and isolate them in their rooms. He said, when criminals are isolated, they come out worse, not better. His reasoning went something like this. “You take a kid who is in trouble and now mad and frustrated at their parents, put them in a room alone. What are they going to think about? They are going to think about how mad they are at the situation and how mad they are at their parents.” And over time the animosity, frustration and bitterness builds. His approach was to “bring the child closer.”

Think about how to stop a 2 year old from throwing a tantrum. From my mistakes, I’ve come to learn that yelling, grabbing, pushing, pulling and spanking don’t work. But bear hugs do. When you overwhelm that child with a hug, you are taking control for them. And I believe, you are taking a step toward knitting that little heart to yours.

This officer explained how he did this with his son. His son was 15 and had been caught with drugs. He decided from that time on, his son and he would stay close. And they did. The son was not allowed to be alone in his bedroom, unless he was sleeping or dressing. There were no more video games to be played alone, but they played games together as a family. TV was watched together. Dad and son became best buddies by choice and design, even if not always willingly by the boy.

This was a 2 year project with this family. When the son was 17, he came to his Dad one day and said, “Dad, you saved my life.” What this Dad did was to step “into” his sons life in a very focused and intentional way. And he refused to let go.

We can’t lead our kids if we aren’t with them. There are many forces pulling them away from family, strong values and wisdom. We have the power as parents, to limit the power of those forces by stepping into their lives and living life with them every day.

So next time your child disobeys, or starts to walk down a dangerous path, pull them closer. Make their punishment to be time with you (that’ll teach ’em)! Step into their lives. Make yourself an essential ingredient in their life. And through that effort, show them that they matter.