What is good communication? How do we talk to our teens? What if they don’t listen?
Good communication happens when listening becomes more important than talking. Sometimes, because we’re so used to telling our kids what to do and how to do things, we tend to forget that it’s just as important to listen and hear them out.
But before we can have good communication with our children, we need good communication with God. God’s most obvious way of communicating with us is through the Bible and prayer. Are we listening? Are we seeking His wisdom?
I’ve found it’s much harder to communicate well with my children (anyone really), when I’m not paying attention to the kind of parent/person He wants me to be.
. . .the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things – that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children. . . ~ Titus 2:3-4
She opens her mouth with wisdom, and on her tongue is the law of kindness. She watches over the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her. . . ~ Proverbs 31:26-28
So if good communication means we’re good listeners, and all I do is tell my daughter what she did to disappoint me, then all I’ve done is shown her my heart when I should also be trying to understand hers.
If I sit down to ‘hash it out’ with my son and I end up shouting, then all he’s learned is that having ‘a talk’ means to ‘zip the lip’ until I’m done ranting and raving.
He who answers before listening – that is his folly and his shame. ~ Proverbs 18:13
I can almost guarantee that if we look back into our own childhoods, the adult(s) that found a place in our hearts are the ones who were careful listeners. We often quote, ‘put yourself in someone else’s shoes’ and that’s just as true with our children.
Communication as a way of life
I’ve learned the hard way that if I’d have listened first, instead of jumping to conclusions, there would have been much calmer afternoons at our house.
Just the other day when one of our sons started yelling at his older brother, I immediately got after him and reprimanded, “Stop yelling at him. If you want to tell him something, you can say it without yelling.”
At one time I would have left it at that. But again, I’ve learned things the hard way. I was right to tell him not to yell, but this time, I also listened to him explain his side of the story. If I hadn’t, I might not have learned that he was frustrated because he had asked his brother calmly – several times – but his brother wouldn’t stop doing whatever it was that bothered him.
After that, his brother and I had a nice, long conversation. And we needed it. That ‘quick’ chat about his behavior turned into an hour of slowing opening up – something I would have missed if I hadn’t taken the time to listen.
My son, give attention to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your eyes; keep them in the midst of your heart; for they are life to those who find them, and health to all their flesh. ~ Proverbs 4:20-22
Communication = a patient listener
The funny things about kids is that they don’t usually want to talk when its convenient. Sometimes is right when we’re pulling into the grocery store parking lot when they’ve finally gotten the courage to say, “Um. . .I have a question.”
Children don’t wait to talk until it fits your schedule either, and they most certainly don’t pour out their hearts at the drop of a hat. But every so often they’re stirred to make a heartfelt comment or ask a question, and it’s those moments we have to seize. This is especially true of teens who are at a stage in life when they’re looking for camaraderie from someone who ‘understands them’. They’re looking for someone who knows them, loves them, and listens to them. Unfortunately, they often find it with the wrong people.
Our kids trust us when we take the time to listen. They know if we’re committed to their good. If we take the time to understand their strengths and weaknesses, to correct them gently in love, to encourage and teach them, the teen years will be calm and pleasant for everyone. The more we talk with them, helping them to understand who they are, their fears and doubts, the better we prepare them for life.
It’s not easy – being a patient listener.
It takes time! Sometimes time we don’t have. But if we really want the hearts of our children, we need to seize those moments.
“Tedd Tripp knows what he is talking about and who he is talking to. He knows children, he knows parents. . .and he knows the ways of God. This book teaches you what your goals should be and how to pursue these ends practically. It teaches you how to talk to your children and what to talk about. It will inspire you to become a different kind of parent. This is a masterful book.” ~ Dr. David Powilson, Westminster Theological Seminary
We often think of communication as: rules, correction, discipline. You give the rules, you correct them when they break the rules, and then you discipline them. End of story.
These are important parts of child-rearing, but if that’s all we do, we’re missing a deeper richness with our children. Our communication should also include:
- encouragement – children know when they’ve failed. Johnny knows he struggles with anger at his siblings and other children. It might leave him feeling hopeless and disappointed. We can take that opportunity to remind him of God’s mercy to us. That He gave us a Savior because we are imperfect and sinful, and He draws us closer as we realize our need for Him.
- rebuke – this is a little sterner correction. Sometimes children need to see our surprise and shock that they would behave in such a manner. However, this can be grossly overdone. I’ve seen some mothers gasp and cry out in dismay each time their toddler throws a toy. Pretty soon a child disobeys just to get a reaction.
- entreaty – this is intense and heartfelt communication. This is, in my opinion, reserved for pre-teens and teenagers in which we’re pleading, per se, for situations of grave importance. Issues such as sexual purity, responsibility for a human life (driving), and preparing for a life-long spouse.
- instruction – when I think of instruction I think of the riches found in Proverbs. These verses are gems of wisdom about being foolish, lazy, wise, and cautious. As children grow in their understanding of themselves and others they need the instruction of a wise parent, as Solomon was to his sons.
- warning – this is another area in which Proverbs, and other verses of warning in God’s Word, cannot be understated. Memorizing, reading, and even copying verses onto paper that warn of laziness leading to slavery, pride leading to destruction, and harsh words to anger, etc. prepares them for the temptations and situations they’ll face later in life.
- teaching – is the imparting of knowledge. This is often better remembered after a problem arises, or a failure. A parent has much to share about what they’ve learned over the years (sometimes more than we wanted!), yet it’s important for us to share our experience from a godly perspective.
- prayer – Pray for them. Pray with them. Listen to to depth of their prayers – if they’re praying with sincerity, it’s an open window to their hearts.
Hear, my son, and receive my sayings, And the years of your life will be many. I have taught you in the way of wisdom; I have led you in right paths. When you walk, your steps will not be hindered, And when you run, you will not stumble. Take firm hold of instruction, do not let go; Keep her, for she is your life. ~ Proverbs 4:10-13
In Part 4 we’ll look at the topic of disciplining with ‘the rod’. We’ll take a look at its Biblical use and why it’s just as essential as communication.
As always, please leave a comment or question. 🙂