How Well Do We Communicate With Our Children?

SYLVIA McCRORY     MAY 2020

One of the most valuable characteristics of a good relationship is the ability to communicate. However, we sometimes forget communication also involves listening as well as talking. 

When children are young, they seem to talk all the time.  They are constantly telling us something that is so important to them.  However, we as parents, are so busy, we cannot always listen to everything they have to say.  Eventually, we realize our children are no longer little and they have stopped talking to us.  

There are many reasons children stop talking to parents. One reason is they are growing up and becoming more independent. But another reason they stop talking to us is, they do not think parents were listening anyway. The truth is children have not stopped to talking, they have just stopped talking to us.  They are talking to others; they are talking to their peers.  Advice they should be getting from us, they are now getting from their peers.  All because they feel we are not listening. 

In his book, Mister Rogers Talks With Parents, Fred Rogers puts it this way, “More and more, I have come to feel that listening is one of the most important things that we can do for another person, whether that someone is an adult or a child. Our commitment to listen to who that person is can often be our greatest gift to that person. Whether he or she is speaking or playing or dancing, building or singing or painting, if we care, we can be attempting to listen.”  He stresses how important listening is to another person.  Imagine how we feel when we have something very important to say, yet those closet to us will not listen.  This is how our children feel when we do not give them the courtesy of listening.   

If we want our children to be open with us, as they get older, then we must earn that right by being there and hearing what is important to them when they are young.  

The other component of communication is talking.  I fear, we do a lot of talking and expressing our wants.  But how are we communicating? I know some parents with quick tempers who yell at their children, making their children so fearful, they are afraid of their parents.  

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.                      Ephesians 6:4 (NIV)

Similarly, I know parents that are sarcastic, and condensing in the way they talk to their children.  These children become uninterested and withdrawn from their parents.  These children are reluctant to attempt anything new or challenging for fear of ridicule from their parents. 

Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body.  It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.             James 3:5-6 (NIV)

Words hurt worse when they are spoken by someone we care about. One child may have fond memories of parents who were Godly and kind, while another child may have horrible memories of parents who were angry, yelling and degrading. Children only become distant and insecure when cruel, angry words are spoken. Always keep in mind children, want, and need to be liked and loved by their parents. When they do not get this at home, they will seek it other places, in many cases making poor decisions in search of love and acceptance.

Take time to listen.  Think about the words you are using and how you may sound to your children.  They are responding to you when they feel secure enough to share their deepest thoughts, or when they “clam up” and say nothing.  Make a choice to let your children know you always value their opinions and what they want to tell you.  Not only will they confide in you, but they will turn to you for advice as they grow up and encounter difficult situations. 

Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. Proverbs 12:18 (NIV)

A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.  Proverbs 25:11 (NIV)

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