There are many concerns that compete for your thoughts. Paul’s admonition in Philippians 4:8 is to think about things that are excellent. One of these excellent things is thinking about how to be a good, biblical listener. This post is part 2 of listening to your children from a biblical perspective. Today’s post continues material with material taken from Chapter three of Everyday Talk.
Before you can answer your children, before you can say things that are helpful, you must first listen. It is hard to be a good listener. But Proverbs 18:13 says parentspeak is a shame to you. Parentspeak is the opposite of good listening and, therefore, the enemy of good, productive, everyday talk. But be encouraged! Proverbs 18:15 has the cure for parentspeak.
“The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge; the ears of the wise seek it out.”
God wants you to have active ears. That is why listening is hard. We aren’t accustomed to listening aggressively. We tend to have active mouths, but not active ears. If your ears seek out knowledge about your children, they can provide you with the knowledge you need for productive, everyday talk with your kids. This is what Proverbs 18:15 is teaching you. As you and your children walk, run, drive and sometimes stumble along the road of life that Deuteronomy 6 talks about, your ears should be in “seek mode.” It is difficult to listen and talk at the same time. If you want better communication with your children, you must have ears that seek out knowledge about them. Are you actively listening to your children? Do you ever take time just to sit in the next room and listen to them when they are not aware you are listening? This might seem impossible, or at best impractical. However, think with me for a moment about situations when you do have active ears. Do you listen to your boss or supervisor at work? Are you eager to catch a word or a phrase that might pertain to you or your job? If your supervisor walks by and makes a comment in passing, do you ignore it? If your supervisor says your name, do you ignore it? Do you think, “If he really wants to talk with me, he’ll try again when I am not so busy?” No, of course not! Your ears are in seek mode, listening for any tidbit or word fragment that might impact you. A supervisor can whisper your name from across the room, and you come running. Seemingly through closed doors, you can hear a phrase that was spoken about you. You have active ears whenever you want to. With regard to your children, God wants you to have active ears, ears that seek out knowledge. God wants you to listen to your children. Listen for the things that they don’t say as well as what they do say. Become a parent with active ears. Let’s look again at the jungle at Jared’s house. The difference this time is that the father has been following Proverbs 18:15. His ears have been active. Listen to the difference.
“Hey, Dad, you know that slippery hill in the jungle over at Jared’s house?”
“Let me think, Ethan. Oh! You mean over at the new kid’s house where he has that really neat backyard that looks just like a jungle? The place where you thought you might see some dangerous jungle creatures?”
“Yeah, Dad, that’s the place. Well, let me ask you something about what Jared did …”
Why the big difference this time? Dad had active ears. He remembered that Jared was a son of the new family in the neighborhood, and that he got along well with Ethan. Even though Dad knew that Jared’s hill was actually a little mound of dirt behind some shrubs, he also knew that to a seven-year-old boy, this made a great jungle. This time, Dad knew what Ethan was talking about. So, Ethan asked Dad a question. This is your goal. You want your children to ask you questions. According to Deuteronomy 6:20, your child’s questions provide teaching opportunities.
“In the future, when your son asks you, ‘What is the meaning of the stipulations, decrees and laws the LORD our God has commanded you?’ … ” (niv). Don’t be put off by the language of stipulations, decrees and laws. Moses is simply saying that when your son asks you about how God’s law works, that’s your cue to tell him about God’s faithfulness. The passage in Deuteronomy 6:4-9 assumes that the result of impressing the truth of God upon the hearts of your children is that they will ask you questions about where they are on life’s path.
Your children can never ask you too many questions.
This may seem like lunacy, especially if you have a two- or three-year-old child, but it’s true. You want them to ask you questions. If you teach them that God controls the world, and if you teach them that everything that happens to them is planned by God so that they would look to Him, then your children will ask you questions about what God is doing with His world. They will ask you about what God is doing along the pathway of their lives. This is your goal–to have your children ask you about what God is doing in their lives. Your progress as a parent can be measured by the questions your kids ask. You will always hear mundane questions such as, “What’s for supper?” or, “May I borrow the keys?” However, you also want to hear questions like these:
“Mom, why was Sonya saying words that are bad? Why was she mad at me?”
“Dad, why can’t I have as much fun all the time as I do at Jared’s house?”
“Mom, why did that dog have to jump out and eat that little rabbit?”
“Mom, why don’t I fit in with everybody else? Is something wrong with me?”
“Dad, why is it that sometimes I want to use bad language the way some of the other kids do?”
These questions will not come unless you are a good listener, a Proverbs 18:15 listener. In a later chapter we will talk about Ephesians 4:29, which deals even more powerfully with good listening. For now, take a moment to evaluate with your husband or wife how much of your conversation with your children is parentspeak and how much is genuine listening.
This is how you are able to have everyday talk that helps. It does not come easily. It requires faith, time and love. Do you know what your child thinks about where he has been? God wants you to listen carefully. And as you care for your kids they will want you to know their thoughts, and they will tell you. The better you know your children, the more you can shine the powerful light of Scripture into the dark corners of their lives. Your words can confront them with the heart-changing power of His Word. God wants your words to flow from a discerning, understanding heart. God wants you to be a good listener.