How to Listen to Your Children Biblically

Posted on February 15, 2010 · Posted in Parenting

This is the next installment in a collection of posts that asks – What do You Think About? We looked previously at how to love your children biblically. In the next few posts we examine how to listen biblically to your children.


It is hard to be a good listener.

It is much easier to speak first, thinking you will listen later. But often, speaking first means losing the opportunity to listen at all.

Let me repeat, it is hard to be a good listener. The pressing issues of everyday life are obstacles to good, everyday listening. You can become so focused on your own problems that you fail to be a good listener. This sort of preoccupation leads to what I call parentspeak. Parentspeak is talking without listening. This is the sort of everyday talk that damages your relationship with your kids. Most parents do this at times, sometimes without even being conscious of it. Here is an example of parentspeak. See if this conversation sounds at all familiar to you.

You have just gotten home from work. Your son finds you molded into your favorite chair, reading your paper or the mail as you start to unwind.

“Dad?”

“Huh?”

“Dad?”

“Yeah, readinpapernow.”

“Dad?”

“Uh, um, speakintome?”

“Dad?”

“Uh, justaminute.”

“Dad?”

“Didyaaskyormother?”

“Dad?”

“Notnow,jusgothome. gottarelax, OK?”

“Dad?”

“Umdiyousaysomthin? uhwhatimeisgameon?”

“Dad?”

“Beforyoustart, didyoufinishyourschoolstuff?”

As your son turns to leave, you call after him and say, “Sonisanythingwrong?”

Your son says, “Nothing’s wrong. Bye, Dad.” You shake your head and go back to your paper.

This is not the sort of everyday talk that will be helpful to your kids.

Sometimes your son might actually get to say more than just, “Dad.” He might even get a whole sentence out before parent­speak takes over.

“Hey, Dad, you know that slippery hill in the jungle over at Jared’s house?”

In absent-minded exasperation, you say, “Hill? What hill? Jared who? Can this wait? I’m busy reading right now. You know we don’t have hills or jungles around here.”

Your son turns and walks away.

I picked on dads in this illustration, but moms can be just as guilty of parentspeak. Parentspeak is talking without listen­ing. Your words may not run together as in the first example, but anytime you speak without listening–really listening–you engage in parentspeak. You may think you have good reasons for not listening. You are tired. You have important business decisions to consider. There may be a problem in your marriage relationship. You are trying to think how you will get all the yard work or housework done. You might be worried about bills. You desperately need to relax. Or maybe you are just preoccupied. You don’t want to ignore your children–you are just thinking about other things. However, if your words are going to please God and benefit your children, you must first be a good listener.

Did I say that good listening is hard? It is. It requires sacrifi­cial love and self-denial to give your child the time and attention to listen closely.

Consider parentspeak for a moment. Do you use it? Does it creep into your everyday talk? Does it, perhaps, dominate your everyday talk? As you reflect on your own speech patterns, don’t look only for the absentminded mumbling of the previ­ous example. Parentspeak can take other forms as well. It can be clear and direct language. Parentspeak may also sound like this: “Sarah, tonight, before you go to bed, I want you to finish cleaning your room, do the dishes, finish your homework, write your grandmother and don’t listen to any music until all that is finished. Is that clear?”

You may be protesting, “What is wrong with this? Clear, directive speech is necessary for running a good household!”

I agree. But still, it may qualify as parentspeak. If this type of speaking forms the majority of your communication with your children, then it is parentspeak. Recall our working definition for parentspeak. Parentspeak is talking without listening. What does the Bible say about this type of speaking?

“He who answers before listening–that is his folly and his shame” (Proverbs 18:13).

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.”

More in the next post. The above material is adapted from my book, Everyday Talk.

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