Parentspeak

Posted on May 23, 2013 · Posted in Communication

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

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.

I picked on dads in this illustration, but moms can be just as guilty of parentspeak. 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?

“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 productive relationships that point your children to Christ.

 

Jay Younts
John A. (Jay) Younts is the Shepherd Press blogger, and is a ruling elder serving at Redeemer Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in Moore, South Carolina. He has written Everyday Talk, Everyday Talk About Sex & Marriage, Finding the Right Track, the In Touch With Paul stewardship series, and What About War. He has studied and taught about biblical childrearing for 30 years. He and his late wife Ruth have five adult children.