Listening is a skill of wisdom that can only be acquired by a heart that has been changed by the gospel. Your listening, to be effective, must be gospel-centered. I’m sure someone is asking, “What in the world is gospel-centered listening ?” It is listening to others with the heart attitude of seeking to understand what they are saying so that you can respond to them in a manner that honors Christ. There are two sides to serving others in this way: first, you must listen well, and second, you must speak well. Proverbs 18:2, 13, 15, & 17 address listening, and Ephesians 4:29 addresses speaking.
This is critically important to families with teenagers. Teenagers who are not asking their parents about important issues in their lives are teenagers who are handicapped. They are missing a valuable and essential component of family life that God has provided for their spiritual well being. On the other hand, teenagers who do come to their parents with such questions are teenagers who have come to trust their parents. This trust is formed in large part by parents who listen well.
Providing an environment where questions are easily asked and carefully considered is crucial. Too often information is force-fed to children in general and to teenagers in particular. Life-changing information is better received when it is eagerly desired and asked for. That is why the gospel is needed; a parent cannot be truly other-centered unless he is first Christ-centered.
Proverbs 18:13 says that a person who answers before listening has done a shameful thing. This is a habit of the flesh that is all too common for parents. Parents think they know what the issue is before hearing the whole story. Often the child is not allowed to finish his statement (or statements!) and then is told what the parent thinks about the situation. The Holy Spirit says this is shameful behavior. Trust is built when you are more concerned for someone else than you are for yourself. In other words, trust is built by truly loving someone. Answering before listening is not loving and, therefore, will not build trust.
You can tell, in part, how well you are showing love by the questions your children ask you. Do their questions indicate that they trust you to care for them more than you care for yourself?
Please keep praying and thinking about this topic. We will continue to pursue it in future posts.