In the last post we began to examine Tedd Tripp’s third concern for parents today – communication. Tedd raised two principles that must govern communication in the home. The first is the advantage of using quiet words in instruction. The next principle is the advantage of using few words in communication.
Many words are not a sign of wise speech. Proverbs 10:19 teaches that when words are many sin is not absent. In the interview, Tedd also referenced Ecclesiastes 6:11 which says:
The more the words,
the less the meaning,
and how does that profit anyone?
What a clarifying concept! The piling on of words does not profit anyone. Like loud language, verbose communication may indicate a lack of clarity in thinking, or even a lack of trust in God. It is tempting to think that many words will make your position stronger. But, as Proverbs and Ecclesiastes teach, this is seldom the case. Look at these two examples. A four-year-old is having trouble sharing a toy. You sit the child down and have a long monologue with him about why it is important to share with others. Every few minutes you stop and ask your son if he understands what you are saying. Your son nods his head and you say “good” and keep talking. After your discourse is finished, you think that he will surely understand your reasoning. But a four-year-old will not grasp a detailed argument on the nuances of why sharing is the most logical thing to do. What is needed in this situation is not many words, but clear, authoritative directions. Learning to prefer others before yourself is a life-long pursuit. Direct, explicit, short communication is needed to build the foundation for this four-year-old child to truly put others first.
Another example of many words yielding frustration is a parent having a long conversation with a fourteen-year-old to explain why he or she should do the yard work now instead of later. The conversation starts this way:
I know you said you wanted to go down the street to your friends for the afternoon, but I think we should do some yard work first.
As a parent, you seize upon this opportunity to “teach” why she should think more about her responsibilities to the family and to instruct her about the dangers of procrastination. As a parent you may think that the time for a long discussion has been providentially provided. The yard work needs to be done, your daughter wants to go see her friends – what a great opportunity to help her see things the right way. Again, a long period of explanation follows. But in this instance, you can quickly tell that your daughter has already “tuned you out.” You attempt to solve this by adding more words about the need to respect your authority. The more your daughter tunes out, the more lengthy and intense and loud your words become. Finally, your daughter asks, “Can I go now?” You, of course, become totally frustrated and upset that she is not hearing you. To be sure, much work is needed in this situation, but loud words and more words will not help to bring either parent or daughter closer to God. Too often parents attempt to address issues with teenagers without consideration for the timing of the conversation. Careful planning is essential to productive communication with teenagers.
Wise communication is quiet speech that uses few words. Parents who employ these biblical principles will often find that this approach encourages more openness and depth in conversations with their children. Let me know your thoughts.