All too often, parents underestimate the power of their voice in the lives of their children. Children of all ages are often desperate for meaningful conversation with their parents. Many studies reveal even when kids pretend not to be listening to their parent, they are actually listening very carefully.
Not only do children, pre-teens and teens listen to their parents, they have high regard for their parents’ input into their lives. Clearly, the manner of listening changes over the years. There are seasons when listening to their parents is not broadcast loudly to their friends, but you can be assured that they are still listening.
It is also very important to know the way in which we communicate with our children in their early years sets a pattern for years to follow. But even for parents who feel they have not started well, God gives us good reason to hope.
I think I can safely say I’ve made more mistakes than most of the readers of this article, yet because of the grace of God, my wife and I are blessed with some very amazing children and grandchildren. It is incredible what a Heavenly Father can do in spite of the weakness and sin of an earthly father.
Without trying to rewrite every book written on raising kids, here are some very basic principles for parents as they speak to their children. I have rarely done all of these principles well; but over time, I have learned to be better at them. I am still learning with our grown children and now grandchildren.
- Be Honest! Our kids do not expect us to be perfect. I burst that bubble before our kids turned three or four years old. They do want us to tell them the truth and never confuse our opinion with a truth.
- When speaking with our kids, we must be ready when they are ready. Timing is everything. There are subjects and discussions a parent must have at a precise time or they miss the moment. However, there are conversations that must be held at the time and place of our child’s choosing.
- As we speak with our children, it is OK to be disappointed “for them” but never “in them.” When we are disappointed for them, it is because we can see the consequences of their decisions; and our heart may break for them. When we communicate disappointment in our children, it speaks to their identity and value as our sons or daughters.
- Communicating with sons is different than speaking with daughters. If you want to have a conversation with a son, talk with him as you are doing something with him. This is not new information. With our sons and now our grandsons, I speak best with them as we are engaged in an activity. Daughters very often want to sit with you and know they are the center of your universe.
- Let them ask tough questions for which you may not have good answers and allow room for you both to have differing opinions.
- Learn to laugh at mistakes—not make every mistake a world war. Never laugh at bad behavior. Know the difference between a mistake and behavior.
- Finally, learn to ask good questions which are not threatening but revealing. We must ask questions to know their heart and not make them feel as if they are on trial and soon to be judged.
Parents: your voice is powerful and will be a major factor in shaping the lives of your children. Be careful regarding the manner in which you speak in the presence of your children even though the words may not be directed to them.
God’s word tells us in Deuteronomy 30:19 ; “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants” (NASB)
More now than at any other time in which I am familiar, children need and want to hear the voices of their parents. As parents we must learn to use our words to speak life and blessings into our children and our children’s children.