The words you choose to say something, are just as important as the decision to speak. ~Author Unknown
Parents, what we say; when we say it; and why we say it all matter.
Proverbs 1:8-9 states
8 Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching, 9 for they are a graceful garland for your head and pendants for your neck.
In these two short verses we read of an exchange of words between parents and children. Fathers are to give instruction; mothers are to teach, and children are to hear and receive these words. As this exchange happens did you notice the beautiful outcome given in verse 9? The words spoken by the parents will be beautiful adornments in the life of their child.
What is the exchange of words like between you and your children?
In this post I want to help promote healthy dialogue and conversations between parents and their kids. You see, implicit in the call for children to listen to their parents is the understanding that moms and dads are proactively using their words for the good of their children.
I am not sure what conversations are like in your homes currently, but I would like to offer you hope that they can be God-honoring and Christ-exalting. God desires for our words to build one another up and pointing each other to Christ. As we seek to do that, we can trust Him to work in our families. Our homes can be filled with harmonious words that bring pleasant sounds to our ears.
What then does it take to provide this type of environment where a child listens and receives instruction from his/her parents?
First, let me point out, that in this short post I cannot say all that could be said about how to promote this type of environment. I encourage you to talk with your spouse about other ways. Take time to talk with other families from our church about how they engage in conversation with one another.
I do however want to suggest three thoughts for you to consider:
Parents must understand and embrace using their words for good as a part of their role in the life of their child/children.
As parents we are to use our words to teach our children about God and living for Him. It can, however, be easy to fall into a pattern of using our words to constantly correct our children. If our words only get used to point out what our children are doing wrong, we risk only discouraging them. They will constantly be hearing from us about all the incorrect things they are doing. Certainly, we are to provide correction to our children, but we are to do more than that. Our words need to teach, encourage, and build them up. Our words also should be used to share our lives with our children. This week take some time to consider all the ways in which you speak to your kids. Do they fall mainly into one category? Maybe take time to memorize Ephesians 4:29 as a family as encouragement towards using your words for as beautiful adornment for your kids.
Parents need to intentionally promote conversations with their child/children.
We do not need to wait for our children to take the lead on this. We need to actively engage them in conversations. This can happen one on one and as part of family times. By regularly participating in conversations with our kids we are promoting good habits of family discussions as a healthy part of life. We are also promoting an openness between parent and child. Further we are providing a time of passing on godly counsel to our children. What’s more is we are also spending time getting to know our kids.
If you are not sure about how to engage your kids in conversations, let me offer a few ideas. Recently we have started incorporating different topic ideas in the life of our family to promote discussions.
We have Amazing Monday discussions where we ask the kids to share about what they think is cool, exciting, interesting, or amazing to them. These do not have to be supper deep or radical things that they share. We leave it open for them to say what they are currently thinking about as amazing or exciting. This helps us promote a sense of awe and wonder in their lives. It also gives us a window into things that they like. Over the course of that conversation we do also try to point them to our Glorious God as we consider the amazing things in his world.
We also have Talk to me Tuesdays where we ask the kids to talk to us about anything they want to. Often this happens around our dinner table and we let each child share and talk about anything on his/her mind. The rest of the family is also expected to listen to them. This allows for opportunity to promote good listening skills amongst the family and shows the kids that we value hearing about what they want to talk about. Again, we are also getting a window into their hearts and demonstrating that we care about what they are thinking about.
Another conversation we have is What would you do Wednesdays where we provide various scenarios for them to consider and ask them what they would do. This gives them an opportunity to think about how they would act (in a safe environment) so that when they encounter these scenarios, we have already tried to help them think about God-honoring ways to respond. Our scenarios range from simple life examples to more serious ones.
We also have Thankful Thursdays where we each share about something that we are grateful for (whether large or small). We want to encourage our kids to have thankful hearts. God is so gracious to us and we want to help our kids not take things for granted but be able to practice showing appreciation for what they experience in life.
There are countless ways for you to engage your kids in conversations and they don’t all have to be life changing. Any effort you take to spend time in dialogue with your children is time well spent. Life is full of conversation spots at the dinner table, in the car, at the store, on the ball field, in the music room, walking along the neighborhood sidewalk, and so many other places. Take time this week to engage your kids in conversation.
Parents need to actively learn to listen to their children.
As we foster an environment for healthy conversations with our children, they will, over time begin talking more and more with us. When this happens, we need to serve them by taking the time to actively listen to them. These will not always be at convenient times but as we sacrificially love our children, we can make time to listen to them as they pour out their hearts to us. Depending on the age and what they are thinking about these conversations won’t always be earth-shattering and deep revelations and that’s ok. These are not wasted moments. The more that they feel the confidence to open up to you about anything, the more likely they will begin to share deeper thoughts with you. Over time these moments of dialogue between you and them will reap benefits. We do not have to settle for the notion that kids are just bound to not share anything with their parents. Who said that has to be the case? Scripture indicates otherwise. We are to have regular times of enjoying one another’s company through words shared.
How will you exchange words this week with your kids? What is one way you can improve the way you speak with your children?