(Whether a parent yourself, or a grandparent, an aunt, an uncle, a neighbor, a teacher, a scout leader, or whatever your role in the lives of the children around you, this important series will give you valuable tips on how to influence those kids for the Lord! To access the entire “Bringing up Kids God’s Way” mini-series, please click here.)
“And you, fathers, DO NOT PROVOKE YOUR CHILDREN TO WRATH, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4 NKJV)
The first and best piece of advice I can give in regards to not provoking your children to wrath is this: Stop, Look, and Listen! Over the last two weeks, we’ve taking a closer look at “stopping” and “looking”. Today’s devotional will focus on the third piece of advice: Listening!
Here is a real conversation that happened on vacation last summer:
“Mom,” began my son, in a pleasant tone. “Can I go out and . . .”
It was nearing sunset in Northern British Columbia. The hotel we were staying at was surrounded with woods, woods that would be full of bugs and easy to get lost in after dark. Knowing my son’s love of exploring, I already knew what he was going to ask, so I cut him off: “No, you may not. Not today. It’s too late. Maybe another time.”
“But mom,” began my son, “Why . . .”
I immediately recognized his argumentative tone and cut him off again: “Stop arguing for once and just obey! I’m the parent here!”
“You’re not being fair, mom. I just wanted to go so that I can . . .”
By this time, my son was shouting, and I’m afraid my tone was also less than pleasant: “No! I said no, and it’s final! I don’t want to hear any more about it! And you can stop shouting at me! It’s not respectful!”
“But you’re shouting at me! I just …”
“Listen. It’s going to be dark soon. You’re not out to explore the woods!”
“But I don’t want to explore the woods! I want to go out and get my shoes from the car!”
The last phrase, said at lightening speed and earsplitting volume, made me stop mid-breath. Slightly red in the face, I stumbled: “You just want to go out to the car? Why didn’t you say so?”
“I tried, mom! You wouldn’t listen!”
Touché! In a much humbler voice, I said, “I’m sorry. I didn’t realize that’s what you were trying to tell me . . .”
And that’s how it ended.
But the entire argument could have been prevented if I had taken the time to listen from the beginning. Worse still, the message my son went away with was this: “My mom doesn’t listen to what I say!” And if such situations are repeated often enough, an even more destructive idea will begin to form: “My parents don’t care about me!”
And what if, in the end, I hadn’t heard what my son was really trying to say? My son would have gone away bitter and sullen, and I would have simply said: “Teenagers! I can’t wait until he’s past these difficult years!”
Friends, I would like to propose that many of the problems we experience in our teens are simply because we don’t listen to what they are trying to tell us! If we want to have open lines of communication with our children, it is vital that they feel comfortable talking to us. It’s vital that we learn to listen!
In the “Stop” portion of this series, I told the story of my friend and her son, “James”. James came to my house very upset one day last September. After just a few moments of listening (Have you noticed how much easier it is to listen to other people’s kids than your own???), I discovered that his parents were forcing him to change art teachers. Now James is a budding, talented artist. He had been taking lessons for several years from a teacher who he liked and respected, who was preparing him to enter into some serious art competitions. Changing teachers was the last thing James wanted to do.
After several minutes of “airing”, James was much calmer (Sometimes all kids need to calm them down is just for someone to listen to them!), and his calmness opened the door for me to be able to hand out some advice: “Why don’t you tell your mom how you feel?”
“I . . .” He started to argue, but then he nodded. “Yeah. I don’t think she’ll listen, but maybe I should try!”
According to my boys, James did try to talk to his parents about his art teacher in the upcoming days, but sadly they didn’t listen. James changed art teachers, and over the course of the school year, my boys reported that his attitude towards his parents became even more bitter and sullen.
I didn’t see James again until the end of the school year. By this time, he had accepted the fact that he had a new art teacher, and being the honest lad that he is, he admitted that he had learned a lot more than he would have with his former teacher. “But,” he was quick to add: “If they would have let me stay with my old teacher until after the competition, I would have been happy to change to the new teacher!” Then his voice got really low: “I just can’t talk to my parents! They won’t listen!”
I’m not telling this story to be judgmental. We must all remember that the above account is only James’ side of the story. The point is, it’s hard enough to get kids to try and communicate with adults, and if we don’t listen, it discourages them from making future attempts. It also opens the door to bitterness, and for the evil attitude of “My parents don’t care about me” to begin to well up in their hearts. Listening only takes a few minutes friends; but oh, how many problems this simple strategy could prevent!
Join us next week for a further look at the importance of communication in “Bringing up Kids God’s Way, Part 6c”
God bless each of you abundantly as you seek to guide the build a relationship with the kids in your life!
In His love,
Lyn Chaffart, Mother of two teens, Author and Moderator for The Nugget, a tri-weekly internet newsletter, and Scriptural Nuggets, a website devoted to Christian devotionals and inspirational poems, www.scripturalnuggets.org , with Answers2Prayer Ministries, www.Answers2Prayer.org.
(To access the entire “Bringing up Kids God’s Way” mini-series, please click here.)