Our Life on Christ

Sunday, November 27, 2011

2 Steps Toward Better Communication with Children

Parenting Time Tuesdays

“Mommy, mommy, and then guess what happened!”


“I jumped! Can you believe it, mommy?! Isn’t that amazing?! I jumped all the way from the top of my bed!”

“Uh huh, great. Go do it again…from the top of there,” this distracted, uninterested mommy said as she motioned to the fridge.

Do you ever have times like this; times when your child will just not stop talking to you—not even for a minute while you are trying to get that “last thing” done (do we ever really reach the last thing on our to-do list)? It sometimes seems as if Truth, my 5-year-old daughter, waits until the exact moment when I need to focus my energy to decide that she wants to have a heart-to-heart conversation.

In pure “I-am-woman” form, I try to multitask. I hit her with the “uh huh’s” and “okay’s” while I type away. She’s having her conversation, I’m getting my work done. It’s perfect, right? Utterly and completely WRONG.

If you haven’t figured this out already, I will enlighten you: kids are very smart! If you are not giving your child focused attention, if you are putting on the façade that you are interested, he knows and he is not happy. I have actually had Truth push my laptop screen down while she is talking to me or tell me to put my phone back in my purse. I was looking at her while she was talking but just the fact that the laptop and/or cell phone was available for me to glance at and thus divert my focus away from her made her uneasy enough to remove the competition.

Please understand, I am not saying that all of your attention has to be devoted to little Suzy or that your life should be focused on making Billy happy. I am saying that God has called us as parents to shepherd our children. In Deuteronomy 1:1-7 it says,
1 These are the commands, decrees and laws the LORD your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, 2 so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the LORD your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life…6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

When we fail to engage our children, we are going against what God has called us to do (verse 7). We cannot mindlessly respond to them (well, not all the time). We are slated with the task of leading our children. How can you lead someone when you don’t know their strengths, weaknesses, challenges, etc? Newsflash: We are not just adult caregivers. Up until a few months ago, I thought that was my role. I honestly didn’t know how to lead my children. I figured that if they were fed, relatively clean, and well-behaved then I was doing my job. Uh…not so much.

I am reading Shepherding a Child's Heart by Tedd Tripp. I am not done, I haven’t even got out of the “theories” part of the book (you know, the beginning section that talks about big-picture ideas—before you get into the “so-what-the-heck-do-I-do” part at the end), but I have learned an incredible amount.

Here a few nuggets about communication to marinate on:

Uh huhs teach your kids that you are not interested. I don’t have any teens but, like you—unless there’s something really weird about you—I used to be one. Do you remember not really wanting to talk to your parents? I do. When kid’s get the “Yeah, uh huh’s,” blank stares, and distracted attention they learn pretty quickly that you are not interested. By the time they reach their teen years, they stop trying to communicate.

Solution: Always ask questions. You can find out why they behave the way they do, what is going on in their lives, determine what areas they may be struggling in, figure out what strengths you can encourage, etc all from asking questions. Asking questions also shows that you are actually interested in them. Bonus!

There is no place for anger. This nugget, like a rubbery Mickey D’s creation, is the most difficult for me to chew. I get angry with my daughter sometimes and I feel that I can’t help it. In James 1:19-20 God calls us to be slow to anger, though, so I know it is something that can be helped. When we become angry with our children and display it in various ways, children learn to fear man, not God. We don’t want that now, do we?

Solution: Whisper, pray, talk, and pray some more. A friend told me that when she gets angry, instead of yelling, she whispers! It doesn’t work for me but I am still trying. I have been praying (alone and with my daughter) about getting angry. Talking to her when I am not already angry about my anger and why I get angry also helps.

I hope these few gems that I have found in Shepherding a Child's Heart are helpful to you. I am not perfect and I am still working on everything that I’m reading but I have definitely noticed changes in the relationship I have with Truth and in her behavior because of the differences in how we communicate. I highly suggest reading this book!

Are there certain things you have learned, noticed, or tried in attempt to communicate with your children?

Shepherding a Child's Heart


  1. This is really going to help me because I get mad but i TRY to stop it before it happens. I also try to be patient with them as well. I ask my kids alot of question though and I answer their million question as well lol. My problem is getting mad so i will work on that.

    P.S. I didn't know you are a children's book author, that's pretty cool.

  2. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Anji Mabon, Anji Mabon. Anji Mabon said: Do your kids drive u crazy? Mine do sometimes! I'm figuring out how to "deal." Read about it here: http://ow.ly/3eiRq [...]

  3. It's great that you ask them a lot of questions, Jason...AND answer theirs! Not getting mad is hard...something I'm sure we ALL need to work on!

    *I'm a children's book author but not a PUBLISHED one! Not yet, anyway. That's something I aspire to be; something I'm working on now. :-)