One of the most important parenting skills is to be a great listener. Why? Because, if you listen well, your kids will talk. The more they talk, the more they will reveal of what they are thinking and feeling. As Christian parents, what they say is even more vital, because it gives us clues how to strengthen their faith foundation and help mold their hearts towards God.
Yet, communication is one of the biggest struggles most parents face. Most of us have developed communication skills which are sloppy at best. In our defense, this is often because we had very little actual training in communication and default to what we picked up somehow along the way. Often these poor habits cause issues as we parent our children. The rifts they cause can become even greater as our kids reach their teen years.
So, I was really interested when offered the opportunity to review the new book How to Listen So People Will Talk by Becky Harling. This isn’t the first book on the topic. In fact, Amazon is filled with books with similar sounding titles and topics. I can’t speak to the others, but I loved this volume.
Who knows when it really starts. Maybe it’s after that first kid on the playground bops them on the head or the first child takes their toy away without asking. At some point though, kids begin to learn that not everyone is as big of a fan as their parents and grandparents. In fact, pretty early on most kids realize that some kids are really mean and will do and say ugly things to them for no apparent reason at all.
It’s human nature to want to avoid pain and that includes the emotional, mental and sometimes physical pain another person can cause us. Your kids are no different. Unfortunately, often the people that are mean to them are unavoidable because they have to sit next to them all day in school or play with the same kids in the neighborhood. Over time, your kids’ natural inclination at avoidance will probably turn into dislike as they are constantly exposed to the ugly words and actions of the person who is mean to them.
If the negative interactions continue, the dislike can become very strong indeed and even border on hatred. As parents we would love nothing more than to protect our kids from all of this pain and ugliness, but in reality we can’t for very long. As Christians, we are expected by God to love our enemies. Yet, I imagine if we were all extremely honest with each other, it’s one of the biggest struggles many of us have – and we are adults!
As with many of the things we teach as parents, God may ask us to train our kids in godly behaviors and heart attitudes we still haven’t mastered ourselves. Often, parents shy away from those topics entirely. I would encourage you though to step up to the challenge. Admit to your kids you are still working on loving your enemies like God would – even as an adult. Encourage each other as you tackle these 6 important actions and attitudes.
Hopefully, one of your top priorities as a Christian parent is getting your kids to not only read the Bible independently, but to enjoy and value it, too. In the past, this was so difficult to do. Most of us found the vocabulary in the Bible challenging to understand. Many of us had started reading from the Bible in Genesis, only to lose interest and quit around Numbers. How can we encourage our kids to do something we struggled with ourselves?
First the good news. The reason you probably struggled (and may still struggle) with your Bible reading is that the adults who introduced you to the concept of independent Bible reading, probably made a few common mistakes. Which meant reading the Bible independently when you were younger probably felt like you were reading something written in another language. It was really difficult to understand and was too hard to be enjoyable. You learned to dread reading it and probably have depended on teachers, preachers and Christian authors to point out what you hoped were important verses.
Sadly, this means you have probably missed out on the entire richness and fullness a more intimate and personal reading of the entire Bible can give your spiritual life. You may have missed out on important truths God wanted you to know. You may have even believed false teachings, because your unfamiliarity with scripture allowed you to accept anything taught as truth. You can change that for yourself though and make sure your kids start out with a different attitude about independent Bible reading.
A few weeks ago my favorite deli was testing key lime lemonade. The first time I saw the sign, I had already ordered an iced tea. The next time, I noticed the sign, but wasn’t sure I wanted the calories, so decided to wait until my next visit to splurge. You guessed it. The next time I went in it was gone. I was really disappointed. I am a key lime fan and loved the idea. It was only a test product though and I may never again get the chance to taste that key lime lemonade.
Parenting is a lot like that. There are some opportunities you are given with your child that are one shot deals. You miss your window and the opportunity is gone. The problem is that we usually don’t realize it at the time and pass on the chance figuring it will come again at a more convenient time.
Sometimes those opportunities are an invitation from God to take you on exciting journey serving Him. When our daughter was not quite three years old, we took a family trip to Cancun. Mexico. We had friends who were missionaries on a nearby island. My husband didn’t feel well, but encouraged me to take our daughter to go visit and encourage them since we were so close.
In the next few months, Lord willing, you will have a lot of new resources at your fingertips to help you dedicate your children to God. I don’t want to ruin the surprise by revealing too much now, but I think you will be excited to see everything we will have to help you on your journey. The best part? Everything will be free! We have seen this as a ministry to moms all over the world and now with the expansion we hope to help others who are reaching the children of the world for God.
Right now I desperately need your help! Part of this journey to expand the ministry has led to me leading a workshop at a major service conference in June. I am attempting to do a little informal research to augment the formal research I have found.
Can you please take about two minutes of your time and answer a few questions about the last service experience you had with a faith based organization? It could be Church, para-church, recovery program, children’s home – anything that welcomes God as a part of its mission.