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Parenting With A Purpose: Communication Spoke

BIBLICAL BASIS – What does God say about this topic?

Proverbs 25:11, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.”

 Proverbs 18:13, “He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.”

 Ephesians 4:29, “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.”

 Colossians 4:6, “Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.”

What purpose does this concept have in the parenting wheel?

Effective communication is essential for a healthy relationship. Effective communication leads to enriched relationships as it allows parents to obtain information that will aid in their ability to lead their children.

APPLICATION– The act of putting something to a special use or purpose.

What does this concept look like in “real life” mode?

Communication takes a Speaker and a Listener: Good communication requires a Speaker and a Listener. The Speaker’s goal is to share information, while the Listener’s goal is to understand the information being sent by the Speaker. While this may seem self-apparent, unfortunately many conversations take place with two Speakers and no Listeners! Parents must be willing to be both a Listener and a Speaker, not just one or the other. People who have a tendency to be one or the other should try to gain more balance.

Watch out for Filters: Anything that comes between the Speaker and the Listener that interrupts or alters the message is a filter (or barrier) to good communication. Filters can be either environmental or internal. Environmental filters can be things like being in different rooms, noise, or someone listening to an iPod while others are trying to talk with them. Internal filters have to do with an individual’s emotional and physical state. For example, being angry, frustrated, tired, or having a headache can all impact how a person speaks and listens.

You Communicate Constantly: Communication takes place regardless of the presence or absence of words. This communication can either build or destroy relationships. Healthy communication facilitates growth, safety, clarity, and understanding.

Communication and your Emotional State: A calm emotional state, plenty of rest, proper nourishment, and minimal filters between parents and children will make a big difference in communication. Remember, communication takes place whether the conditions are ideal or not. Parents must work to communicate appropriately even when they are tired, frustrated, angry, and the circumstances do not lend themselves to healthy communication. It is easy for parents to have their own “temper tantrums” during these times. Recognize when these challenges are present and look to the Lord for strength. Pray first, listen second, react last.

Watch your Tongue: Scripture is very clear about the power of the tongue and the need for it to be controlled. Read James 3:2-8 below and think about how it applies to parenting. “For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body. Behold, we put bits in the horses’ mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body. Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth. Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.” 

We can see from this passage that we do not have the ability in and of ourselves to control the tongue. We need God’s help! The good news is that He is willing and able to help us. Colossians 4:6 provides good counsel, “Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.” To do this, we must submit ourselves to God, be prayerful, and grow in grace.

Nonverbal Communication is Powerful: Be aware that nonverbal messages are constantly being sent. Facial expressions, tone of voice, eye contact, etc., all speak volumes. Also, remember that parents are modeling interpersonal skills to their children. If parents don’t use good eye contact with children when they are talking to them, how will the children learn to use good eye contact when other people are talking to them?

Work to keep Communication Open: Some of the most common reasons children do not verbally communicate with parents are:

  1. They believe they will not be heard.
  2. They believe it will do no good to do so.
  3. They are trying to make a point or be controlling.
  4. They don’t understand their feelings well enough to communicate them.

Parents can reinforce positive or negative beliefs about communicating through the verbal or nonverbal messages they send. Remember that it is the parent’s job to go the extra mile to understand how to communicate best with their children. This will not be easy! However, remember the wisdom of Proverbs 20:5, “Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water; but a man of understanding will draw it out.”

Seeking to understand your child’s perspective by being a good listener is one of the most helpful things you can do to help overcome the top two barriers to communication listed above. Taking the time to help your child feel heard will then allow you to speak wisdom into their lives. It is very difficult for the heart to be open to counsel when we don’t believe we have been heard.

Make Sure your “Walk” Matches your “Talk”: Matthew 5:37 teaches us the “yea, yea; nay, nay” principle. That is, we should say what we mean and mean what we say. When words and actions do not match, the Biblical instruction of meaning what is said is not being followed. Obviously this is a high calling, yet we are to take this standard seriously and desire to move toward it. When a parent’s walk and talk don’t match, they have the opportunity to take the lead in modeling how to acknowledge sin, repent, confess, and move forward.

Knowing how to Communicate with your Child is Important: Learn which type(s) of questions each child will respond to best: open ended vs. closed, or general vs. specific. Also know what type of tone is needed with each child. It is very likely that every child will respond differently from the others. Being aware of these differences and responding to them appropriately will help parents communicate more effectively with their children.

How does this concept benefit children?

Intentional Communication Brings Clarity: When parents are intentional about what they communicate, it reduces the probability of a child misinterpreting what was meant by what was said. We all put meaning to information. Parents who are willing to help place correct meaning to what is being said will help reduce conflict and frustration for both the child and the parents.

What you Communicate is what you Teach: Communication in the home will shape how a child communicates with parents and others in his life. Displaying and teaching healthy communication skills at home is one way parents can model the Fruit of the Spirit to their child. The Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22) will then manifest themselves through healthy social skills such as being courteous and polite.

He First Loved Us: It is the parent’s responsibility to teach and model healthy communication. This can be done through first communicating love, affection, and blessing before expecting it in return. Christ did the same for us! (1 John 4:19, “We love him, because he first loved us.”)

PERSONAL REFLECTION – How am I doing in this area?

What are your strengths when it comes to communication? What are your spouse’s strengths when it comes to communication? Your child’s? In what ways could your communication improve? What changes could you make that would help you communicate better with others? Rate yourself on the following items from 1-10, with 1 being the lowest and 10 being the highest.

Communication

How well do you communicate your thoughts and feelings verbally? ___
How well do your verbal and nonverbal messages match? ___
How well do you avoid being negative or critical in your communication? ___
How well are you communicating in a way that encourages and edifies? ___

Listening

How well do you listen? ___
Ask your spouse how good of a listener he/she feels you are. ___
Ask your child how good of a listener he/she feels you are.  ___

What are three to five concepts you want to clearly and consistently communicate to your children (i.e. “God loves you.” God is good.” “I love you.”)?


For Further Information:

Parenting Podcast Episodes: Having A Vision For Teaching Our Children