How to Talk So Your Kids Will Listen
Several years ago my kids and I met a buddy of mine at an ice cream parlor and I witnessed one Dad’s struggle first hand. Me and my buddy were talking and his son came up to him and said “Dad, what kind of doctor were we talking about last week.” And my buddies face turned red and he quickly said “Not now son, I don’t think it’s appropriate.” But his son persisted. “No, really, Dad, what kind of doctor was that, “I said not now, son.” “Dad, remember, it was a doctor who looks at people’s bottoms.” “Yes, I know son. Okay, it’s a proctologist. Now let’s drop the subject.” The son, now having his memory restored had all the information he needed to tell his story, which he did at to me, my friend and all the other nice people outside of Coldstone. “Me and my dad and mom were driving down the street and my dad saw a license plate that said ‘Open Wide’ and my dad said “I hope that guys not a proctologist.” My buddy promptly turned red as he looked around at all the people who had been privileged to hear the story, not the least of which was me, the pastor of his church who might possibly tell this story in church. His response was priceless. He turned to me and said, “This is the same kid that I have to look in the eye and tell him ten times to brush his teeth and he still can’t remember, but I make one comment, under my breath to my wife in the car and he’ll never forget.”
Do you ever find that the things you really want to get through to your kids don’t get through, but the things you don’t want your kids to remember, they never seem to forget?
Listen, my sons, to a father’s instruction; pay attention and gain understanding. I give you sound learning, so do not forsake my teaching. Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you. Listen, my son, accept what I say, and the years of your life will be many. My son, pay attention to what I say; listen closely to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to a man’s whole body. Proverbs 4:1,2,6,10,20-22
What benefits are there to getting our kids to listen. If we get our kids to listen our words will protect them. Our worlds will watch over them. According to these verses our words will actually extend the years of their life. They will bring health to their bodies. Our words our huge. How do we get our kids and grandkids to listen to them? start with the last verses in this chapter. Look at Colossians 3
Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.Colossians 3:20,21
These verses represent the results in your relationships of following the verses that come directly before them.
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Colossians 3:12-15
1) Commit to Understanding the people in our lives “Clothe yourselves with compassion”
Underline this phrase. Clothe yourself with compassion. That word compassion is an interesting one. It’s the greek word splagchnon. It means inward affection. It comes from the same root as the greek word slpen which is the word for spleen. It means that we feel for each other so deeply that we feel it in our gut.
Faber and Mazlish, that details how many parents overlook the feelings of their children.
I went to a meeting to listen to someone speak on parenting. He said “Steady denial of feelings can confuse and enrage kids.” I remember thinking “Maybe other parents do that, but I don’t.” Then I started listening to myself. Here are some sample conversations from my home- just from a single day
Mommy, I’m tired. You couldn’t be tired, you just napped. But I’m tired. Your not tired, you’re just a little sleepy.
Mommy it’s hot in here. It’s cold. Keep your sweater on. No,I’m hot. I said keep your sweater on!
That TV show was boring. No it wasn’t. It was very interesting. It was stupid. It was educational. It stunk. Don’t talk that way.
Can you see what was happening. Not only were all our conversations turning into arguments, I was also telling my children over and over again not to trust their own perceptions, but to rely on mine instead. “Suppose I were a child who was tired, or hot or bored? And suppose I wanted that all important grown up in my life to know what I’m feeling?”
This reminds me of one fight I take on with my son. The jacket battle. Have you ever fought this one. I have a kid who has never voluntarily admitted that he is cold. It will be in the 40’s and I say, “Son, make sure you wear your jacket” and he’ll respond “I don’t need to wear a jacket. I won’t be cold.” But I come from a long line of jacket naggers so I make him wear his jacket against his will. He’s got his jacket on, completely unzipped just hanging there warming about half of his arms. And every few seconds I hear “Pops, it’s hot, can I take off my jacket.” But I keep battling “No, leave your jacket on. You couldn’t possibly be hot” How do I know. Maybe his thermostat works different than mine. In 20 years of marriage my wife and I have never agreed once on room temperature, why do I expect my son to agree with me. But I used to tell him on a regular basis that his feelings were wrong and he should adopt mine.
How would you feel it the people around you completely disregarded your feelings and treated you without compassion.
Take marriage for example. Maybe you are an extrovert and your spouse is an introvert and you want to go to a party. But he just wants to sit at home or go to a movie or just watch the game. As a couple you go back and forth on this one and it always leads to frustration. In your mind you’re thinking “How could you want to just sit home. The action is out there. Let’s go.” If I were to break it down to a more basic level, what you’re really thinking is “You’re way of thinking is stupid. It’s wrong. How could you think that?”
Take friendships for example. Maybe you are a dreamer and you have a friend who is a realist. You are always dreaming up new ideas and she is always saying “I’m not sure. That sounds risky. It may not work.” And it bugs the snot out of you. You think, “How narrow minded can you be. Don’t you see the possibilities. You’re way of thinking is wrong.” When the reality is, that’s how she thinks. She’s wired differently.
I think this applies to people who are of a different race than you are. We need to understand where people are coming from. Our drummer back home is a black man who works at a car dealership. One day a guy came in and asked him who he could talk to about buying a car. My buddy said “I can sell you a car” to which this guy responded “I didn’t know they allowed you people to sell cars.” That story isn’t from the Alabama in the 50’s. That took place in the new millennium in San Diego.
2. Commit to Gentleness in your communication “clothe yourselves with…kindness, humility, gentleness”
Let me give you three ways to respond with gentleness to your child.
1. Listen with full attention. Don’t be quick to judge, just listen and as you listen try to identify what they are feeling.
2. Give their feelings a name. Identify their feelings for them. “It sounds like your angry.” “That sounds painful.” “That sounds frustrating.” By giving their feelings a name, you can help them identify their emotions.
3. Give the child his wishes in fantasy. “I wish I could make that banana ripe for you right now.” “I wish I could magically make those Cheerios appear.” “I wish we could go back in time before you fell off your bike.” You know, I’ve tried that and it actually works. It doesn’t work with my wife “I wish I could wave a magic wand and your closet would be Nordstrom.” Somehow it didn’t work with her, but it does with kids.
This idea of gentleness doesn’t just work with our kids. It works in all our relationships. Let me give you 13 words that would change every relationship in your life. They are found in Proverbs 15
A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1
I read recently that ninety percent of the friction of daily life is caused by the wrong tone of voice.
3. Allow people to fail and be forgiven “ Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”
There are two words in this section that go together. Forgiveness and patience, patience and forgiveness. It’s these two words that can give our children and the other people in our lives the ability to fail and get back up.
Our response to them when they make a mistake can teach them to get up and get back in the game. If you have a kid in your house, mistakes will be made. Juice will spill, cereal will fall on the floor. Milk glasses will shatter. Pieces of jelly toast will fall on the carpet. And, experienced parents, how will that jelly toast fall? Face down. In fact it is a proven fact that the odds of the toast falling face down are directly proportionate to the cost of the carpet. These things happen. When your kids spill the juice and drop cereal bowl and fumble the toast, they don’t need a lecture. They need a rag. They need a sponge and some carpet cleaner. They need forgiveness and patience.
I have to be honest with you right now. This is an area I’ve been terrible at as a parent. My first response so many times when they spill is panic. “Quick, clean it up. Hurry it’s getting on the floor. Quick get a towel. Snell, snell, snell!” My kids are running around in a panic like the stooges. I remember one time I was in the back yard and I saw through the glass door that they had spilled something on the table. I decided to just watch and see what they did. It was amazing how well they worked together. No one was heated. No one was panicked. I was going to walk in and compliment them, but as soon as I walked through that door they freaked out. “Dad’s here. Quick get the towels.” I thought, this is ridiculous. I’ve got to change this. So the next day I went out back and got 20 different plastic containers and filled them with colored water and put them on the patio table. Then I had them come out back and I told them “For your entire life Daddy has freaked out whenever anything was spilled and I’ve taught you to do the same. Today is different. Today we are going to spill and Dad won’t freak out. He won’t yell. You can spill and no one will get in trouble.” For the next 5 minutes we spilled and spilled until it turned into a water fight. So I yelled at them. Actually, I didn’t. I didn’t freak, I forgave.
You know this idea of forgiveness in relationships is an important one. Our verse says forgive as the Lord forgave you. We are to forgive as God forgives us.
Ann Lamont put it like this. “Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and waiting for the rat to die.”
4) Commit to prioritizing peace in your life “ Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts”
Several years ago I was walking past a neighbors house and heard the mom say to her child, “Anthony, stop YELLING!” Here is a woman who desperately wants peace in her home, but she probably never will find it. Why? You cannot have a peaceful home or peaceful relationships until you are a peaceful person. Until you have peace. Until you reduce your stress. If you can’t deal with your own stress levels, how are you going to reduce the stress in your home. There is an answer in our next verse.
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. Colossians 3:15
Some of you can’t find peace in your family or your marriage or your relationships because you can’t find peace in your own life. You’re carrying around old hurts, old wounds, bitterness and anger. You have no peace. If that’s you, today you need to meet the God of peace. Jesus Christ died so that you wouldn’t have to carry around those burdens anymore. So you could be forgiven. He wants to release you from those old regrets, those old hurts, those old mistakes. That kind of forgiveness is only one prayer away.