Updated on May 29, 2013
When Jim and I first started having kids, we wanted to find out how we could maintain good communication with our kids. We desired, like every other parent, to raise our children to be teens who talked with us and actually enjoyed spending time with us.
We had heard and seen so many stories of teens withdrawing from their parents and not talking, then slipping away into rebellion. We wanted to learn from others what to do and not to do to prevent that from happening. Here are 5 things that we learned about back then and that we found have worked in having good communication with our kids.
1. Be There – In today’s world, quality time is often touted over quantity, but where kids are concerned, and especially teens, you have to be there when they are ready to open up. It doesn’t work to set a time and say, “ok, now start telling me everything that’s on your mind”. Some kids have no problem telling you anything, anytime, but others don’t talk so easily. We need to be available so that when they do want to share something with us, we are there.
2. Listen – It is possible to be there and not really be listening. This is something I am trying to work on, I have realized I am bad about letting my mind wander when one of the kids are telling me a story about a dream they had or something that happened.
They can tell when I am not really listening. Doing that once in a while may not be detrimental, but to do it all the time can shut down communication pretty quick. Plus, these stories are really important to our children, we need to show them we care by taking the time to listen.
3. Be Slow to Anger – Sometimes when our children come to talk with us, they reveal something they did wrong and we, as the parent, can be tempted to respond rashly out of frustration.
Tedd Tripp, in his book Shepherding A Child’s Heart, relates a scenario of a boy needing a new pair of athletic shoes. His parents go buy him a pair, but the boy doesn’t like them. The next morning, the boy is getting ready for school and is crying. The parent asks him what is wrong, the child says he doesn’t want to wear his new shoes to school.
The parent’s first reaction is to get upset at their child for not wanting to wear the new shoes they just spent money on. Tedd goes on to explain that a better reaction would have been to ask the son why he doesn’t like them and doesn’t want to wear them; asking for an explanation first keeps the lines of communication open.
4. Admit When You Are Wrong – If we react hastily to our child or wrong them in some way, we need to tell them we know we made a mistake. Making this a habit is huge in keeping communication open with our children. Kids can spot hypocrisy a mile away, humbling ourselves, and telling them we know we are sinners in need of grace too, will go along way with them.
5. Start When They Are Young – The first 4 keys we talked about are essential for good communication, but you have to start doing those 4 things when they are young. You can’t all of a sudden start trying to talk to your child on their 13th birthday. Being there, listening, being slow to anger, admitting wrong doing, all have to start from day one.
There is a Christian song that says, “anything good in life is gonna take a sacrifice”. Communication takes time, and sometimes it will require us to sacrifice other things we would rather be doing. But it is a sacrifice that is so worth it, to gain the confidence and companionship of our children.
Have you struggled with any of these 5 areas? Are there other ways you have found helpful in keeping lines of communication open with your kids?