Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The art of communication

"When children are little, we often fail to engage them in significant conversation. When they try to engage us, we respond with uninterested "uh-huh's." Eventually, they learn the ropes. They realize that we are not interested in what goes on in them. They learn that a "good talk" for us is a "good listen" for them. When they become teens, the tables turn. Parents wish they could engage their teens, but the teens have long since stopped trying."
--Tedd Tripp from Shepherding a Child's Heart
Over the last few years, my husband and I have received a crash course in communication that not only applies to each other, but also to our kids. For years Craig and I were expert conflict avoiders, but due to life's circumstances and God's faithfulness we were forced to change our ways.

When our kids were small, we spent lots of time and energy teaching, training and correcting them like all good parents do, in a desire to lead our kids to Christ. We didn't realize this at the time, but we made the mistake of missing out on learning the fine art of listening to our kids and understanding what they were thinking. Our methods leaned more towards controlling our kids than towards relating with them and knowing their hearts. Our methods worked well with our kids until they reached a certain age, about 12-13, and then the true state of our parent/child relationship became apparent and, for us, it didn't look very good. This is when Craig and I were forced to become students of communication.

The art of being a listener is not one learned overnight. It takes patience as well as a cultivated sense of discernment. Even in the last month we have been led to a deeper understanding of this concept through the lives of our teenage girls and, thankfully, our relationships are being strengthened in the midst of tackling tough problems. I have found that in following God's ways in the area of communication, He is always able to direct and lead us as well as bring about the fruit that grows out of a life lived in Him.

Our family is far from perfect and I feel that I get a clearer sense of this each and every day, but in our imperfection we are leaning more on God and seeking His direction. Craig and I know that only by following God's path will we end up leading a life glorifying to Him and guiding our children towards living lives that are directed by Him.
A fool has no delight in understanding,
But in expressing his own heart.
--Proverbs 18:2
Here are a few books that my husband and I have found encouragement in:
Love Life For Every Married Couple
Shepherding a Child's Heart
Making Brothers and Sisters Best Friends