Words are Important to God
The term “word” or “words” is used over 1200 times in Scripture. Fathers are commanded to train and admonish their children; this requires thoughtful words to get the job done. The wrong words will arouse anger in children but the right ones will produce the fruit of righteousness. “And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4) Moreover, children are commanded to listen to the words of their fathers and to obey the rules set by mothers: “My son, hear the instruction of your father, and do not forsake the law of your mother” (Proverbs 1:8).
Finding the right words at the right time is hard work. I am not very good at this. I can recall times when I was on my knees weeping for my shortcomings with my daughter and asking the Lord to make things right. There have been other times when I was up beyond midnight with my son praying and discussing issues of the heart. In the end, you can count on God to help you and override your failures if you will diligently seek Him in the way you speak to your children.
When you teach your children you must ask questions to determine whether or not they understand what you are saying. At the same time, real communication takes place when a dialog exists. Who wants to be “preached at?” We all want to be heard and understood.
To foster dialog, open ended questions are the best; questions that cannot be answered by a simple “yes” or “no.” Asking questions brings all kinds of information to us so that we may bring a message that is most effective. Again, we can ask questions to understand the level of our child’s knowledge. We can ask questions to discern the condition of our child’s heart. We can ask questions to draw our child’s attention into the conversation. “Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out” (Proverbs 20:5).
We can spout off facts about the Bible but our child may not be listening. She may be distracted, hurt, or angry. Our words may have little impact if we do not first understand our listeners. “He who answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him” (Proverbs 18:13). Jesus was a master at asking questions. He asked questions of His disciples, the Pharisees, the High Priest, and Pilate. Asking questions first will dramatically improve your ability to teach and enable you to more effectively disciple like Jesus.
Really Hearing What Your Child is Saying
Of course, after we ask questions, we will be getting valuable information. What will we do with this information? Will we be distracted doing other things? Will we interrupt our child before he is finished? Will we jump to a conclusion and overreact to her answer?
When our children speak to us, as busy as we may be, we need to give them our attention. Before you is a great opportunity to draw your child out by asking more questions. Keep asking until you get to the issues of his heart.
Practical Tips to Engage Your Children
Engaging your children takes time and effort. Further, if you have a large family and all your children want to talk with you at the same time, that situation will also be difficult. However, many discussions are great as a group. You may instruct your children to raise their hands to speak and answer their questions as they come one at a time. You may want to set aside a time for each child to ask and answer questions, perhaps as you are putting them each to bed. If you have older children ask them to care for the little ones for a few minutes while you talk with the one in need. Ask your spouse to join you with these conversations.
Here’s a good place to start when a question or concern comes your way; begin by repeating what your child has said to you and confirm that you understand the question. Being heard is a big part of good communication; the fact that someone cares enough to understand how we feel goes a long way. Once you have clearly heard your child you are better prepared to give him an edifying answer.
Answering Questions and Concerns
Most of us don’t like to be questioned. The person who is asking questions is usually the one in control of the conversation. We don’t like being controlled. Sometimes we feel like we are being interrogated. Sometimes we are tired. Sometimes the questions don’t make sense. It can be hard work answering questions.
But when our children are asking the questions, this is one of the greatest opportunities and blessings that we can have as a parent! Our child asking questions is a great sign. It is a sign that she wants to learn from us. This is the best time to teach. This is the time to give our child our full attention and turn the conversation to God. Please don’t let those opportunities go by.
Conversely, if your child is not asking you questions, you should be concerned. The lack of questions speaks loudly! Now you will need to work hard to draw your child out. You may need to ask forgiveness about something. You may need to spend some one-on-one time with this child. You may need to find out where your child is getting her answers. In summary, the more dialog you have with your child, the better your relationship will be with her.
Allowing Children to Teach
We have alluded to the fact that we as teachers get so much out of teaching through the preparation that is required. Once we are proficient in teaching, why not give our children this gift? Allowing your children to teach will allow you to teach them how to prepare and how to deliver. This too is part of discipleship. They will gain knowledge and skills as they study the Bible and explain its truths. Teaching requires us to process and integrate information. Your children will grow in their logic and their speaking skills.
We’ve already noted that less than ten percent of all Christians have a biblical worldview. One of the most powerful ways of helping your children to solidify their beliefs is to let them teach what they believe. This practice will pay rich dividends in your child’s life, not the least of which is equipping him to communicate the gospel well to others. You will see the labor of your teaching come to fruition in their lives and you will be blessed indeed.
From the Raising Godly Children website: http://www.raisinggodlychildren.org/2012/05/teaching-scripture-to-your-children.html