“Every man must be swift about hearing, slow about speaking, slow about wrath.”—JAS. 1:19.
1, 2. How do parents and children generally feel about one another, but what difficulty do they sometimes face?
“IF YOU were to somehow find out that your parents were going to die tomorrow, what would you most want to tell them today?” That was a question put to hundreds of children in the United States. Rather than focusing on any existing problems and differences that might have been troubling them, some 95 percent said that they would tell their parents: “I’m sorry” and “I love you so much.”—For Parents Only, by Shaunti Feldhahn and Lisa Rice.
2 Generally, children love their parents, and parents love their children. This is especially true in Christian households. Although parents and children yearn to be close to one another, communication is sometimes difficult. Even when conversation may otherwise be frank and open, why are some topics avoided entirely? What are some barriers to good communication? How may they be overcome?
‘BUY OUT’ TIME TO COMMUNICATE
3. (a) Why is good communication a challenge for many families? (b) Why was spending time together not a problem for families in ancient Israel?
3 Many families find that it is difficult to have enough time for meaningful communication. That was not always the case. Moses instructed Israelite fathers: “You must inculcate [God’s words] in your son and speak of them when you sit in your house and when you walk on the road and when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deut. 6:6, 7) Children spent the day either with their mother at home or with their father in the fields or at his workplace. There was plenty of time for children and parents to be together and converse. Consequently, parents were in a position to get to know the needs, desires, and personality of their children. Likewise, there was time and sufficient opportunity for children to get to know their parents well.
4. Why is communication a problem in many families today?
4 How different life is today! In some countries, children begin preschool at an early age, sometimes when they are only two years old. Many fathers and mothers work at jobs away from home. During the little time that parents and children are together, communication competes with and often loses out to computers, television, and other electronic media. In many cases, children and parents live separate lives; they are virtual strangers. Meaningful conversation may be almost nonexistent.
5, 6. How do some parents ‘buy out’ more time to spend with their children?
5 Can you ‘buy out’ time from other things so as to spend more of it with your family? (Read Ephesians 5:15, 16.) Some families agree to limit television viewing or computer use. Others strive to have at least one meal together each day. And what a fine opportunity the arrangement of family worship offers for parents and children to draw close to one another and discuss spiritual matters calmly! Setting aside an hour or so a week for this purpose is a good start, but more is needed to open the door to deep conversation. For that, regular and frequent communication is a must. Before your young one heads out for school, say something encouraging, discuss the daily text, or offer a prayer with your child. Doing so can make a great difference in his or her day.
6 Some parents have been able to make changes in their lifestyle so as to spend more time with their young ones. For instance, Laura, * a mother of two young children, left a full-time job for this reason. She says: “In the morning all of us were rushing out the door to get to work or school. When I returned home in the evening, my children were already asleep, having been put to bed by a nanny. My giving up the job has meant that we have to manage with less money, but I feel that I am now in touch with my children’s thoughts and problems. I listen to what they say in prayer and can guide them, encourage them, and teach them.”
BE “SWIFT ABOUT HEARING”
7. What is a common complaint of both children and parents?
7 After conducting many interviews with young people, the authors of the book For Parents Only noted another barrier to communication. They say: “The kids’ number one most common complaint about their parents was, ‘They don’t listen.’” That problem is hardly one-sided. Parents frequently make the same complaint about their children. To keep the lines of communication open, family members must listen—really listen—to one another.—Read James 1:19.
8. How might parents truly listen to their children?
8 Parents, do you really listen to your children? This may be difficult when you are tired or when the conversation seems somewhat trivial. But what appears to be trivial to you may be very important to your child. To be “swift about hearing” means being attentive not only to what your child says but also to how he or she says it. Tone of voice and body language give clues about how a young one feels. Asking questions is also important. “A person’s thoughts are like water in a deep well,” says the Bible, “but someone with insight can draw them out.” (Prov. 20:5) Insight and discernment are especially needed when you are drawing your children out on sensitive topics.
9. Why should children listen to their parents?
9 Children, do you obey your parents? “Listen, my son, to the discipline of your father,” says God’s Word, “and do not forsake the law of your mother.” (Prov. 1:8) Remember, your parents love you and have your best interests at heart, so it is wise to listen to them and obey them. (Eph. 6:1) It is easier to be obedient when there is good communication and when you know that you are loved. Tell your parents how you feel about things. This will help them to understand you. Of course, you should also try to understand them.
10. What do we learn from the Bible’s account of Rehoboam?
10 When it comes to listening to advice from young people your own age, you need to be careful. They may tell you what you want to hear, but their advice may not help you at all. In fact, it could even harm you. Lacking the wisdom and experience of older ones, most young people do not have a long-term view of things and may not be able to discern the consequences of certain actions. Remember the example of King Solomon’s son Rehoboam. When he became the king of Israel, it would have been wise for him to follow the counsel of the older men. Instead, he followed the foolish advice of the younger men he had grown up with. He thus lost the support of most subjects of his kingdom. (1 Ki. 12:1-17) Rather than imitating Rehoboam’s unwise course, work hard to keep the lines of communication with your parents open. Share your thoughts with them. Benefit from their counsel, and learn from their wisdom.—Prov. 13:20.
11. What may result if parents are not approachable?
11 Parents, if you do not want your children to look to their peers for advice, make yourself approachable, easy to talk to. One teenage sister wrote: “All I have to do is mention a boy’s name and my parents get uneasy. That makes me uneasy and reluctant to continue talking.” Another young sister wrote: “Many teenagers want their parents’ advice, but if their parents don’t take them seriously, the kids will go to someone else who will, even to those who are less experienced.” If you are willing to listen compassionately to your children on every sort of topic, you will likely find that they will open up to you and welcome your guidance.
BE “SLOW ABOUT SPEAKING”
12. How might parents’ reactions obstruct communication with their children?
12 A barrier to communication also arises when parents react emotionally and negatively to what their children tell them. Understandably, Christian parents want to protect their children. These “last days” are fraught with dangers—spiritual and otherwise. (2 Tim. 3:1-5) However, what parents see as protective may seem excessive to their children.
13. Why should parents be careful about expressing their opinion too quickly?
13 Parents are wise not to express their opinion too quickly. True, it is not always easy to keep quiet when your children tell you something distressing. But it is important to listen carefully before responding. Wise King Solomon wrote: “When anyone is replying to a matter before he hears it, that is foolishness on his part and a humiliation.” (Prov. 18:13) If you stay calm, you will hear more and your children will keep talking. You have to get the complete picture before you are in a position to help. Behind the “wild talk” may be a heart in turmoil. (Job 6:1-3) As loving parents, use your ears to gain understanding and your tongue to heal.
14. Why should children be slow about speaking?
14 Children, you too need to be “slow about speaking,” not immediately objecting to what your parents say, for they have the God-given responsibility to train you. (Prov. 22:6) They may have experienced situations like the ones you now experience. Moreover, they regret the mistakes they made when they were young and earnestly want to protect you from making similar ones. Therefore, view your parents as allies, not adversaries; as advisers, not antagonists. (Read Proverbs 1:5.) “Honor your father and your mother,” and show them that you love them as they love you. That will make it easier for them to ‘bring you up in the discipline and mental-regulating of Jehovah.’—Eph. 6:2, 4.
BE “SLOW ABOUT WRATH”
15. What will help us not to lose patience and become upset with our loved ones?
15 We are not always patient with those whom we love. “To the holy ones and faithful brothers in union with Christ at Colossae,” the apostle Paul wrote: “You husbands, keep on loving your wives and do not be bitterly angry with them. You fathers, do not be exasperating your children, so that they do not become downhearted.” (Col. 1:1, 2; 3:19, 21) Paul exhorted the Ephesians: “Let all malicious bitterness and anger and wrath and screaming and abusive speech be taken away from you.” (Eph. 4:31) Cultivating long-suffering, mildness, and self-control—aspects of the fruitage of God’s spirit—will help us to stay calm even when under stress.—Gal. 5:22, 23.
16. How did Jesus correct his disciples, and why was this so remarkable?
16 Consider the example of Jesus. Imagine the immense stress that he was feeling at the last evening meal he had with his apostles. Jesus knew that within hours he would die a slow and painful death. The sanctification of his Father’s name and the salvation of the human family depended on his faithfulness. Yet, at that very meal, there “arose a heated dispute among [the apostles] over which one of them seemed to be greatest.” Jesus did not scream at them or express bitterness toward them. Instead, he calmly reasoned with them. Jesus reminded them that they had stuck with him during trying times. Although Satan was demanding to sift them as wheat, Jesus expressed confidence that they would prove faithful. He even concluded a covenant with them.—Luke 22:24-32.
17. What will help children to stay calm?
17 Children too need to stay calm. Especially when they reach their teenage years may they feel that direction from their parents suggests a lack of trust. While it may at times seem that way, recognize that your parents’ concern is an expression of their love for you. By calmly listening to them and being cooperative, you will earn their respect and will establish a reputation as a responsible person. Such behavior may well win you more freedom in certain areas of life. Exercising self-control is the course of wisdom. “All his spirit is what a stupid one lets out,” states a wise proverb, “but he that is wise keeps it calm to the last.”—Prov. 29:11.
18. How does love result in good communication?
18 So dear parents and children, do not be discouraged if the communication in your family is not as open as you would like it to be. Keep working at it, and keep on walking in the truth. (3 John 4) In the new world, perfect people will be able to interact perfectly, without misunderstandings and contention. Presently, though, all of us do things we later regret. So do not hesitate to apologize. Forgive freely. “Be harmoniously joined together in love.” (Col. 2:2) Love has power. ‘Love is long-suffering and kind. It does not become provoked. It does not keep account of the injury. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.’ (1 Cor. 13:4-7) Keep on cultivating love, and communication will flourish, bringing joy to your family and praise to Jehovah.
^ par. 6 Name has been changed.