Parenting 101: Communication

Communicating is a skill that we all must learn to be successful in this world.  It is an especially important relational skill and since the family is all about relationships, communicating in an effective and loving manner is paramount to whether our relationships are growing or stagnating.  Show me parents that are struggling to make their feeling and wishes known to each other and I will show you conflict and strife.  It is the same with the parent-child relationship.  These little guys deserve the same kind of love…to be communicated with in an effective manner.

Sounds Great, doesn’t it!

Only one problem…Communicating effectively is hard!  When I take an honest look at myself I see that I am lacking in this area and I need help.  Enter Jesus…he is our ever present help in times of trouble.

This post is for me as well as you!  Let’s journey together down this path of “learning how to effectively communicate with our children”.


What are the elements of communication? 

Verbal Language

Facial Expression

Body Language

Eye Contact

Tone of Voice

Volume of Voice


After that list, we all can see that communication is not just the words we speak.  Effective communication occurs when we use all these elements in a loving way. We speak the truth in love.  This is no easy task because often our heart bears itself in how we speak, our tone of voice and our facial expressions show our true emotions.  We are ok when we are feeling happy and cheerful but if our emotions are one of frustration and anger then we are in real trouble!  How do you react when someone talks to you in a harsh tone of voice?    I can only speak for myself but I usually do not respond well!  I am immediately set on edge.  Children are no different.  If we truly want to guide, love and teach our children then we must do it with a right heart as well as be implementing all of the above communication elements in a positive way.

Our most important job as parents is to pass on the faith to our children.  As you can see, if we do not use effective communication with our children we are immediately handicapped in this endeavor.  We are called to always speak the truth in love.  What does that look like exactly?

We need to take a look at each of the elements of communication and check ourselves.  Are my words truthful?  Are my facial expressions calm or angry? How am I standing…what are my arms doing?  Am I giving my child the evil eye?  Am I yelling, firm or soft spoken?  You get the idea.

For the record…I am still working on this stuff!  I have been a mom for 24 years now and I have been married for 25 years.  You would think that I would have it down by now.  I don’t…I continue to learn and grow in this area by the grace of God.


Let us take a look at what the Bible says about communication.  It is chocked full of truth on this subject…THANK YOU, LORD! 


Proverbs 16:24

Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.

And now, O sons, listen to me, and do not depart from the words of my mouth.
When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.
There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
The words of a man’s mouth are deep waters; the fountain of wisdom is a bubbling brook.
Those are just a few verses out of thousands in the Bible that speak of the importance of effective communication with others.  Let these words of truth be our guide.

One of the most effective ways to find out what is going on in your child’s or spouse’s heart is to ask effective questions in a non-threatening way.  I would like to share with you one of the many tools we have used in our family to open the lines of communication.  This is primarily for elementary aged children and up.


Have you heard about Courageous Conversations?


There are three goals for a courageous conversation:

  1. To gain wisdom to see from a bigger perspective. Our perspective will broaden when we listen to others and when we seek God’s viewpoint on an issue.
  2. To gain an understanding that will establish trust in the relationship. When you see from another’s perspective, you can understand why they behave as they do. In an environment of mercy, they will be free to share their heart and honestly face the truth about their perspective of the issue.
  3. To gain knowledge so that you can take the next step. When you have gained wisdom and understanding, God will grant the knowledge of His will to resolve any issue.

The conversations often come up without any invitation or planning. When it becomes apparent that there is a problem because someone seems hurt or feels frustrated with trying to be understood or communicate an issue, it’s time to begin the conversation. Watch for these cues and be ready to humble yourself and begin the process of understanding the root issues with a courageous conversation.

1. What is your most pressing issue?

When it is apparent that there are issues to resolve, begin by humbly asking about the most pressing issue. “What I hear you saying is that your most pressing issue is . . . .”

2. In addition to this issue, is there something else?

The goal of asking this question is to get to the root issue since many people are not able to describe their most pressing needs. Listen to what they have to say and try to see if one of these two root issues is causing the intense feelings:

  • Fear of Rejection—An issue or person is making them feel like they are unacceptable and they don’t feel good about themselves because of it.
  • Fear of Failure—An issue or person is making them feel inadequate.

If it is appropriate, and you sense that the person is open to discussing these issues, you may ask if these fears are the root problems. Otherwise, go ahead and discuss the issue that they state is the most pressing.

Write down the most pressing issue, because all of the other questions will refer to it. If there is more than one issue, ask which is the most pressing. You can only effectively deal with one issue at a time.

3. How is this issue affecting you?

When you ask this question, listen closely and put yourself in the other’s place. Take the brunt of their intense emotions and do not defend yourself. Instead, grieve with them over the hurt that you or others have contributed to in their life. This enables you to see how serious the issue really is and what the cause and effects are for you and those around you.

It is important for you to express an understanding of how they feel. When people feel that they are heard and cared for, they can begin to move on to resolving their issues. To express that you understand, rephrase what you heard the person say to their satisfaction.

4. What will the future be like if nothing changes?

At this point of the conversation, you will see the high cost of doing nothing. Do not gloss over what you hear; stop and truly consider it. Seeing this picture will motivate everyone to be committed to resolving the issue.

Once again, rephrase what you heard the person say. If they are not satisfied with your understanding, be patient as they verbalize their thoughts so that you can truly understand.

5. What do you see as my responsibility for this issue?

This question opens up the opportunity to really understand the heart of the other as they share their real needs. If you begin to explain, complain, or blame the other in response to what they say, the conversation will fail. You need to show a willingness to humble yourself and to seek after Christ’s righteousness, instead of defending your own.

Understand the heart of the other by rephrasing what they have said to their satisfaction. If you see further insights into your responsibilities, be willing to share them to reveal that you understand the issue.

6. What do you see as your responsibility for this issue?

This question may take some by surprise since they have probably been looking at themselves as a victim instead of seeing that they are also a responsible person in the situation. This is a turning point in the conversation by allowing them to share the responsibility for resolving the issue.

7. What does the preferable future look like to you?

It is now time to focus on what could be and should be. You will find hope for a solution as you agree on the desired future and begin to share a vision that restores your enthusiasm and sense of partnership. God will begin to help you see the future as He sees it, filled with plans for good and not for evil.

8. What is the most powerful thing that we can agree to ask God for?

Since the personal responsibilities and the preferable future have been discussed, it is time to decide how you will pursue that future. Will you seek to resolve the issue in your own strength, or will you rely on the power of God to fill you and enable you to walk in His ways of harmony, responsibility, and peace? You now have the opportunity to cast your burdens on the Lord and seek His aid for living in full restoration. “Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee” (Psalm 55:22).

9. Based on the above, what is the one thing we cannot fail to do?

This question helps you focus on the one thing that will make all the difference in moving ahead to the preferable future if it is executed with consistency and excellence. It is a simple idea, such as “we cannot fail to communicate.” Understanding this one thing puts you on the path to peace.

10. What practical steps must we take to make this happen?

Now is the time to talk about the things you can do to make your objectives happen. These are activities you can plan out—you know who is supposed to do what by when. These are the highly leveraged steps that produce great results.


We have continued to use this wonderful resource with all of our children and it has always been enlightening and healing!

Praying we all seek God for our source of strength and wisdom in this area!  


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  1. Tarissa Helms says:

    Wow, Janelle. Those 10 questions are amazing. This is a print/pin/keep resource for sure. Thank you for sharing the tools that have worked for your family! I really appreciate it and look forward to applying these lessons in future conversations with my husband and children.

  2. Paula says:

    WOW!! This is REALLY good. I had never heard of Courageous Conversations before, but I will check them out. Thank you for sharing this. It goes along really well with a book I am reading – QBQ: The Parenting Way – you should check it out. I think you would like it. I know I wish I had read it when my kids were younger. 😀 Thank you for sharing the aspects of communication. I never thought about using those in my every day conversations with my kids! 😀

  3. Christina @ Juggling Real Food and Real Life says:

    The first word I thought to write was “Wow!” and I see from the other comments that I am not alone. I’m sitting here with little tears in the corner of my eyes after some bad communication hurt feelings last night at the dinner table. This post speaks volumes to me and I plan to use this as the basis to fix some wrongs and work on our family communication tonight at dinner. There is so much to communication as you have stated………How do you work on communication that is missing the non-verbal cues. So much of my communication with my older children takes place in 140 characters or less because they text so much.

    • Janelle Esker says:

      Thanks for your comment Christina! I also text a lot with my older children and that is really hard because they can’t tell totally what I mean…I find myself using lots of emojis to express my feelings. Also, some exclamation points too 🙂 I am still a work in progress in this area. Our family runs to “the oversensitive” so we also have many misunderstandings…I think the key is to keep pressing in on each situation and I have found that the truth will eventually be revealed.

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