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 communicate 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”.
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.
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.
There are three goals for a courageous conversation:
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.
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!
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Janelle Esker is the grateful wife of Michael and homeschooling mother of six amazing children. She lives with her family, 4 cats, 1 dog, 3 ducks and 12 chickens in scenic Ohio. Janelle received her B.A. in Education from Ohio Northern University. She is the author of CHOSEN: One Family’s Journey with Autism.