Friday March 30, 2007

     Constant Conversation.  I learned the term from Age of  Opportunity, (authored by Paul David Tripp),  but it really isn’t a new concept to me.  However, it is something that I’d stopped doing for a season.  As my daughters grew up, constant conversation was my daily reality.  It never really stopped with them; but, on the other hand, I never really put it into practice with my boys until being reminded of it when I recently read Paul Tripp’s book.

     Constant conversation with my children isn’t easy, my friends.   It’s often mind-numbing. It often stretches me mentally almost to the breaking point.  It often delays needful tasks.  It’s sometimes heart wrenching.  It’s sometimes hilarious!!

     Constant conversation with our children means just that – constant (all the time, all day long) conversation (talk, chatting, heart-to-hearts).  If I do not listen to my thirteen year old now as he explains all the intricacies of his latest Lego creation, paying especial attention to where all of the bombers and hidden guns are; then why would I expect him to talk to me in the years to come about things that are important to him then?  If I do not listen when he is frustrated with his younger brother, then I cannot expect him to share frustrations with me as he matures.

     If I do not listen now as the eight year old explains to me why it is that he is outside with the goats when he is supposed to be inside doing his math, then I should not expect him to trust me to listen to an explanation for a “bigger” offense down the road.  I don’t want to mislead you with that last one.  I am not allowing him to talk his way out of being disciplined for disobedience.  Not at all!  However, I do need to listen to his explanation.  He may very well have a good explanation for being in the goat yard, one that would excuse the disobedience.  We have had our goats get themselves into some pretty dire straits on occasion!  Then again, he may not have a good explanation.  The important thing is that I listen to the explanation in full before passing judgment.

     I need to listen now, while they are young and willing to share their hearts.  If I do, Lord willing, they will continue the practice of constant conversation with me as the years pass by.  I need to be a good listener, too; and not a detached listener.  I need to listen for not only the details of what I’m being told, but for the subtle cues that will tell me what those details mean to my son.

     Conversations are two sided beasts.  Not only do I need to be a good listener, I also need to respond meaningfully.  Yes, no and uh-huh don’t count!  While they are young, I need to acknowledge the amount of time it must have taken to have built that Lego creation.  I need to appreciate the thought that went behind the placement of the guns.  I need to ask questions about why the design was constructed with a square front and an opening in the back.

     If it’s a discipline issue, I need to respond well then, too.  And not with anger or harsh words!  After listening to my son’s side of the story, I need to be ready with either a verbal acceptance of my son’s explanation, or a verbal explanation of my own as to why his reasoning is faulty.

     And always, ALWAYS, our constant conversation needs to center around and acknowledge God.  Always! This, however, was not a strong point for me in years past.  By the grace of God, however, I’m catching on!  If I’m admiring that Lego creation, I can always remind my son that he was created in the image of our Creator God who gave him his creativity as a gift.  If we are out playing with the animals, we can discuss what it means for man to take dominion over the beasts as God ordained in Genesis.  If we are talking about why, oh why, it is that Dad has to work yet another day of overtime, the opportunities to point my sons to the Lord and His Word are almost innumerable.  There are scriptural examples aplenty about a man providing for his family, a man submitting himself to the authorities over him in the workplace, etc.  If we are running errands and see a homeless person, we can discuss what our responsibilities are as Christians to the poor.  If we drive through an undesirable part of town, we can even discuss what the Bible says about the dangers of drunkenness or the lure of the harlot.   

     Discipline issues are a tremendous opportunity to present the gospel!  As I discuss my child’s sin with him (and disobedience is always a sin issue), we can look at the underlying heart issue/sin that led to the disobedience.  I can explain what God’s Word says about that particular sin – pride, covetousness, etc.  Depending on how many times we may have already dealt with this same issue, I may ask my son what God’s Word says about the matter.

     I can then reassure them that no sin has come to them that has not plagued mankind since the garden.  I can reassure them that God knew all of this since before the beginning of time and that is why He sent His son to die on the cross.  Further, I can point my sons to Christ, and instruct them in the future to pray and ask the Holy Spirit to assist them in fleeing from the sin at the time of temptation.  I always try to let them know that I too am a sinner, saved by grace, and that I too am tempted and fail.  Being able to point my sons to their need for a Savior, and to talk with them about the grace of God, is really a huge blessing (even when it comes during a time of discipline).

     But all of this constant conversation takes time!  Lots and lots of time!  I’ve often had my washer completely fill with water and detergent, but no clothes,  as I’ve spent time in my bedroom talking to one of my sons after a disagreement with his brother.  I’ve had to turn the burner off under the meat that I’m browning to have a lengthy talk and time of discipline with one of my sons while I’m cooking dinner.  I’ve had to come inside in the midst of outdoor chores and leave those chores undone.  More to the point, I’ve had to set aside a book I am reading to praise a piece of artwork and to hear about its creation and ask about the inspiration behind it.  I’ve had to leave the computer during some down time when I was hoping to read a few blogs, to listen as a boy tells me about something he found interesting in a book he was reading, to ask questions about why he found it so interesting, and to continue until he is done with the telling and explaining.  Parenting is a full time job!

     Opportunities abound for constant conversation.  Having your children in the car is an obvious time.  Meal times.  We talk all day during our homeschool time, too.  Pulling weeds together from the flower beds.  Working together on chores.  We talk about what we’ve read.  We talk about a movie we watched together.  We talk about our pastor’s sermon on Sunday, or about an object lesson learned during our post-worship teaching time. 

     I know that many of you have large families and that the thought of constant conversation with ten children all day every day is just almost overwhelming.  God did not miscount when He numbered the children He blessed you with.  He knew the limits of your time, but He also knew the breadth of it.   My suggestion to you is simply this – take every opportunity.  You can engage more than one child at a time in constant conversation.  While you will, hopefully, have an opportunity once in awhile for one on one with each child, constant conversation does not have to be done one on one.  Group discussions are tremendous, and siblings have a way of bringing out their brothers and sisters that a parent can’t.  It’s just important that we all remember, however many children the Lord has blessed us with, to keep the lines of communication open all the time.  Talking about the little things now, will insure that they will talk about the big things later on.

     That said, there are going to be circumstances when you will not be able to practice constant conversation.  However, if your children know you to be available to them the majority of the time, they will not be put off in the rare circumstances that you need to send them away.  In my home, a migraine headache may limit our communications for a few hours.  Taking care of important business, like working on our tax return, would be a good example.  All of our children should be taught to not interrupt while we are talking on the telephone.     However, we need to be sure that we make the habit of constant conversation with our children a priority.  Our children need to know that what is important to them is important to us!

    Spend the time now, while your children are young, to cultivate the habit of constant conversation.  Learn what makes them happy.  Learn what makes them sad.  Find out what their hot buttons are and talk to them about how to reply with grace to the people or circumstances that make them angry.  It’s so much easier to talk about things like this during a time of relaxed conversation.  Talk about the things that tickle their childish fancies.  Talk about the things you encounter while you are out running errands together.  Developing the habit of constant conversation now, will mean that constant conversation will continue as your children mature and become adults; and that, my friends, is a blessing!

God bless you as you look well to the ways of your households!
Proverbs 31:27

(For more information concerning Age of Opportunity: A Biblical Guide to Parenting Teens, by Paul David Tripp, click the book link or read my review here.)

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10 comments to Friday March 30, 2007

  • As usual, friend, this is good and wise counsel.

    May I tell you where I’m failing in this?  I have one son who talks incessently about himself.  He will interrupt what I am doing to praise himself, he will tell others about himself, etc.  Despite, of course, our constant teaching about letting another man praise you and not your own lips, etc.  Despite pointing out good examples from adult friends who are marked by the habit of asking others about themselves. Despite his father’s excellent example of focusing on others.

    Where is the line between listening to the things that are important to him (as I want and need to) and not encouraging self-focus?

    Help!

    -Kenj

  • Kenj – Oh, I have a boy just like that!!!  And the constant conversation with him, honestly, somedays just wears me out.  However, I do my very best to redirect him.  If he has brought me something to admire (let’s be real, it’s always a LEGO thing!), I only admire it if it’s brought to my humbly.  If it’s brought with an attitude of look how wonderful I am, look at how creative I am, etc., then I’ll say something like, “Yes, honey, that’s really neat.  However, we need to talk now about humility.”, and then we’ll continue our conversation along those lines.  Another way that I’ve been working on this very issue of self-praise and patting himself on the back is in pointing out the sinful heart issue that this comes from – love of self above love of God.  Thou shalt have no other Gods before me, means the God of self, too.  😉   But, because we are having constant conversation all day every day (at least when it has been a good day!), then helping him deal with a sin doesn’t come across as lecturing so much as just more conversation.  Instructional conversation counts.  We’ve also used constant conversation to talk about how we feel when we encounter a person who likes to brag on himself, and how it reflects negatively on that person.  We’ve been working on this for several weeks now, and I am seeing some change.  I want a young man who knows his worth in God’s eyes, not in his own.  We talk about what God desires to see in him as he matures (the fruits of the spirit, meeting the qualifications of an elder, etc.), and we talk about how he’s doing in those areas. 

    Does that help?  If not, let me know!  

    Blessings to you – Cheryl

  • I have called homeschooling “one long conversation”. :goodjob:

    However, I must admit the conversation has become easier as the boy got older, hehehe. There was only so much I found to say about Legos.

    I only get to talk to my daughter once a week (or sometimes every two weeks) but it’s always like picking up the middle of the last time we talked. Usually something about the grandchildren!

    She’s due with her fourth anyday.

  • Oh thank you for sharing this. I am so glad I am not the only one who finds it mind numbing. I am consantly trying to die to self on this subject. Clarice

  • Clarice – Me, too! 

  • Thank you for such a helpful post, Cheryl! (I love being able to type your name now and I LOVE your profile picture!) I often wonder how I will “get” my children to *want* to talk to me when they are older and especially come to me when they are struggling with something. I did not have the relationship that you talk about, with my parents when I was younger, so I had no idea on how to achieve this with my own children. Thank you SO much for this post and wonderful instruction. Sometimes I read a book and come across a great idea but they don’t explain how it works in real life. Thank you for sharing all fo the details. I get to see alot of LEGO creations at my house too! In fact, Benjamin was taping some together and Emily had Elmer’s glue all over some of them this past week! Now that was a conversation! LOL
    Kelli

  • Oh wow.  I soaked up every word of this! I believe it whole-heartedly and feel I do, indeed, have constant conversation with my daughter. But as I read your lovely, well written post, I see the need for even MORE conversation and DEEPER conversation and GODLY conversation.  Thank you for this reminder.

  • Thanks for posting this.  It was timely.  I have just recently realized that, while I used to talk to my kids all the time, I have backed off a lot.  I think I just got overloaded for awhile, and I started doing the “uh-huh, that’s nice,” :rolleyes: without ever removing my eyes from what I’m doing.  Unfortunately, that’s a very hard habit to break.  You re-confirmed what I had been feeling, and gave me a little shove to work at it harder. 

  • Thank you so much for this post!  What wonderful encouragement!  And what a wonderful reminder.  I must say that this has been on the edge of my brain for a while, but having you ‘verbalize’ it helps to make it concrete.  I so very much agree with you!  What a blessing it is to have a kind person like you to share your wisdom with us!  You are a Titus 2 woman! 

    Monique

  • Thank you so much for this post!  What wonderful encouragement!  And what a wonderful reminder.  I must say that this has been on the edge of my brain for a while, but having you ‘verbalize’ it helps to make it concrete.  I so very much agree with you!  What a blessing it is to have a kind person like you to share your wisdom with us!  You are a Titus 2 woman! 

    Monique