How would you describe the culture of your home? A culture is the normal order by which we understand ourselves, others, the world, and how things work. Whether or not you realize it, fathers play a key role in determining the culture of a home. And creating a culture of godliness is one of the most important things fathers can do for their children. Think of it like this: Your kids get to grow up in a place where it’s normal to seek God, pray for each other, spend less than we make, say we’re sorry, reconcile our relationships, tell the truth, and participate in all manner of strangely wonderful behavior. We want our children’s “normal” to reflect what God considers normal, rather than what our culture says life should be like. And a huge part of life is our personal relationships. God directed much of the scriptures to instruct us about how to get along with each other. You can sum it up in one word: communication.
With Christ as his model, Paul wrote in Philippians 2:3–4 (NIV), “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” So, when you apply this verse to your relationship with your children, it essentially says what you think is important, but what your children think is more important. Valuing what our children say is one of the biggest ways to lay our lives down for our kids. The way we listen to our kids reflects this. It’s how we affirm and encourage them when they are right and lovingly correct them when they are wrong.
Christlike communication puts the greater emphasis on what the other person says, rather than what I am saying. In other words, it matters more to hear than to be heard. James 1:19 (NIV) puts it this way: “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” If our culture at home becomes oriented around this, it will be a game changer.
People get along with each other best when there is transparent communication. But it’s not easy. Dr. Albert Mehrabian says 7% of any verbal message is conveyed by words, 38% by vocal elements, and 55% by nonverbal elements. The likelihood of miscommunication is staggering. Dr. Mehrabian’s research confirms that what is not being said communicates more profoundly than what is being said. Sadly, one of the things commonly communicated is parents don’t care what their children think. While they would never say that with words, it is often communicated either by distraction or absence. The opposite of love is not hate—it’s indifference.
So what makes your children feel cared for? Primarily this: knowing that a person who is important to them cares deeply for the issues of their heart, and believing the things which are significant in their lives deeply matter to dad and mom. In short, children want to be heard. And dad, you’re the man for the job.
4 Tips for Listening to Your Kids
Now that we’ve discussed the importance of listening to our kids, putting it into practice may seem difficult. However, there are simple ways that you can begin opening up new lines of communication with your kids. And in turn, improve the culture of your home. Here’s how you can listen intently to your children:
Look your child in the eye when he or she speaks. Turn off the TV; don’t answer the phone. This communicates to them that what they are saying is the most important thing on earth to you.
Ask open-ended, curious questions such as, “How did that make you feel?” “What do you suppose the consequences of that decision might be?” and “Will the end result of that action be success or failure?” In so doing, you will train your children to think well and value God above their own desires.
To encourage is to put courage in; to discourage is to take courage out. We all need encouragement, especially our kids. Tell them you love them and believe in them. Remind them a good name is better than great riches (Proverbs 22:1).
You are God’s primary channel of spiritual blessings to your children. At the end of a conversation, put your hands on their shoulders and ask God to pour Himself into them.
Marcus Brecheen is the executive pastor of the Gateway North Fort Worth Campus. He and his wife, Lexa, have five children.