Understanding how to get children to listen is difficult, right. Ever feel like you’ve told your child THAT ONE THING for the 50th time?
No, me neither. Never happens. Except every day!
I’ve learned a few things from experience as a parent. Here are four lessons on how to get children to listen.
Question: When’s the last time you picked “the wrong” battle?
How to get children to listen: pick your battles
There are two Scriptures to keep in mind as we go forward:
“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” —Ephesians 6:4
“Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.”
The key word in these passages is “provoke”. It means: don’t irritate your kids with constant fault-finding to the point that they become disheartened.
This is at the heart of picking our battles.
We must make sure we aren’t constantly nagging our kids to the point they want to give up. We never want our kids to think, “What’s the point in trying? I’m never going to be good enough. I’ll never get it right.” If we constantly bombard our kids with criticism, they will become discouraged to the point of wanting to give up.
This is a real struggle for me. I’m a very black and white kind of guy. So, when my kids are not paying attention to what they’re doing and knock a big cup of fruit punch all over the cream-colored carpet, I find it behooves me to thoroughly explain to them what they did wrong, how it happened and what they must do to rectify the situation. Unfortunately, trying to explain all of that to a five-year-old is not very wise.
What I probably should do instead, is first, help my little girl clean up the mess. Second, I should take the time to explain how we need to be more careful and aware of what’s around us. Third, do all of this at a normal volume.
When I make every issue a battle to fight, I wear my kids out. Myself too! Praise God for a wife who knows how to alert me to my mood when I’m unaware. I’ve also had many experienced dads encourage me to pick my battles.
Connecting with your child like never before often means picking your battles.
I am in no way giving us license to be slackers who never discipline our kids. No, I’m calling you to be a better dad. I was talking with a mom the other day and her daughter was not dressed appropriately. I delicately broached the subject (youth ministry function at the church). The mom’s retort was, “Well, you gotta pick your battles.” I let it go, I chose not to fight the mom. I may not have fully agreed, but I picked my own battle.
Here are four lessons on how to get children to listen:
1. Have perspective
Finding out what the most important lesson is in that moment and teaching it. Sometimes we miss the forest for the trees. If we pepper our kids with every possible lesson they could learn in a given situation they will walk away not retaining any of the valuable knowledge you poured out. If we ask better questions of our kids, we’ll have a better understanding of what they know and where they’re coming from. Then, you can address the top one or two points you can make in this given situation.
2. Timing is everything
Is this moment the right time to bring up what they may have done wrong? Sometimes, knowing be a better father is a matter of timing. Knowing when to take a pause and come back later when it’s just the two of you. Maybe you intentionally want to give them time to think about what may have happened in a particular situation and see if they’ll come to you about it.
3. Never assume anything
If you need to clarify what you think they might have done, stop and ask questions before you start correcting. We often exacerbate the situation because we assume some facts wrongly. If we would take a second to make sure we really know what happened it could help tremendously. More than once I’ve assumed I knew what was going on in a situation, started to correct my kids, and my wife graciously stepped in to inform me what was really going on and then I had to apologize (rather sheepishly). I was the one who was wrong.
4. Let it go
Sometimes you just have to let it go. It may do more harm than good to correct your child in certain situations. Maybe the timing isn’t right, or you guys have had a lot of friction lately. It may not be the right time to correct them. Maybe they had a bad day at school or didn’t sleep well the night before.
In addition to picking our battles, let’s be sure we’re affirming and encouraging our kids when they make good decisions or show initiative to take on responsibility.
Ultimately, we want to teach them a godly confidence that is submitted to the Lord. This begins with them growing in their confidence in submitting to us. They’ll have an easier time submitting if we’re not always harping on them at every turn.
I know this decision isn’t always obvious, and getting it right can be a heavy load. And, for many of us, it’s not how our parents modeled things when we were growing up. But, let me encourage you: even if this was not how you were taught, it can still be how you teach your kids.
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