Training Your Children To Listen

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After church service one Sunday I was talking to my daughter in the fellowship hall and asked how her daughter was doing. This was our very first grandchild and we were excited to be part of her life. “She’s being naughty today,” my daughter said showing a bit of frustration, “she’s not listening.”

“Actually,” I said, “she’s not being naughty; she’s being two. What you need to do is to train her to listen. Don’t you remember when you were young how we used to go through those lessons on the skill of listening?” I continued, “If you would take just a few minutes every day and practice listening with her, it will make all the difference in the world. She will actually learn what it means to listen and will even become good at it.”

The truth is that children don’t come out of the womb knowing how to listen. In fact, it’s completely the opposite; they don’t have the slightest idea what it means to listen to parents or anyone else in authority and because they were born with a fleshly nature, they resist the whole idea.

I remember reading a report put out by the Minnesota Crime Commission that perfectly describes the condition every child is born with; “Every baby starts life as a little savage. He is completely selfish and self-centered. He wants what he wants, when he wants it – his bottle, his mother’s attention, his playmates toys, his uncle’s watch. Deny him these wants, and he seethes with rage and aggressiveness, which would be murderous were he not so helpless. He is dirty. He has no morals, no knowledge, and no skills. This means that all children, not just certain children, are born delinquent. If permitted to continue in the self-centered world of his infancy, given free rein to his impulsive actions to satisfy his wants, every child would grow up to be a criminal, a thief, a killer, and a rapist.” That’s enough to get any parent’s attention.

Having been born with a sin nature, God asks parents to raise children in an environment where they will learn to listen to authority, be respectful, and to learn to discipline themselves so that when they are older, they can come under the authority of God and discipline themselves for a life of godliness and blessing to others.

Several verses give us that same perspective. “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6. “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4.

Here’s another way to look at it; would you be frustrated and upset if your two-year-old doesn’t understand the finer points of calculus? “Of course not, they don’t have the capacity for calculus and haven’t even learned the basics of addition,” you would probably say in response. Exactly right. You don’t get frustrated and upset because they don’t understand mathematics, so why do you get frustrated and upset because they don’t understand how to listen?

For some reason, parents expect children to inherently understand listening and when they don’t listen, they get upset with the child and everybody’s frustrated. Listening is actually an advanced skill. It’s like calculus for the soul. As a case in point, each of us might ask ourselves how we are doing in regards to listening to God. If you’ve mastered that, then you have certainly attained an exceptionally high level of maturity. Listening is calculus for the soul.

Learning to listen and learning mathematics actually have quite a bit in common. How do you learn math? You’re taught the principles, starting with the basics, learning by repetition. You don’t say to a child, “Now three plus four is seven, got it? I’m never going to repeat that again and if I have to repeat it again, you’re in big trouble.” No, you patiently repeat the instruction until the child grasps the concept in their mind. Over and over you teach it until the child has mastered it and then you move on to the next lesson.

If a child gets a math problem wrong, do you get frustrated and upset and lecture the child? No, you understand that learning also includes making mistakes and you continue pressing on, patiently teaching the lessons the child needs to learn and grow.

So I asked my daughter if I could work with our granddaughter for a few minutes. She was all for it, so I took my granddaughter where we could be alone and I said, “We’re going to do something really fun, we’re going to help you learn to listen. Do you know what listening is? It’s when I ask you to do something, and you do it right away. Let’s practice. Stand right here by my side and then walk away and as soon as I say stop, you stop. Let’s try it.” At first she went about three steps and I said stop, then about 10 steps and then 15. That’s when she took off running. We laughed together, I brought her back to my side and started over. She wasn’t ready for 15 steps, but she had mastered three steps perfectly.

Our daughter then did the same thing at home with her and the change was remarkable. Listening is a skill that must be learned and if we would be much more patient and understand that learning is a process filled with mistakes, we would be a lot less frustrated and our children would be much more capable of listening.

“Well, what about the child who is willfully rebellious?” Someone might ask. Great question; I’m looking forward to talking about that in another blog. I hope you keep coming back to read more.

Where Do We Learn How To Parent?

GettyImages_151297427_enlargedIt’s easy to become a parent as anyone with blood running through their veins knows. The problem is not how to become a parent, but how to become a good parent, and even better yet, a godly one.

Where do we learn how to become good and godly parents? Do we learn that from our parents? There are some who would say they had amazing parents and learned a lot from them, but unfortunately, a lot more that would say they didn’t.

Many who know my story know that I grew up with an alcoholic father. That’s certainly not the best environment to learn parenting principles, although I think learning what not to do counts for something. Don’t get me wrong, I know he tried, he just had too many internal struggles to think about being a parent and I can’t imagine he had the greatest example either.

On the other hand, there was my mom. She wasn’t outwardly affectionate and she didn’t say “I love you” very often, but she was a good example, she absolutely made sure we went to church, she demonstrated what hard work looked like, and she persevered under very difficult circumstances. You can learn a lot from a woman like that.

But more than anything, we have to learn from our Father in heaven.

My 21st birthday was a crisis point for me. I was angry. I looked at those around me who had a good father and then I looked at my life and concluded that I had a terrible disadvantage. I blamed all my shortcomings on my “no-show” dad.

But I was praying. I laid it all out before God. This hurt and I needed to say it. I needed God to know that this was not right, at least not the way I saw it. And that was when God began to speak to my heart, not in audible words, but it was the moment when healing began and my life was changed.

“I will be a Father to you now. I will be to you like no earthly father could ever be. I will never leave you, I will never forsake you, I will always strengthen and edify. I will build your life on a foundation that can never be moved. I know you’ve been hurt and disappointed, but I will heal your soul.”

It wasn’t the end of the healing that God would do, but it was certainly a powerful beginning. It allowed me to completely redefine what it means to not only have a father, but to be a father. Those are the principles I want to share. Raising five children gave us the opportunity to put these into practice and refine them over time. The compassion, grace, discipline, and forgiveness we receive from God our Father in heaven are the very things our children need from us.

The story wouldn’t be complete, however, unless I come full circle and speak again about my dad. Many years later, we sat together one morning very early and had a conversation where we could finally speak heart-to-heart. He was 75 years old. “I’ve wasted most of my life,” he said. “You drank a lot,” I replied. “Maybe there are reasons people drink,” he said. “I can’t think of any reason for ruining other people’s lives, can you?” I know those were strong words, but I needed to say it. He responded softly, “no.”

“I don’t want to waste any more of my life,” he continued, “I want to be part of your life; I want to get to know your children. I need your help.” My heart was in my throat when I said, “And you will have it. I would like you to get to know my children and you are welcome back in my life as well.”

Shortly after that he started coming to church. One day, at the end of the message as the invitation was given to receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, he lifted his hand strong and tall. He came forward, and I celebrated. My mother, whom he had divorced many years before, was also in church that day. Tears were streaming down her face as she watched him take those steps toward the front of the church.

Four years later, we all stood around his hospital bed as he took his last breath. How would his life had ended if he had not been reconciled to God and his family? He would have died alone and lonely, his life a sad story. But the end was not sad. His family had gathered around him and when I closed his eyes in death I could confidently look to heaven and tearfully say, “Father, into your hands I commend his spirit.”

And at his funeral as each one filed past his coffin to pay their last respects, there was my mother, standing next to the coffin, touching each person’s hand as they passed by. Finally, when everyone had gone, she leaned down into the coffin, gave him one final kiss and said, “I love you, Cecil.”

God can take the pain and hurt from our lives and do something marvelous. it’s through the work of God’s healing in my life that I want to share principles for godly parenting. My prayer is that we become good and godly parents from the healing and grace of God’s relationship to us rather than the hurts and wounds we carry from our parents. This much I know; God heals, God reconciles and God uses all these things to gives us His heart.

A Blog Is Born

Cute baby's foot.Welcome to parenting that works. I would love this blog to be an open forum where we can share parenting ideas, discuss what works and what doesn’t work, the challenges of parenting babies, teenagers and every age in between. I’ll post to the blog regularly, but feel free to add your thoughts and comments.

Feel free to also ask questions. As soon as a question is posted, I’ll be notified and respond with ideas and thoughts that come from the experience of raising five kids of our own, biblical principles of God’s wisdom and asking others to contribute as well.

If you do have to question, feel free to be anonymous, or at least be sure not to include any confidential information. I’m looking to getting started blogging together about parenting!

The theme of the posts will be the principles from God’s Word that apply to parenting. We have brought together a book’s worth of principles that we have seen work in everyday life of raising our five kids and look forward to discussing these principles with you.

We have three daughters naturally and two sons adopted from Russia. Our oldest is now 28 years old with four kids in her family. That means we have four grandchildren! Anyone who is a grandparent will tell you that one of the great joys of parenting is seeing your kids raise kids of their own. All those things they did to make parenting a challenge is now happening to them!

Parenting is an amazing privilege and at the same time, a tremendous challenge. We need tools that work and we need to help each other by encouraging each other to understand how to apply those principles in practical everyday parenting.

You can follow the blog through email as well. In the right column there is box where you can put your email address and you’ll be sent the post as soon as it goes live. Again, jump into the discussion and be part of a community of parents that desire to raise their children in ways that truly transform them and us into God’s character.