The volume and words a parent uses around their children and to their children has an impact on them. But what about the more subtle things we say? What about the things we say on our mobile phones, when we forget the kids are in the back seat listening? What about the things we say when the kids are in the other room… listening? And they are listening!
What do my kids hear when my kids hear me? What are the lessons we teach our kids… unintentionally? “Lord, may the words of my mouth…be pleasing to you” (Psalm 19:14) as the little ears in my home listen to them.
Do my children hear me talk one way at church and another in traffic? Do they hear me espouse to the principles of the Bible, and then gossip. Am I inadvertently teaching them that I don’t really believe what the Bible says about how we should live… the things we should say and not say. The way we should talk to or about people. How we should deal with conflict. What do my kids hear when my kids hear me?
The greatest trap
In his book Respectable Sins, Jerry Bridges talks about the ungodly living we have come to accept in ourselves. One of those ungodly behaviors is the use of our mouth. One of the greatest traps we fall into is our own trap. That’s why James admonishes each of us to be slow to open our traps (James 1:19).
My children can grow up hearing about Biblical principles, but there’s no greater teacher then getting the opportunity to observe Biblical principles in everyday life. When someone is rude at the store, when someone makes a harsh comment, when someone shares some gossip, those everyday occurrences, how do you respond?
We each have a button… at least I know I do. It’s that button that gets pushed by someone else. They say something to me that offends my pride. In a flash, I forget that my children are in listening range. Worse, I forget my children are “taking notes.” Basically thinking, “Thanks for reading the Bible to us at breakfast this morning. That was nice, but this is really where the rubber hits the road, isn’t it dad?”
Paul gives us the tattoo for our eyelids in his letter to the church at Ephesus. “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29, NIV). Not just benefit the people I’m talking to, but also the listeners that are standing within earshot – the children who are learning to communicate in a way that God will bless.
Their inner voice
How often do I hear my own voice come out of my children’s mouths, mainly at each other? I begin to correct their voice tone with each other and am humbled to find that my tone is eerily similar. One of my favorite quotes is “The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice.” I would want my voice to be building and constructive not harsh and critical. What do my kids her when my kids hear me? Don’t let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouth means that I must do the work to stop anything from coming out of my mouth that won’t teach or benefit anyone who is listening.
If I were slow to speak, like it says in James 1:19, then I would think about what I say before the hasty words come out of my mouth. My children would have a better chance of learning how to live a life that God will bless.
Visit parentingonpurpose.org for more advice from Dr. Bob Barnes and Torrey Roberts.
For more articles by Dr. Bob Barnes and Torrey Roberts, visit goodnewsfl.org/author/dr-bob-barnes-and-torrey-roberts/