“Every man must be swift about hearing, slow about speaking, slow about wrath.”—JAMES 1:19.
1, 2. How do parents and children generally feel about one another? But what can be difficult for them to do sometimes?
MANY children in the United States were asked this question: “If you were to somehow find out that your parents were going to die tomorrow, what would you most want to tell them today?” Nearly all of them said that they would not want to talk about problems or disagreements. Instead, they said that they would tell their parents: “I’m sorry” and “I love you so much.”—For Parents Only, by Shaunti Feldhahn and Lisa Rice.
2 Generally, children love their parents, and parents love their children. This is especially true among God’s people. Even so, communication between parents and children is sometimes difficult. Why does that happen? What makes it hard for parents and children to talk about certain things? What can parents and children do to improve their communication?
FIND TIME TO COMMUNICATE
3. (a) Why is it hard for many families to communicate well? (b) Why was it easier for Israelite families to communicate?
3 It is hard for many families to have enough time for good communication. But in the time of the Israelites, things were different. When Moses told Israelite fathers to teach God’s laws to their children, he said: “You must inculcate them in your son and speak of them when you sit in your house and when you walk on the road and when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deuteronomy 6:6, 7) Children spent the day either with their mother at home or with their father at work. There was plenty of time for children and parents to be together and talk. As a result, it was easy for parents to know the needs, desires, and personality of their children. And the children too were able to get to know their parents well.
4. What makes it difficult for families today to communicate?
4 Life today is very different. In some countries, children begin preschool when they are very young, sometimes when they are only two years old. Many fathers and mothers work at jobs away from home. And when parents and children are together, they spend their time watching television or using their computers or phones. In many families, parents and children do not really know one another. There is almost no communication at all.
5, 6. What changes have some parents made to be able to spend more time with their children?
5 Can you think of ways to spend more time with your family? (Read Ephesians 5:15, 16.) Some families agree to spend less time watching television or using the computer. Others decide to eat at least one meal together each day. Family worship is a wonderful opportunity for parents and children to get to know one another better as they study the Bible together. But this is not the only time families should spend time together. They should find time to talk every day. Before your children go to school, say something encouraging, discuss the daily text, or say a prayer together. This can help them a lot during the day.
Can you think of ways to spend more time with your family?
6 Some parents have been able to make changes in their life so that they can spend more time with their children. For example, Laura, a mother of two young children, left a full-time job for this reason.* (See footnote.) She says: “In the morning all of us were rushing out the door to get to work or school. When I returned home in the evening, my children were already asleep, having been put to bed by a nanny.” Ever since Laura left her job, the family has less money, but she feels that she now really knows what her children’s thoughts and problems are. She adds: “I listen to what they say in prayer and can guide them, encourage them, and teach them.”
BE “SWIFT ABOUT HEARING”
7. What is a common complaint that both parents and children have?
7 After interviewing many young people, the writers of the book For Parents Only say: “The kids’ number one most common complaint about their parents was, ‘They don’t listen.’” Parents often say the same thing about their children. So if the members of a family want to communicate well, they must listen very carefully to one another.—Read James 1:19.
8. How can parents really listen to their children?
8 Parents, do you really listen to your children? This may be difficult when you are tired or when they want to talk about something that does not seem important to you. But remember, what does not seem important to you may be very important to your child. To be “swift about hearing” means to pay attention not only to what your child says but also to how he says it. Your child’s tone of voice, gestures, and the expressions on his face can tell you a lot about how he feels. It is also important to ask questions. The Bible says: “A person’s thoughts are like water in a deep well, but someone with insight can draw them out.” (Proverbs 20:5, Today’s English Version) You need to show insight when you speak to your children, that is, you need to find out how they really feel. This is especially important when you are discussing something that they are not comfortable talking about.
Children, remember that your parents love you and want what is best for you
9. Why should children obey their parents?
9 Children, do you obey your parents? God’s Word says: “Listen, my son, to the discipline of your father, and do not forsake the law of your mother.” (Proverbs 1:8) Remember, your parents love you and want what is best for you, so it is wise to listen to them and obey them. (Ephesians 6:1) If there is good communication between you and your parents and if you remember that they love you, it will be easier for you to obey them. So tell your parents how you feel about things. This will help them to understand you. Of course, you should also try to understand them.
10. What do we learn from Rehoboam’s example?
10 Do you ever follow the advice of young people your own age? Be careful. Their advice may sound good to you, but it may not help you at all. In fact, it could hurt you. Young people do not have the wisdom and experience of older ones. Most young people do not think of how decisions they make now could harm them in the future. Remember the example of Rehoboam, King Solomon’s son. When he became king of Israel, he should have followed the advice of the older men. Instead, he followed the foolish advice of the younger men he had grown up with. As a result, most people in his kingdom rebelled against him. (1 Kings 12:1-17) Do not be like Rehoboam. Talk to your parents about your thoughts and feelings. Follow their advice, and learn from their wisdom.—Proverbs 13:20.
If you stay calm and listen, you will learn how your children really feel
11. What could happen if parents are not easy to talk to?
11 Parents, do you want your children to come to you for advice instead of going to young people their own age? If so, make it easy for them to talk to you. One teenage sister wrote that her parents get nervous every time she talks about a boy. This makes her uncomfortable, and she stops talking. Another young sister wrote: “Many teenagers want their parents’ advice, but if their parents don’t take them seriously, the kids will go to someone else who will, even to those who are less experienced.” Be willing to listen to your children and to understand how they feel, no matter what they want to talk about. If you do this, they will feel comfortable talking to you and will be willing to follow your advice.
BE “SLOW ABOUT SPEAKING”
12. How might parents’ reactions make communication with their children difficult?
12 The way parents react may make it hard for their children to talk to them. Parents may immediately show that they are upset by what their child says. Of course, there are many dangers in these last days, and Christian parents want to protect their children. (2 Timothy 3:1-5) But children may not always see things the same way and may feel that their parents do not give them any freedom.
13. Why should parents be careful about giving their opinion too quickly?
13 Parents should be careful not to give their opinion too quickly. It is true that when your children get upset and say things that worry you, it is hard to keep quiet. But it is important to listen carefully before saying anything. Wise King Solomon wrote: “When anyone is replying to a matter before he hears it, that is foolishness on his part and a humiliation.” (Proverbs 18:13) If you stay calm and listen, you may be able to understand the reason for your child’s “wild talk.” (Job 6:1-3) You can help your child only if you understand the whole situation. As loving parents, listen to your children and try to understand them so that you can say something that really helps them.
14. Why should children be slow about speaking?
14 Children, you too need to be “slow about speaking.” Remember that God has given your parents the responsibility to train you, so do not quickly disagree with what they say. (Proverbs 22:6) They may have been in the same situation that you are in now. Also, they do not want you to make the same mistakes they made when they were young. Your parents are your friends, not your enemies. They want to help you, not hurt you. (Read Proverbs 1:5.) “Honor your father and your mother,” and show them that you love them as they love you. That will make it easier for them to train you the way Jehovah wants them to.—Ephesians 6:2, 4.
BE “SLOW ABOUT WRATH”
15. What will help us to stay calm and be patient with those we love?
15 We are not always patient with those we love. The apostle Paul wrote to Christians in Colossae: “You husbands, keep on loving your wives and do not be bitterly angry with them. You fathers, do not be exasperating your children, so that they do not become downhearted.” (Colossians 1:1, 2; 3:19, 21) Paul told the Ephesians: “Let all malicious bitterness and anger and wrath and screaming and abusive speech be taken away from you.” (Ephesians 4:31) If we try to show more of the fruitage of God’s spirit such as long-suffering, mildness, and self-control, it will be easier to stay calm even in stressful situations.—Galatians 5:22, 23.
16. How did Jesus correct his disciples? Why was it impressive that Jesus reacted that way?
16 Parents, think of the example of Jesus. Imagine how much stress he was feeling at the last evening meal he had with his apostles. Jesus knew that very soon he would die a slow and painful death. He knew that he had to be faithful so that his Father’s name could be sanctified and all humans could be saved. But at that same meal, the apostles started to argue about who was the greatest among them. Jesus did not scream at them or speak harshly to them. Instead, he corrected them calmly. Jesus reminded them that they had supported him during hard times. And he showed confidence that they would stay faithful even though Satan was going to test them. He even promised that they would be kings with him in heaven.—Luke 22:24-32.
17. What will help children to stay calm?
17 Children too need to stay calm. If you are a teenager, you may not like it when your parents give you direction. You may think that it means they do not trust you. But remember that your parents worry about you because they love you. If you listen to them calmly and accept their direction, they will respect you and trust you. Your parents may then give you more freedom to do certain things. The Bible shows that a person who stays calm is wise. It says: “All his spirit is what a stupid one lets out, but he that is wise keeps it calm to the last.”—Proverbs 29:11.
18. How does love help families to communicate well?
18 So dear parents and children, do not be discouraged if the communication in your family is not as good as you would like it to be. Keep working at it, and keep following the counsel in God’s Word. (3 John 4) In the new world, we will be perfect, and there will be no communication problems. But before then, we will make mistakes. So be quick to say “I’m sorry.” Forgive freely. “Be harmoniously joined together in love.” (Colossians 2:2) Love has power. It helps us to be patient and kind. Love helps us to stay calm and to forgive. “It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7) If you keep showing love, communication in your family will get better and better. This will make you happy and will honor Jehovah.
Name has been changed.