It’s back to school time, so, naturally, dinnertime and evenings in the next few weeks will be filled with curious dads wanting to know “how was your day at school?”
HAVING MEANINGFUL CONVERSATIONS WITH YOUR KIDS
For a lot of us dads, the answers might be frustrating. A grunt. A word or two like “fine,” or “okay.” It’s not always easy to have meaningful conversations with your kids and draw out their heart, especially when they’re going through all the emotions and challenges of a big transition like a new school year.
But it is so worth it for us as dads to be graciously persistent towards the hearts of our kids. They need to know that we sincerely care about what’s going on in their lives.
This can be challenging for me, too. I have eight daughters, but not all of them are always eager to have a conversation about what’s going on in their daily lives, in their hearts or in their friendships. When we run into the grunts and halting answers, we need to remember that our child’s reluctance to communicate can be caused by reasons as varied as their personalities, the strength of their relationship with us, the way they process their problems, how rested they are, or how stressed they feel…just to name a few. We should be really careful that we don’t assume too much about why it’s hard to talk with them.
Some Conversation Tips for Dads
Here are 4 things I’ve found that help me to get the most out of my conversations with my kids:
- Start with an attitude of calm confidence, giving them a safe environment to share. I have found that the more anxious I am, or the more emotionally responsive I am to their reactions to my questions, the less they’ll feel free to share with me what’s going on in their lives.
- Be genuinely curious about our kids’ lives. As we get older and carry more responsibilities in our life, we forget what it was like to be a kid. Demonstrating that you have an interest in your kids will get you started well.
- Ask open-ended questions. One of the biggest mistakes is to ask “yes or no” questions. Think about questions that will require more information than a nod or grunt. Sometimes the right kind of question can open up the lines of communication.
- I’ve also found that it’s good to encourage them to ask me questions. What are they curious about? What questions are tumbling around that they aren’t asking you? Your willingness to respect and answer their questions honestly and lovingly might open them up, and surprise you. If you’re not sure how to answer a question, don’t fake an answer or react negatively. It’s okay to say “I don’t know…but let’s find out.” That’s a healthy response that shows your kids that you don’t have all the answers, but you care about what they care about.
Know How Powerful You Are…And Use it for Good!
God’s word is so clear about so many things…and one of them is the power of our tongues. One of the things I’ve learned about being a dad (the hard way) is that a dad’s tongue is particularly powerful, perhaps more so than any other person on the planet when it comes to my daughters.
A harsh word can crush their hearts. A complimentary word can make their spirits soar.
No wonder the Bible records God the Father speaking from heaven, on more than one occasion, about how pleased He is with His son, Jesus Christ. His words must have been not only been powerful for those around to hear (it sounded like thunder!), but they must have meant a lot to our Savior as well.
Just consider some of these verses on the power of the tongue:
Proverbs 18:21 – The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.
Proverbs 12:18 – Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
Proverbs 15:1 – A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
James 3:3-5 – When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts.
We show we care about our kids by striking up conversations with them. It’s good to check on their day. But don’t be discouraged if it’s not always easy. Be careful with the power of your tongue. Don’t give up…just try making some adjustments that might help you help them.
Leon C. Wirth is a Christian speaker, husband and father. He serves as Executive Director of Parenting and Youth at Focus on the Family and host of the Dad Matters podcast with Dr. Greg Smalley. He is the co-author of the forthcoming book The One Year Father-Daughter Devotions. Leon lives in Colorado Springs with his wife, Michelle, and their daughters.