Recently, in a conversation with one of my children, I found myself not only participating, but also observing the conversation as well. As I heard myself speaking I said to myself, “Who is that obnoxious man talking?” The facts overtook my desires as I realized that it was me. I had fallen in a trap…a conversation trap.
These traps lie waiting for you in every conversation you have with your children. Knowing they’re there is only part of the battle…remembering they’re there is the another part. Knowing how to avoid them…and get out of them once trapped…is the rest of it.
Trap #1: “What I have to say is more important than what they have to say.”
This was the situation from the opening story. Suddenly, in my mind, my words were inspired and everything else was just drivel. Words are one of the main tools that God has given us and our children to communicate. Your 4 year old…your 14 year old…your 24 year old…all have the God-given tool of words.
When they speak, it may be to deflect responsibility or to deny culpability…sure. But it may be to explain something you do not yet know. In the former case, you are better positioned to help them once you’ve heard them. In the latter case, your decisions can be informed by actual facts instead of your mistaken understanding.
Trap #2: “I am only addressing the problems in my children.”
In every conversation you have, be aware of the gentle knock of sin at your door. It may come subtly in the form of self-righteousness. It may come blatantly in the form of anger. It may come disguised as parental concern or with no disguise at all in the form of annoyance. The siren call of a book you were reading or quiet moment you were enjoying may cause you to want to end the conversation prematurely, introducing you to the sin of selfishness.
When you are talking about problems your children are having or a decision they are facing, always assume that your sin wants to make an uninvited appearance. Ask God to make you more aware of the sin you are contributing than you are of the sin you are addressing.
Trap #3: “Now that we’ve talked about it, it won’t come up again.”
Have you ever had sin in your life that didn’t completely go away the first time you worked on it? I have, too…nearly every day. And so will your children. Yes, some of it is childishness. But the better and more comprehensive explanation is that it’s part of the fallen state we find ourselves in.
Remember that you, too, are in that position. If you find yourself saying those dreaded words, “I can’t believe we have to talk about this again,” know that you’ve fallen into Trap #3…and Traps #1 and #2 as well.
Like you, your children are people in process. Join with them on their walk and arrive together, on the same team and on the same page. If you’re regularly for them, you’ll find you avoid the hazards of the communication traps.