Saturday, June 7, 2008

Chapter 10 - Embracing Biblical Methods: A Life of Communication

Saturday's Shepherding a Child's Heart.

Living a lifestyle of communication requires effort. Tedd Tripp had an excellent example about communication being a lifestyle and not just an event. He discusses how parents fail when we only talk with our children when something is wrong. We should be communicating with them (about God especially) at all times. As listed in Deuteronomy 6, we should communicate while lying down, waking, rising, walking, sitting, and so on.

Tripp reminds us that "honest, thorough, truly biblical communication is expensive." Good opportunities to communicate with our children will not always be at opportune times. They may be struggling with an issue and want to talk while you're cooking dinner or getting ready for bed. Tripp says we must be ready to seize these opportunities when they most naturally arise. In addition to timing, the physical and spiritual energy necessary to communicate well with our children can sometimes be overwhelming. He says parents may miss opportunities because of exhaustion. As parents, we must have the mental stamina to keep our thoughts focused. In one paragraph (5th paragraph, pg 95), Tripp lists a great list of Christian dynamics we need to model for our children.

Yet in addition to being costly, biblical communication yields great blessings. Tripp analyzes the costs versus benefits. For starters, this type of communication is what "cements" a parent and child together in terms of relationship. Tripp goes on to give an excellent model of what he calls the "Authority / Influence Continuum." I will not post it here for copyright constraints but I'll explain it a bit. On the left, vertical axis of the chart, there is "authority" at the top and "influence" at the bottom. On the horizontal axis, is the age of a child from 0 to 18. Initially, (at birth), the authority of the parent is at it's peak and the influence is at it's lowest point. As the child ages, the authority decreases steadily as the influence increases. In the end, (age 18), influence has peaked and authority is at it's lowest point. Basically, Tripp is graphically depicting that as the child is younger, the parent still has things such as strength, speed, size, etc. on his side. He has complete authority (in this sense of the word) over the child. Yet as the child ages and gets bigger, stronger, etc., the parent's authority will not have as great of an effect as does his influence. This is why we need to be growing in our communication and building the type of a relationship the child will respond to. Tripp says that "influence represents the willingness of a child to place himself under authority because of trust." When our children trust us, our words will have weight.

Our children need communication skills for every facet of their lives. From future interaction with peers, employers, employees, spouses, etc., these skills are necessary. Tripp calls communication "the art of expressing in godly ways what is in my heart and of hearing completely and understanding what another thinks and feels." Don't we want our children to be able to do that? What a better place to teach our children the art of communication than home? The more we communicate with our children, the more we are helping them to understand themselves and the world around them. We are giving them a biblical understanding of life. Then, once they are on their own, they can respond in biblical ways themselves.

Tripp closes the chapter by reinforcing the cost versus benefit scheme. Biblical communication with our children will take time, energy, effort and most of all, sacrifice. We must regard parenting as one of our most important tasks while our children are at home. There will be many things (even good ones) that we'll have to set aside during this time in order to be the parents we are called to be. Yet in the end, the fruit we bear (with God's help) will be beyond the joy of those shorter-term desires. May God lead us and forbear with us during this season of our lives.

In Christ,

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