The second attitude of Evangelical Parenthood lies in a readiness for dialogue. All too often, as a parent, we can be “preachy”. That is, we desire to control any conversation to the extent that there may be a difference of opinion or lack of time. We, some of us more than others, really need to try and avoid this temptation. Here are a few things to keep in mind as we attempt to cultivate this attitude of readiness to dialogue:
1. Remember that “di” means two. A “dialogue” means that words flow between two persons on a particular topic. Our kids need to know that we care about what they have to say or what they are feeling. So, make sure we participate in dialogues daily with our children. Because of time or because we know we are right on a subject, we can turn a dialogue into a monologue, a sermon. Oh, there are times for sermons. However, we need to make time for dialogues, for conversations. Even if we know we are right, walking them through our way of thinking can actually have a much more lasting impact on our children than a sermon. It may take more time, but it probably will have a more lasting impact.
2. Have set times to talk at least weekly with your child. For us, having a set date night with a child once every couple or three months can partially fill this need. The “date night” can be a time of more intimate and less time-constrained conversation. However, two or three months is too long between discussions. So, time should be made or at least captured regularly. In our home, we “capture” time on the way to a practice or on the way over to a friend’s house to spend the night. It might be only 10 minutes, but if taken advantage of over time, those little “spurts” of dialogue add up, and they communicate a readiness to dialogue. Have some questions ready to get a dialogue going. Here are some that we use, “What was the hardest thing you did today?”, “What made you laugh today?”, “What was the most annoying thing that happened to you today”, “What are you most proud of today?” Be ready to answer the question yourself as an example. Pray for them to be truly open with their response. Listen to them and see where it goes. The purpose, more than anything, is to show them that you care about what they have to say.
3. Have set times to dialogue with your spouse regarding your children. Date nights, couch time, kitchen time, or car time must be part of a daily, certainly a weekly, routine. Date nights are very important. However, for us, they happen intermittently. A lot can happen with our children in between our date nights. Parents must dialogue daily, and the kids should be part of the conversation. Day to day, parents, particularly the one who spends more time with them (like a stay at home mom), should have a pretty good gauge on what children are struggling with, what they need help with, etc. So, make time to talk together. Set 15 – 20 minutes aside right after work in order to discuss the kids and their behavior on the couch in the living room or in the kitchen while you get dinner ready. Don’t wait until bed time. It’s too important. Literally, set a timer for 20 minutes and tell the kids, barring a fire in the house, a flood, or blood, that mom and dad need to talk without interruption. Make it sacred time. Make it visible to the kids as well. Go sit on the couch or hang out in the kitchen and talk. Discuss any particular situation that happened that day or even a recurring problem with a child. Discuss how the two of you together are going to try to handle it. It’s a time to get on the same page. If we can’t make couch or kitchen time, sometimes we’ll go together to take one of the kids to practice and discuss on the way there and on the way back. We have car time. Bottom line, parents must have a readiness for dialogue between each other.
4. Be ready for unplanned, but necessary dialogue. Not everything in a family can fit perfectly into a schedule. Emergencies happen. As such, we have to be flexible with our time, particularly as it pertains to dialogue between a parent and a child. The child needs to know that you are available if something happens. Be known for being available to talk if the son strikes out to lose the game or if the daughter and her best friend have had a fight. If they are crying or are very happy, make time for them to be able to dialogue with you. Sometimes, those times come at less than opportune moments. Stop what you are doing and have a conversation. Be known for your readiness to dialogue.