Why Parents Don't Talk to Their Kids
We are discussing the topics that you should be talking to your kids about instead of someone else. In these first few posts I am dealing with some foundational issues that I think are critical to these otherwise difficult conversations. With this post I want to discuss why parents don’t talk to their kids.
According to Deuteronomy 6:4-9 the home is the primary vehicle of modeling and teaching Biblical values to our children. Sadly the home is becoming little more than a shelter for a couple of adults with a couple of kids. A lot of people talk about their marriage is like two ships passing in the night. If this is true of marriages, when it comes to parenting the house has become a harbor at shift change. Why don’t parents talk to their children?
- Parents have farmed out their time to coaches.
While the days have not gotten longer, the demands on our time have certainly increased. It is hard to tell whether this is out of necessity or choice, but we have no doubt become a culture that values busyness. In the bygone agrarian era everything from school schedules to daylight savings time was determined by the demands on the family farm. Now the demands are due to the farm leagues. Farm leagues? Yes, we once called it rec. ball, but the city league has long been cashed in for round the clock developmental leagues, clinics, and personal coaching. When I was a kid I played baseball, basketball, and soccer in the rec league. We practiced once or twice a week and had a game on Saturday morning. Now the season never ends, the coaching never stops, and what was once a minor part of our lives has become a verifiable industry. Family time is spent in the car going from one practice to another. Momma is not a nurturer, she is a carrier.
A generation ago the goal we had for our kids was for them to be godly, well adjusted, hard working, and respectful. Now our goals are less centered on morality and more centered on achievement. Now we want our kids to be piano virtuosoes that can jump higher and run faster. We want our daughters to be beauty queens with great curve balls. The time we once spent with our kids as parents has now been farmed out to coaches. Perhaps it is time to re-evaluate our values. Your coach may be a great guy, but only you can be a great mom or dad to your kids. Coaches are replaceable. Your role in your kid’s lives is invaluable. Don’t farm it out that easily.
- Underestimating what it means to talk.
Most people think they have talked to their kids about certain topics merely because they have been mentioned. “Don’t ever let me catch you ________________.” Glad we could talk.
Mentioning something is not communication. Expecting something is not communication. Communication in the technical sense is sending a message and making sure that message is received. Where we fail with our children is that we send the message, but we do not do the hard work of reinforcement, explanation, modeling, and questioning that is necessary for message reception. It takes time and attention to talk. Conversations about the difficult topics are not mentionables we mark off of a list. Conversations about the difficult topics start early and are ongoing. You were introduced to simple addition in the first grade. By your senior year of high school you may have been in pre-cal or calculus. Each year that conversation grew and was constantly reinforced. The strategic nature of developing math skills is much the same way we must talk to our kids about the difficult topics. Start early. Talk often. Allow the conversation to grow.
- Technologically interrupted.
When a family does find time at the table to talk, most of their time is spent looking at their phones. The living room no longer has anything to do with life, the living room has become little more than a family sized theater. Families do not share stories, they watch them. One of the most effective things you can do as a family is technologically detox. Turn the television off. Put the phones away. Talk about the day.
- Culturally incapable.
The world my father grew up in was different than the world his parent’s grew up in, but not that much different. The world I grew up in, was very different than my father’s childhood environment. The world my kids are growing up in, doesn’t even resemble the world of my childhood.
You and I are digital immigrants. Our kids are digital natives. Information sharing and social connection through devices developed in my lifetime. I remember the world without connectivity. Your kids have never known a world without constant digital connections. You and I made friends with the kids down the street. Our kids make friends while they sleep. They wake up every morning, grab their phones only to find who is new to their network. Your kids will never roll down a window, rewind a tape, or borrow a quarter to make a phone call. If you want to reminisce but realize how foreign you and I are to our children’s world, check out Steve Cichon’s article on the Huffington Post website. He found an ad from Radio Shack, 1991. Of the 15 things listed for sale in the ad, 13 of them you can now do with your phone.
While we may be digital immigrants we should not be digital exiles. Technology has changed. People haven’t. The common refrain of Ecclesiastes holds ever true, “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9 ESV).” At their heart, your kids are struggling with nothing different than your grandma did when she was 12. The only difference is speed and access. Parent’s are not called to tame technology. Parents are called to shepherd their child’s heart.
- Culturally overwhelmed.
A lot of parents don’t talk to their kids about the difficult topics because they feel as if it will do no good. Our kids see and hear way too much. While this may be true, realize that the Bible was written to a minority people (1 Peter 1:1). The kids of 1st century Christians saw persecution, but they were still expected to be raised godly. In the midst of the cultural chaos the first Christians encountered on a daily basis, Peter assured them of his confidence in the power of God, the gospel, and of His Word operating in their lives (2 Peter 1:3-11). The church is not called to deal with the culture, but to counter it. Our kids need to see in our homes that the way we are called to live as Christ followers may not be the same as the surrounding culture they see around them, but it is certainly not subpar. Think about what you are competing with - kids who are neglected, kids who want boundaries, marriages that are miserable, homes in chaos - is it really that hard to point out the differences and say to our children, “look at the fruits of following Christ?”
- Culturally ill-equipped.
Many parents do not talk to their children about the difficult topics for one simple reason, their parents didn’t talk to them. We are the latch-key kids. Our parents gave us instruction manuals and told us to figure it out for ourselves. You may be a new Christian and it is not so much that your parents didn’t talk to you, it is that the content for your new way of life is foreign to you. You have some serious catching up to do.
Either way, never underestimate how much your kids want to hear from you. Break the cycle, don’t repeat it. Invest time and talk to your kids. A recent survey of teens shows that 85% of kids say they would turn down a night with their friends for a night to eat dinner with their parents at home. Dust off the table in your house - that convenient collection apparatus is actually a powerful tool to foster critical conversations.
In Judges 2:6-14 we have the disturbing story of a lost generation. There arose a generation after Joshua that did not know God. Why? They didn’t talk. What God charged them to do in Deuteronomy 6:4-9, to model and teach in the home, was neglected. The culture may not change, but you can change the amount of time you spend talking to your kids. The Bible doesn’t blame the churches, schools, coaches, or any other institutions. The failure was in the home. It is time to talk to our kids.