“Alright,” I announced, “we are going to play the quiet game!” Our kids were still young enough to fall for what must be one of the oldest tricks in the parenting book. The trick almost every parent uses when they need a little peace and quiet.
And sure enough, it worked – for three and a half sweet and treasured minutes. Bliss, really. My wife and I drove, with four of our children in the back of our minivan, in complete silence. No talking. Of course, that didn’t last long!
The truth is, every parent, especially with young children, needs those breaks. Less talking, not more. But the other reality is that as our kids turn into teens and young adults, we need to talk more, not less. And not just talk, but talk in meaningful ways.
The Bible presents the family as one of the primary vehicles for passing on faith to the next generation. Not the church. Not a youth pastor. Not a coach. But YOU, a mom or dad.
The Old Testament book of Deuteronomy contains one of the key passages of Scripture where God describes his purpose for a family. As Moses stood before the Israelite community, he said:
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:4–9 NIV)
Right there in the middle of God’s vision for parents to pass on faith is the word, “talk.” God commands our speech in the spiritual development of our children. Speaking to and with our children is a key ingredient God uses in the process of spiritual growth and maturity.
Recent research suggests that only “twelve percent of youth have a regular dialogue with their mom on faith or life issues. One out of twenty kids, or 5 percent, has regular faith conversations with their dad.”
Fewer families are spending time together, let alone, spending time together talking about what matters most. Family discipleship, or forming faith in our children, is a combination of learning, listening, watching, and doing. Talking and listening creates an environment for a child’s heart to be heard and understood. It also cultivates an atmosphere of being able to receive God’s love and truth.
Talking more may look like transforming the ordinary and mundane activity of driving a child somewhere into an opportunity to communicate. It’s asking God to redeem that time and lead the conversation in a way that serves His purposes. It might look like scheduling regular time together with a child over breakfast or ice cream. Perhaps it’s pursuing a hobby, with the goal of spending more time together. Or maybe it’s just being more intentional with time together at dinner or before bed.
Here are a few practical ideas:
- Schedule regular times as a family to read and discuss a book of the Bible or devotional together
- Give your child a weekly verse to memorize and journal about – then discuss together as a family
- Share what God is teaching YOU
- Ask questions aimed at the heart – What are you worried about right now? What are you most excited about right now? What are you struggling with? Where do you need to trust God more?
As parents, we are called to be the primary spiritual influence in our child’s life. And one of the necessary ingredients for training and transforming a child’s heart is talking. So, let’s make a choice to spend more time talking with our children starting today!
Patrick Schwenk is a husband, father, pastor, and author. Along with his, wife, Patrick is the creator of For the Family and the author of For Better or For Kids: A Vow to Love Your Spouse with Kids in the House.