I was the worst. As a young mom I often chatted on the phone with friends during the day (with texting this is much less common now) or had conversations with my husband about my fears or struggles or the slow grocery clerk or the telemarketer on the phone that day. If I could have shared one piece of advice to my younger self it would be this: children hear everything.
We may think we have lowered our voices but they have some kind of radar. They not only hear the words but they pick up our emotions too. Why are we surprised when we see those emotions come back at us from little ones? Fear is learned – when they see mom fearful they learn to be fearful. That is one thing I really wish I had not passed along to my children. When we argue or are harsh it unsettles their worlds and makes them feel insecure.
I have shared this story before but it is appropriate here again. Many years ago, my husband and I were seated at the table in our kitchen having a subdued but somewhat heated disagreement. Our eight year old son was nowhere to be seen. We thought we were keeping our voices low enough so as not to be overheard. After several minutes, our son came into the kitchen and laid one of his K’nex creations on the table in front of me that spelled “LOVE.” He pointed to it and said, “Mom, try that.” I was amazed at his insight, blessed by his wisdom, annoyed that he didn’t lay it in front of my husband and say, “Dad, try that.”
We thought we were having a private argument – but kids hear and sense way more than we think. I guess I write this to warn and remind parents and grandparents something you already know – kids hear way more than we think they can hear. They cannot interpret adult conversations about world events or friends that are struggling or our boss at work that is harsh. They overhear conversations about themselves too! They sense anger, fear, disappointment and unbelief. We need to be mindful of what we are communicating to them and modeling for them even when they are not in the room.
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:29
Consider what this looks like in our homes where children are present – is our conversation building them up according to their needs and are they benefiting from what they hear?
Written by Diane Hunt: Diane Hunt serves on the board of America’s Keswick and is the Executive Director & CEO of Changed Choices, a Christian non-profit in North Carolina. She is also a biblical counselor and women’s event speaker. For more information about having Diane speak at your next event please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Think About This: “It is the most counterintuitive aspect of Christianity, that we are declared right with God not once we begin to get our act together but once we collapse into honest acknowledgment that we never will.” ―