Kid Talk: Four Ideas for Increased Connection

14 04 2016

Speaking with children is a bit of an art. As adults, we spend a lot of time thinking and speaking with our adult vocabulary. Children need simple words, shorter sentences, essential truth and vivid examples. This isn’t too difficult to accomplish, but takes some conscious thought and consistent effort. Just talk. Keep it simple. No need to baby-speak. Don’t muddy the waters with complicated ideas. Pass on what is most important. And, by the way, learning the habit of communicating simply will help you understand difficult concepts too.

Jesus used simple language.

-Rick Warren

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance…

-Paul (1 Corinthians 3:3)

Simple Words

When you speak with children it doesn’t mean you treat them as less intelligent, but you will connect with them better when you use words that they are familiar with. Remember, they haven’t encountered nearly the amount of words you have as an adult. So turn phrases like, “eternal life” into “forever life.” It means the same thing when you elaborate on it in conversation, it’s more fun to say and it hits home. Try simply talking to children and not talking down to them or over their heads. Aaron Reynolds, a crazy good kid communicator, says it this way, “You’re just talking, just sharing something cool. Casual. Real. Personal. This tone draws them in rather than pushing them away.”

Shorter Sentences

The NIrV is a children’s translation of the Bible. It is a great example of how shorter sentences are easier to read. They are also helpful in comprehension. Shorter sentences help you take a breath between thoughts. Doing this increases your ability to process. Ephesians 1 contains a long and masterful sentence. But try reading that to a child. You couldn’t expect them to understand. Even adults will need to read that sentence very slowly and deliberately. Then to grasp it fully, adults would need to break it down into connected thoughts. Turn a big idea into a memorable and repeatable phrase such as, “God is super strong!”

Essential Truth

Stick to the most important things. Sometimes we just want to dump all of our knowledge into children’s brains, but brains don’t work that way, especially kids brains. So stick to the essential truth you want to communicate for the moment and repeat it in different ways. Paul received essential truth and passed it on. While much of his writing is complex, he nonetheless continues to return to what’s essential. Everything he writes about is expanding on the idea that 1. God wants us to belong to him and 2. He makes this possible through Jesus who died, was buried and came back to life. (Notice the simpler word choice of “came back to life,” instead of “rose again.”)

Vivid Examples

Remember that kids have difficulty thinking in abstract terms. So consistently bring in tangibles, visuals, everyday objects, common experiences. If you’re talking about water, go get some! If you want children to see what Jesus means when he talks about the vine. Show a picture or bring in a real one…with grapes to share! Jesus communicated simply even with adults. To talk about the Kingdom of God, an extremely abstract concept, he used seeds, sheep, trees, birds, dirt, pearls, and on and on.

Let’s just talk to kids this week and enjoy the simplicity that comes from that!

Lord, thank you for the simple truths of life.

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Express: Creative Communication

2 06 2015

The other day, I was talking with my kids about the movie Big Hero 6. In it Hiro and Baymax, his mechanical nurse, have the following interaction:

[Hiro and Baymax are inside a creepy abandoned warehouse. Baymax sneaks up behind Hiro.]

Baymax: Hiro?

Hiro: [Screams] You gave me a heart attack!

Baymax: [Rubs his hands together] My hands are equipped with defibrillators. [Moves his hands towards Hiro] Clear!

Hiro: [Alarmed] STOP, STOP, STOP, STOP! It’s just an expression!

Expressions are clever phrases we use in our communication that can easily be misinterpreted. In talking with children, it’s good to use clear, understandable and creative expressions to communicate.

How do you use creative and loving expressions with children?





Herman and Communication!

28 09 2011

Photo by John Dusseault

I’m currently taking a class called Hermeneutics. It has nothing to do with comics or anyone named Herman. It’s a Fancy Nancy word for understanding or interpretation. In my case, it’s specifically the skill of effectively interpreting Scripture. One of the challenging aspects of hermeneutics is it’s complexity along with the striving that is necessary for good interpretation. The challenge is to really make the effort to understand the text being read and not passively assume. From a roundtable discussion I viewed there was a comment on how sin corrupts our efforts in interpretation, which makes it all the more important to work hard at hermeneutics. Also said was that pain motivates. So our pain of sin should motivate us toward a complete understanding of God’s Word that brings peace and real life even though we cannot fully attain it in this life. We tend to deny our own presuppositions (sub-conscious conclusions) and come closed-minded and stubborn. This is something we must work hard to overthrow so that we can let God speak and transform. Beyond the general attitude of striving to understand, there is also the complexity of learning a wide variety of skills that aid in understanding.

Now, I have a wife, three children and a foster girl. There is constant work that must be done in our communication to ensure peaceful relationships. Maintaining peace in the home is difficult when individuals get frustrated about how others misunderstand them. Unnecessary offences can occur unless there is patience shown by listening well. Another benefit to good communication is jobs well done. For example, if my wife is going away she may need to leave me a list of how I can take care of the kids and home. I’ll then need to make sure I clarify with her my understanding of the list so that I can successfully carry it out. Then, of course, I need to put it into practice. If my three year old is telling me a story, as he did about a giant whale this morning, there is a strong likelihood that I will not get most of it. So I need to pay extra careful attention, asking good questions to do my best to understand him. Good hermeneutics is hugely important for Bible study and all relationships.

 





Behaviour Modification or Biblical Correction?

30 07 2011

I’ve been thinking about my use of consequences as I parent and lead children. Consequences are a powerful motivator for making right choices and avoiding the wrong. So they are needed for guiding children.

However, there is a word of caution for relying solely on consequences. Relying on them is merely behaviour modification. This is actually damaging because simply changing behaviour is self-reliant and exterior. As parents who believe in and follow Jesus we know that we cannot save ourselves or grow our character apart from his redeeming and sanctifying work. We are not self-reliant, but Christ-reliant. And the way Christ works is by transforming the heart not putting a vain polish on our appearance.

We reap what we sow. If you plant a fern you will grow a fern. Likewise, if you sow anger you will reap anger. So as parents we can help children recognize the implications of their choices with appropriate consequences.

Tedd and Margy Tripp have written a book called Instructing a Child’s Heart. In it, I came across a quote that provides a solid distinction between the worldly approach to parenting called behaviour modification and the Godly approach they call biblical correction. They write,

“We do not depend on consequences to alter behavior. We want to train the heart of the child. In behavior modification, consequences are the means of shaping or manipulating behavior. In biblical correction and discipline, consequences are a means of demonstrating, in a sensory way, the importance of the spiritual consequences that are accruing in relationship to God, to others and to ourselves.”

Therefore, communication is vital for parenting. We can’t slap down consequences and expect children to turn out right. We have to do the hard work of explaining what Christ wants to accomplish in our hearts. The consequences are a way to help make that conversation happen.

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