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It poisons relationships. It steals into nearly every Facebook debate. It train-wrecks biblical one-anothering. And it’s present in 100% of broken relationships: Communication problems.
There isn’t an unbruised holiday, an unscarred hour, or an unsoiled event. Even in the midst of the most loving conversations, lies, silent treatment, screams, propaganda, cutting words, manipulation, and vitriol have appeared from thin air as suddenly and explosively as a Las Vegas magician.
We’re all guilty. But wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could eradicate all those needless communication problems in order to focus on the really important things? Instead of unraveling a knot of lies, we could seek forgiveness and restoration. Instead of disarming an exploding temper, we could focus on points of agreement. Instead of throwing verbal hand grenades designed to decimate our opponents, we could reason our ways toward a solution.
But more on that in a minute.
We recently received a new 5-star rating and review on iTunes! Woodland-Wanderer wrote,
“Truth.Love.Parent. is excellent for our Young Families’ Sunday School Class! So many of the [episodes] cover precise topics that are necessary for our young parents. They are simple yet deep and are easy to listen to. We also can print out the PDF show notes for them to study later!”
Thank you so very much, Woodland Wanderer! It’s exciting to hear how TLP is being used in new and unique ways to reach families!
Alright, so last time we discussed parenting a terrorist, and it’s impossible to have a terrorist in the home without communication problems. But whether we would classify our child as a terrorist or not, how do we address the massive communication issue that exists in all of our families? Just a couple days ago I was short with my wife. It didn’t glorify God, it wasn’t beneficial, in fact, it was harmful to the relationship. Thankfully forgiveness was sought and given and we’re moving on in Christ. Isn’t it wonderful when communication turns south, but we can get it back on track before there’s too much relational carnage!
To this end, I’d like to share a simple tool, and I pray it will be beneficial for your family both in both learning to communicate correctly and being reminded to communicate correctly.
I call it “The Communication House.”
The Communication House metaphorically represents all the communicating that occurs in our home. Most of it will be verbal, but it also includes non-verbals like body language. When I refer to being “in the House,” I’m talking about our communication lining up with the prescribed rules for family talk. Conversely, being “outside the House” occurs when our speech breaks the rules. Imagine trying to carry on a normal conversation where you’re on the inside of the house, behind closed doors and windows, and you’re trying to carry on a conversation with me when I’m on your front lawn.
That doesn’t work well.
Here are the Rules for using The Communication House:
- All communication from all family members at all times must stay “inside the House.”
- If any family member or members “leave the House” with their words, the discussion must immediately change to getting the family members’ communication back “in the House.” The initial topic of conversation cannot move forward as long as even one person refuses to talk about it “inside the House.”
- If the family member or members refuse to return to the house, one of two things must happen.
- The conversation must end until everyone can discuss it “in the House,”
- Or the family member whose communication is “outside the House” must stay quiet and listen until they’re ready to communicate “in the House” – consequently allowing the family members who are communicating inside the house to continue communicating.
- Assuming all family members either stay “in the House” or return “to the House,” the conversation can continue in a Christ-honoring way.
Okay, so that was pretty straightforward – four simple rules – but what’s all this “House” stuff really mean for our families?
The Communication House is built like this: I want you to picture a simple line drawing of a home. In your mind, see a straight line on the bottom – that’s the foundation. On the sides are two vertical lines – those are the walls, and, of course, the upside-down V on the top is the roof.
- The Foundation of the House is Truth.
- All communication must be honest. Proverbs 12:22 says, “Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord.” No lying is allowed in the House. This includes intentional and accidental lying. If I get angry and say, “My life is terrible!” I’ve just lied. If I got what I deserved, I would be in Hell. But my God is gracious and has given me a life infinitely greater than what I deserve. I’m also surrounded by people who love me in a comfortable home with toys and clothes that are luxurious compared to billions of people in the world. My life is not terrible, and I should not be allowed to lie about it. And even if I were to live in the vilest slum, hunted like an animal, and beaten within a hair of consciences . . . it would still be better than what I deserve.
- All communication must align to God’s revealed Truth. “Buy truth, and do not sell it; buy wisdom, instruction, and understanding.” Proverbs 23:23 “The sum of [God’s] word is truth” Proverbs 119:60. My daughter may be being honest when she says she believes it’s okay to be angry when people mistreat her. But God’s revealed in His Word that we’re never to respond selfishly. In fact, when people mistreat us, we’re to love them all the more. Our words must conform to God’s philosophy of life in order to be “truthful.”
So, here’s an example of how this works. My child has either deliberately or inadvertently lied. They’ve spoken words which contradict God’s Truth. My son has said,
“Do I have to eat my broccoli? It’s gross!”
I’ve chosen this example because it’s deceptively simple. Many of us would reply,
“Yes, eat all your vegetables.”
But the problem is that unless I address the issue, I’ve allowed my child to lie to himself and to me.
He lied by saying that broccoli is gross. You may agree with him, but as Christian parents we must be careful with our words. The words we choose and the tone we employ communicate so much meaning beyond the English syllables spoken. Yes, he may not like broccoli, and he may be welcome to express that fact in our homes, but by making the proclamation that broccoli is – in fact – categorically gross, then by making him eat it, I’m a terrible person. But the reality is that he doesn’t like broccoli. There are many people who enjoy it greatly, and he can be and should be one of those people too because we don’t give our child a rock when he asks for bread. We love them and feed them that which they need to eat.
My child’s proclamation that broccoli is gross reveals that he believes it’s okay to complain when faced with a situation he doesn’t like. This is false. Grumbling, murmuring, complaining, and griping are completely unacceptable for the Christian. They’re always a sin.
Of course, there are far clearer examples of lying, but hopefully this one will encourage you to start looking at your family’s communication more carefully.
Later this year I’ll share with you my absolute favorite book on communication. It’s called “War of Words” by Paul David Tripp, and it’s a must read for all parents. Maybe you can check it out before we discuss it.
Anyway, so my child says, “Do I have to eat my broccoli? It’s gross.” I immediately realize that my child has stepped his toe outside of the Communication House.
At this moment, no Christ-honoring communication can continue until everyone is back in the house. If I reply, “Yes, eat your broccoli.” and move on, I’ve given my child permission to stand outside the Communication House. And, as we’ll see in a minute, that will just make it easier for him to walk further and further from the House later.
So, instead of answering his question, I may do what Jesus did so often, and I ask him a question.
“Do you think that calling broccoli ‘gross’ pleases the Lord?”
Of course, in my home, that question is packed with meaning and context as we’ve discussed this topic very often. But in the event that I haven’t ever broached this concept before, I may have to explain myself.
“Micah (that’s my son’s name), broccoli is not gross. In fact, many people love broccoli – including me. You may not like it now, but I believe you can learn to like it. But the most important thing to remember is that God has blessed us with everything you see on this table. We don’t deserve any of this. In fact, we deserve to be in Hell because we’ve all sinned against God. But not only does He loves us enough to save us, He also loves us enough to give us healthy food. Complaining about His blessings shows a heart of ungratefulness and discontentment. So, please eat your broccoli without complaining. You may put a little salt on it if you like.”
Now, you may be thinking, “Really? You really would say all that?” Yes. You can ask my wife. Just to keep myself honest, I made sure to read that illustration to my wife, Johanna and before I could finish the “Really? You really would say all that?” she said, “Yes. Definitely, you would.”
Now, I wouldn’t say all of that to my child it every time, because after introducing the concepts, I would use them as a touchstone in future conversations.
But the point is, that as an intentional, premeditated parent who understands how important it is for a child to understand why he does what he does, I am totally prepared to point my son back to God’s Truth when he shows even the smallest hint of calling God a liar.
But, don’t be overwhelmed or discouraged. It takes practice to hear the subtle lies and address them biblically. But it’s so important. In Deuteronomy 6, our Heavenly Father declares to us,
“The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
It doesn’t sound too far fetched to suggest that we should be teaching these things to our children when they’re eating broccoli as well.
And this goes for our teenage daughters who tell us about an unchaperoned party she wants to go to with her high school friends, and you inform her why she won’t be going, and she replies “Everyone at school’s going to hate me!” She needs to understand the lies inherent in her communication, and God’s tasked you with teaching her that.
The foundation of our family’s communication must be Truth. If we can’t start there, we’ll never have a conversation, tell a joke, or give a lecture that glorifies God.
2. The second part of The Communication House is the four walls of Love. Imagine each of the four walls with a word written on it. Each word will represent a facet of biblical love.
a. Love is Humble (I Corinthians 13:4-5). Loving communication cannot be “me-versus-you.” Loving communication doesn’t brag or boast. It doesn’t display self-worship by insisting on its own way. Humble communication focuses on others and apologizes when it stops being humble.
b. Love is Patient (I Corinthians 13:4). Loving communication “suffers long.” It doesn’t lose it’s temper or give the silent treatment when it doesn’t get what it wants.
c. Love is Kind (I Corinthians 13:4, 7; Colossians 4:6). Loving communication builds people up. It’s encouraging, friendly, and gracious. Loving communication gives the benefit of the doubt. It doesn’t say hurtful things or “joke” in a way that tears people down. It also speaks Truth because it knows that lying to people about life is the most hateful thing to do. Therefore, it shines the light of the gospel to all it meets.
d. Love is Forgiving (Ephesians 4:32). People who humbly acknowledge how patient, kind, and forgiving their Savior’s been with them, have no problem forgiving those who sin against them.
Again, to the broccoli incident. I may also take the time to remind my son that proclaiming that the broccoli is gross is incredibly unkind to the person who made it. I’ll likely encourage him to apologize to the cook for being so obtuse.
But there’s also the possibility that the initial question, “Do I have to eat my broccoli?” is a manipulative tactic. It depends on your child, what expectations you’ve communicated them preciously, the tone of voice they used, etc. But, since we’re talking about my son, I can tell you that my wife and I have clearly communicated to him the Brewster way of eating. I can tell you categorically that my children know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are required to eat everything we give them. Asking to be excused from this Brewster-family-dinner-time-commandment is a subtle attempt to express autonomy. Most children learn early on that telling mommy and daddy “no,” is a no-go. So – motivated by the same heart of self-worship – they learn to modify the “no” into a statement or question that will hopefully get them what they want.
And this ties into the final part of The Communication House – the roof, which is conveniently shaped like an arrow pointing straight up, and that’s because . . .
3. The Roof of the Home Points toward God and His glory.
“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do [including communicating with your family], do all to the glory of God.” I Corinthians 10:31
a. Christ-honoring communication understands it will never accidentally glorify God, so it deliberately seeks to.
People whose communication is founded on Truth and built in Love cannot say anything that displeases the Lord. It’s the fulfillment of Augustine’s vision of a mature Christian: “Love God and [say] whatever you want.”
Again with the broccoli illustration. In a perfect word, the question “Do I have to eat my broccoli? It’s gross!” wouldn’t be spoken by my child because they would understand the reality of God’s provision, the importance of their continued maturity in culinary exploits, and the health benefits of broccoli. And for this reason they wouldn’t even think to ask to be excused form eating it or dare to possibly offend someone by critiquing it so harshly because their sole goal is the glory of God in eating broccoli.
But, none of our children are like that – because they’re sinners. And the reason God gave our children parents is to help them learn to live in a way that pleases Him. That involves correcting their acting, speaking, feelings, thinking, and believing.
Alright, so let me share with you a snippet from a video I found on YouTube. I’m linking it in the description not because I think you’ll want to watch it, but I want to be fair to the individuals who posted it.
The complete video is a little over 2 minutes and it’s a back and forth between a father and his very little girl over whether or not the number 4 comes between 3 and 5.
This was one of the only clean, mildly appropriate parent/child argument I could find on YouTube. By the way, don’t search YouTube for parents and children arguing. It will break your heard and sadden you to the core.
But this one won’t make you cry.
In situations like this it’s easy for the parents to find the humor. It’s ridiculous that this little person is even having this argument, but none of us are surprised because we know that foolishness and rebellion are inherent in the heart of every human being.
So, to begin we see that the little girl is clearly not communicating in the house. What she’s arguing is untrue, she’s likely doing it in an unintentionally disrespectful way because she’s immature, and I think it would be impossible to think she’s having this conversation because she wants to glorify God.
Now, I know nothing about this family, so let’s assume for a second that Dad is a Christian, and he genuinely wants to glorify his Lord. That’s not far-fetched because unlike most of the parents I’ve watched in YouTube parent versus child arguments, this one doesn’t lose his cool and get angry.
But, though his ultimate goal may be to glorify God, and though he appears to be meeting the love criteria alright – humble, patient, kind, and forgiving – and even though what he’s saying is honest and true, he’s still missing one significant element – he’s giving his daughter the impression that this conversation is okay.
And that’s not honest.
This young lady believes her father is untrustworthy. She’s also certain that telling her dad, “No!” is acceptable. And this poor little girl is finally believing the lie that as long as you argue what you believe with enough passion and with enough patience that the world will bow to you.
And dad should be the one to kindly and lovingly remind her that her worldview is faulty.
You see, our children “leave The Communication House” every time they lie or believe a lie, every time they’re unloving, and every time they have any goal other than God’s glory. None of those conversations ever work. They always end in relational carnage.
The little girl we heard eventually accepted her dad’s instruction that 4 follows 3, but she also received his tacit instruction that she can foolishly contradict him and disrespectfully argue with him and everything will be okay in the end.
Unless he teaches her to reject those lies, the next time she debates with him about broccoli, homework, the boy at school, or her eating habits she’ll be equipped with more passion, more volume, and more refined arguing abilities.
And because of this, I think you’re observant enough to see the real beauty of The Communication House. I suggested earlier that communicating “in the House” allows your family to focus on the more important issues instead of being distracted by the sins of the mouth.
But if we really communicate in God’s way for God’s reasons . . . there won’t be any “other issues”! Staying “in the House” is the greatest win-win for every relationship because it affects every facet of life and applies in every situation!
Little girl counts “1, 2, 3, 5.” Daddy says, “It’s 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.” Little girl can say, “Thank you Daddy! 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.”
Little girl says, “I don’t understand why I have to do all this homework.” Daddy says, “Remember that God loves you. He only gives you what’s good for you, and He commands that you trust Him and be thankful. Maybe we should take a little break, then we can ask God for learn thinking, and I can help you on number 4?” Little girl says, “Thanks for reminding me.”
Little girl says, “Dad, I think I love him!” Daddy says, “I’m so happy you have special feelings for this boy, but remember what God says about boys and girls. If he’s born again, you should treat him like a brother. And right now, you’re only fourteen. You’re not quite ready to meet your husband, but if you trust me, I’ll help you become the young lady the right young man will be attracted to, and then you can start learning about husband and wife love.” And little girl can say, “I’m really happy you know so much about God.”
Little girl says, “I think I’m getting fat.” Daddy says, “Your mom and I have done a good job teaching you about healthy eating and healthy weight. What makes you think you’re fat.” Daughter says, “The girls at school were making fun of me.” Daddy says, “I’m so sorry to hear that. Well, first, let me tell you that you’re not fat. Those girls were just trying to be unkind. God tells us that people will fight and argue and war and kill because they’re not getting what they want. I don’t know what those girls want so badly that they’re tempted to hurt you like that, but let’s talk about how you can love them like Jesus would.” And little girl says, “It’s hard to love people who hate you, but I’m glad God did it for me.”
Yeah, these illustrations seem fanciful. But you’ve been given to your children to help them mature into that kind of thinking. When we steep out minds in Truth, form our words in love, and live for God’s glory, we can spend more time growing in Christ instead of arguing in self.
Next time we’re going to discuss the indispensable parenting tool called Revolving Priorities. Understanding how to use that tool is instrumental in using The Communication House and dealing with terrorists the right way. As long as everyone in the house communicates correctly, there’re no issues, but whether he’s arguing about broccoli, the number four, or marijuana – you need to know how to get him back in the House.
And don’t forget to check out EvermindMinistries.com, where not only will you find the Episode Notes, but you’ll also find an image we’ve created that will visually represent the truths we’ve discussed today.
I encourage you to print it out, teach it to your family, frame it, and post it in a central location in your home (or multiple if necessary) in order to remind everyone in your home to keep their communication “in the House.”
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And sometimes people like to write us to get more information about a topic or to give them some counsel specific for their unique family needs. If that’s you, please don’t hesitate to contact us at counselor@EvermindMinistries.com
God’s the one who built The Communication House. It will stand against anything the world can throw at it. If you teach your children to keep all their communication and behavior in the House, you have taught them the most valuable lesson you can ever offer.