STEVE COKER: Sounds of silence
I always loved the Bible story in Genesis when God confronts Adam in the garden concerning his absence and hiding from Him. It seems that afternoon Adam and Eve failed to show up at their regular “coffee break” and fellowship. God asked Adam, “Where are you?” Adam obediently replied, “I heard the sound of Thee in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid myself.”
I love the Lord’s classic reply, “Who told you that you were naked?” (Genesis 3:8-11, ASV)
God was not concerned about their nakedness, but rather what they had been up to (visiting with the serpent).
Often in dealing with our children, we too need to be concerned with “what they have been up to.” All busy moms will tell you that the most dangerous time is not when the small children are loud, joyful and screeching playfully in the house. The time to worry is when there is silence. Silence means that experimentation is taking place. That’s when water colors are being painted on the bedroom wall, the dog is being blow-dried in the micro wave or little brother is in the toilet making bubbles with the brush and cleaner.
Silence is golden, but dangerous.
That is not only true with little children but big ones as well. Try to engage your children in meaningful conversations each day. Meaningful means one with more than a one-word answer.
The most common sentence that parents ask their children is, “How was school today?” Yes, and that is followed by a one-word answer usually ending the discussion. Try and structure your questions in ways that encourage feedback. Examples include, “Tell me what you learned in science today,” or “How did you feel about the spelling test and why?”
Getting information from middle school kids is different. They are going through major identity crisis and are moody, sad or excited all the time. Sometimes all at once. You may avoid conversation with them altogether because, “It’s just too complicated.”
Don’t let the dialogue stop!
The silence is when trust breaks down and you lose touch. Parents should listen closely to the answers they receive to their questions from their children and know – yes, know – they are no better than Adam and Eve. If a falsehood is easier than the truth, then know that it is always a possibility, especially if the pieces to the puzzle don’t fit neatly together.
Remember that with Middle School children, when the door to their rooms is closed and the music gets louder, the “big change” has begun. That is a normal development process, but being non-communicative with you is not.
Remember that even God did not accept Adam’s absence from their daily talk and He pursued Adam, not because of his disobedience, but because he loved him. It is our job as parents to keep a hand in the activities of children whether they like it or not. And yes, there are periods where you trust them and let them go on their own, but not all at once. It is a process.
And, by the way, if you’re going to tell a falsehood about what kind of clothes you need, try to do better than fig leaves, they itch! I used to climb the fig tree for Grandmother to get figs for jam. Her fig jam was worth fighting off the birds and the minor rash from the leaves. Some things are worth the effort, so are our children!
Dr. Steve Coker is Superintendent of the Houston School District. He can be reached at 456-3332.
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