(This month’s MP3 version of the Dad’s Corner is available.)
As we travel giving conferences we take great delight in speaking with the parents and children of homeschooling families. However, I am often quite shocked at how few teens and even young adults can carry on a conversation. I know this lack of conversation skills is typical for those children who come from the public school environment, but I expected more from homeschooled children. I’m confident they are somewhat better than the average public schooled teen, but if that describes your children, is that good enough for you? Don’t you want your children to excel in all areas?
Whether your children are homeschooled, Christian schooled, or public schooled have you ever considered how important conversation skills are for them not only in their lives right now but also their future? Think about how any relationship is developed. Isn’t it mostly accomplished through verbal communication? If our children can’t carry on a conversation with us, then we really aren’t able to know the hearts of our children nor are they able to really know our hearts. They won’t relate to us, and we won’t relate to them. We will live in two different worlds. With good conversation skills, however, we can develop and maintain the kinds of relationships that we want to have with our children—relationships that will last a lifetime because of the bonds of love that have developed. I want that with my children, and I believe you do as well.
Here’s another relationship to consider—the marriage relationship. A young man approaching a girl’s father interested in courting his daughter had better be a capable and persuasive conversationalist. Two young people courting, falling in love, and moving toward marriage need to be able to share with each other on a deeper level than discussing the weather or what they did that day. For their marriages to stand the test of time, our children will have to be able to compassionately, engagingly, and lovingly talk to their spouses with a genuine interest in their lives.
Are your children interested in being entrepreneurs and starting their own businesses during their teen or young adult years? While there are many qualities that will help them toward this goal, knowing how to easily talk to people is one of the most important skills they can possess. Almost every area of a business will involve talking to people. From initial investigations about the business they are interested in—to cultivating suppliers—to generating customers—our children will have to be able to carry on knowledgeable, articulate, and professional conversations. No matter your child’s future employment/occupation, conversation skills will be key.
Most Christian parents want their children to be salt and light in a dark world. “Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:13-16). In order for our children to fulfill this calling of God on their lives, they will find it necessary to be able to carry on powerful conversations – conversations that expound the joy of the Lord in their lives and ones that can direct others to a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Conversation skills open up so many possibilities in our children’s lives. When our children know how to have a conversation, they are able to learn valuable lessons and information from others. Each conversation presents the opportunity to learn new knowledge and skills from another and to build long-term relationships. Conversation skills allow our children to communicate what they are learning and what they have experienced.
I believe many families think their children will simply become proficient conversationalists through their growing up years without any parental input or teaching in this area. Judging by my conversations with teens and young adults, it seems this might be a false premise. What about your children? Have you considered and evaluated their conversation skills? If those skills are poor, I expect you would like to remedy that. I think with discipleship and practice even those young people who are already good conversationalists will greatly improve. For me personally, I am always on a quest to grow in my conversational abilities as are my children.
Many who know my children comment on their ability to start and maintain a conversation. They will tell me they would like for their children to be the kind of conversationalists that my children are. Let me assure you, that didn’t happen automatically for our children. Through the years we made conversation skills an emphasis in our family, and we regularly worked on developing those skills. We critiqued each other in family conversations, and when we were with other people we focused on what we could learn from them while we engaged them in conversation.
If you would like assistance in the practical area of helping your children learn how to carry on a conversation, we have just released a book on this very topic. It is called Making Great Conversationalists. We gave it that title because we know parents can have a profound impact on whether their children are great conversationalists or not.
Because there is such a need in families to teach their children how to be proficient conversationalists and because knowing how to converse has such a dramatic effect in so many areas of life and because the Lord was showing us how to help children learn to talk to people, we put that information together to allow other parents to experience the same success with their children. Making Great Conversationalists is a practical book that equips you to work with your children on their conversation skills whether they are beginners, intermediates, or advanced.
A man or woman who is a dynamic conversationalist has so much potential in many areas of life such as relationships, business, or even sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Do you desire that future for your children? Can I encourage you right now to begin helping your children toward that goal? If you feel you are lacking in conversation skills maybe it starts with your own personal desire to grow in order to be able to teach your children. You can do it together. Either way, it is time to equip our children in this critical area of life. It begins with a conscious decision that now is the time. Will you make that decision? We’ve found it to be a delightful process.