It Turns Out That Kids Do Sometimes Hear You

Sometimes I’m tempted to believe that my kids’ ears are constructed in just the right way to filter out the things that I want them to hear. Or maybe that I’m in the midst of a bizarre dream in which no one (read: my kids) can recognize the sound of my voice.

I suppose I could also chalk it up to a language barrier. Or—more clever on my kids’ part—a pretend language barrier:

But while I often find myself feeling much like Chris Tucker in the above clip (which likely says more about me than it does my kids), there is evidence that my kids can actually hear important things.

I’ll give you an example. Last Sunday, my wife brought our first grader into the worship service with her. I would have never thought of this, but since she’s the savvier parent in the equation, she decided to write some impromptu fill-in-the-blank questions to help him track with the sermon. She later showed me the results. The answer that stood out to me the most was this one:

Turn from    gogel    and turn to    Jeses     to be accepted by God.

If you were in The Crossing’s worship service on Sunday, you might remember that Keith mentioned a series of questions that Google once used to hire new employees. Understandably, they were designed to separate the brilliant and highly motivated from the merely average, allowing the cream to rise to the top, so to speak. By contrast, the gospel works on the basis of Jesus’ merit, not mine. And given that no one can put together a moral resume to earn God’s favor, this is really good news.

So for all its child-like concreteness, I found my son’s answer to be very encouraging. One of the last things I want him to do is grow up believing his relationship with God is fundamentally based on his merit or lack thereof. Seen in that light, turning from “gogel” to “Jeses” is exactly what I want him to do.

But here’s the thing: I don’t think my son is all that unusual in beginning to understand truths like these. For all the above complaints, I’m actually struck at how much kids his age and even much younger can sometimes understand. All of which is a modest argument for parents and others who work with kids to think about at least three things:

1. You can’t start too early.

I’m all for age-appropriate communication, etc. But it’s never too early to start laying the foundation and framework for the truths and promises that our kids will never outgrow. We should do it in age appropriate ways, but by all means let’s do it.

2. Repetition, repetition, repetition

The road to understanding—whether for kids or adults—often goes through multiple conversations, observations, examples, and other kinds of learning. And prayers. Don’t forget the prayers. Gratification in this area is rarely of the instant variety.

3. If kids can learn the positive, they unfortunately can also pick up on the negative.

I was reflecting on this very thing after I had smacked the arm of my couch in exasperation while watching a football game over the weekend. This may be obvious, but it bears repeating (remember point #2): kids are constantly watching the adults around them, and more than a little rubs off. So while kids will learn, for example, when you regularly thank God for his good gifts and ask him for his guidance, they will also learn when you react to slow traffic, the kid disaster that just occurred on your living room carpet, and costly interceptions by your favorite football team. Among other things, this means that we need to get used to communicating with our kids how much Mommy and Daddy need God’s grace too. 

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