I love my children deeply but there are times when I feel an emotional or spiritual distance like they are drifting a little out of reach. Sometimes one or both of us are distracted or busy. The distance may be the result of my own selfishness or irritability or hurt that steams from anger. Sometimes we will have a hurtful exchange or they may say, “You don’t understand,” or “You don’t listen.” I have been humbled often to realize that there were important things I just did not know about my children. Those secrets are often used by the enemy of their souls to separate them from myself and their mother and eventually from God.
One of the most powerful ways to “discover” the heart of your son or daughter is to spend time listening to them. I like to plan and “event” that may be a full day or a weekend and include a specific hour or two of intense, focused listening.
I have taken my sons on camping and hiking trips for this purpose. I have spent the day with my daughters walking the lakeshore and having dinner and spending time on a long drive with the radio off talking. It can be as simple as going to breakfast together or going to a quiet cafe or coffee shop for a couple hours. We agree to turn off our cell phones and give that time to each other. During this event or session, thoughtful questions are a powerful instrument to become an expert at each child.
I try to ask questions, look them in the eyes, ask follow-up questions, hold my tongue, avoid lectures or exhortations, and try to probe down as many layers as I can. All I want to do is discover during this time. I don’t have to act or fix anything. Just careful listening is enough.
Listening your way into the heart of our sons and daughters helps me to identify the custom-made lies that Satan is using to try to destroy each one of them. I can take their answers to my wife and we can take them to the Lord together and plan projects, outings, assignments, and support that will help them. Each child has dreams, goals, and desires. Each child has fears, troubles, guilt, and hurts that they are unlikely to tell you unless you are skilled and diligent at asking questions.
The effect of these outings, sessions, questions, and projects is a growing “bond” between you and them. They know you care about them. You understand them and help them understand themselves. They see that you are devoted to their good and helping them achieve their dreams.
These questions have been floating around for years and I have found them to be very powerful. I think they originated in Mr. Gothard’s office, perhaps directly from his pen with the assistance of the men he was working with at the time. They are not original with me, but I have used them a lot and they are very powerful.
My (Youth Pastor) Son, Kyle called this evening and mentioned that some of the men in his church were meeting this evening and the material below was brought up in the conversation. Sometimes people have trouble finding this because it is buried in the archives, so I re-posted it here where it would be easy to find, at least for a while. If you are interested in a printed copy of this with come additional material, send me an e-mail and I will send it to you.
Duet. 6:4-9 Mal. 4:6
Set aside time just to ask questions and listen. Don’t teach or answer, just ask more questions and, if you need to, write the answers down. Make a careful study of each of your children. You could make a notebook for each child and record their answers in it.
1. What foods do you like or dislike the most?
(Goal) To break the ice.
2. Who is your best friend? I Cor. 15:33
(Goal) Who is the greatest influence of their peers?
3. Who do you most want to be like when you grow up? (Goal) Whoever it is they are moving toward that type of character.
4. What embarrasses you most in our family relationships?
(Goal) To discover what we are doing or what is going on in the family that causes them to reject themselves.
5. What is the greatest fear in you life?
(Goal) Tells us where Satan is getting into their lives. (Fear is of Satan)
6. What is your favorite activity?
(Goal) To design ways and projects to have special fellowship with your children. To have a better relationship.
7. What is your favorite song? Favorite kind of music? Favorite group?
(Goal) To see if we have a problem with music.
8. What person outside our family relationships has most influenced your life? How have they influenced you? (Goal) To determine who has influence over your children as role-models.
9. What do you like to learn about the most?
(Goal) To give direction for what to train them in.
10. What accomplishment in your life so far gives you the greatest sense of achievement?
(Goal) To discover what I can use to help build their self-worth and then put a spiritual emphasis to it.
11. What irritation in our family bothers you the most?
(Goal) To discover what problems in the family I need to work on and then teach the child how to respond to sources of irritation.
12. What really makes you angry?
(Goal) To find out in what areas are they not yielding their rights and expectations to God; and then help them work on those areas. Phil. 2:3-11
13. What do you want to do when you grow up?
(Goal) To discover what they are moving toward. To help them develop a sense of destiny.
14. What has been the biggest disappointment in your life so far?
(Goal) To know what is hurting them at times; and then to explain God’s purposes for disappointments.
15. If you had the power to change anything about the way you look, would you use that power; if so what would you change?
(Goal) Find out where they are rejecting themselves.
16. What do you appreciate the most about each member of our family?
(Goal) Focus on positive qualities in family. (Later) Encourage them to go tell that member of the family.
17. What biographies have meant the most to you? (Goal) To see if they are getting life stories from Godly people.
18. What do you like to do the most as a family?
(Goal) How can we have family fellowship that this child will enjoy. Then plan an activity.
19. Encourage them to be honest. If you could change anything about me, what would you change?
(Goal) To discover where I am damaging my relationship with them.
20. When you get to the end of your life, what do you want to look back on and say that you accomplished for God? (Goal) Discover if they have a purpose in life.
The next steps are the most important:
Pray with your wife about some of the things you learned during your session. This question times will bind your heart together with your son or daughter.
Spend a little time during the week to discuss some goals or to spend time talking about one of the questions.
Develop projects or thoughtful responses and goals based on what their answers were.