Jay Younts. Everyday Talk (2005).
The subtitle of this book is “How to talk to your children freely and naturally about God” but it could just as well be subtitled “How parents can be faithful with their words” or even “How to teach your children to pray”. The children’s pastor at my church highly recommended this book, so I kindled it and did a read. This is the best book I’ve yet read on how to talk to and with your children about God. Absolutely solid, convicting, and inspiring.
The premise of the book is that our children learn far more about God and his world from the way we talk the rest of the week than the way we talk on Sunday morning. Younts pleads for an examination of our hearts and urges us as parents to take a closer look at what we say and how we say it to our kids. Basically, what does our language (and behavior) communicate to our children about God? He quotes the Old Testament injunctions to carry God’s commandments in our hearts and impress them on our children as we live life together: “Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (Deut. 6:6-7). How can we be true to the Gospel in our ordinary, “everyday” teaching and speech? Especially when our children are living in a world where there will be many, many other messages received. Younts cites a recent study that found that teenagers spend an average of five minutes a day talking to their fathers (143)*. There are many other conversations in their day!
Not only are we to talk to our children about God naturally as a part of daily life, but we are to use our every opportunity to present the Gospel. Let’s listen to the messages we are sending our children. “Do your children believe the gospel of Christ is about His performance on the cross?” Younts asks. “Or do your kids think that the gospel means God will only be pleased if they obey him and obey you? Do your kids think that the gospel means that they must be good in order for God to love them?”(283). Friends, if we miss this one we missed the whole bus. Do the things that come out of my mouth when I am disciplining my children suggest that they must be “good” for me to love them? Or that I expect them to be “good” on their own? Do I treat my daughter as if she can “solve her problem with sin by responding in her own strength, simply by doing what Mommy says”? (330) Is the “help” I offer a struggling child of the Nike variety– “Just do it”?
Younts’s questions are provocative: “What topics are alive inside your heart?” (103) and “What thoughts live in your heart? . . . Your children know” (108). I strongly agree with his exhortations–as when he urges parents to help their children by using empathy and kindness–it is so much easier to follow a gentle command than a harsh one! I will carry his encouragement to keep my ears in “seek mode” (420) and monitor how much of my conversation with my children is “parentspeak” (462) with me for a long time. His wisdom on the topics of listening, discipline, and prayer are unsurpassed by anything else that I have read. (“Parents, when you give in to anger, resentment, or self-pity at your children’s bad behavior, you make yourself the center of the problem” (805) and “By modeling patience, love, self-control–and all the fruit of the Spirit–you teach your children how extraordinary God is” (808).) Younts also takes time to consider the talk that happens between mothers and fathers, and helpful ways to discuss topics such as sexuality.
There is a short list of books** that have helped me tremendously as I seek to develop a vision for parenting my children in a way that is faithful to God’s word. This one’s at the top.
*All citations are kindle locations, I do not have page numbers for these quotes.
**Also on the list are Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp, Don’t Make Me Count to Three by Ginger Plowman, and A Mother’s Heart by Jean Fleming.