Living in a Cornfield? My wife and I often used that statement to encourage the other spouse to stop talking about adult things in front of the kids. Our point was to remind each other that we were surrounded by little ears. Usually, we would follow this up shortly after with a walk when our children were old enough to be left alone for 40 minutes or to schedule the discussion until later at night when the children were asleep.
What do I mean about “adult things”? This can fall into a number of things:
- Financial Concerns/Worries— For the first half of our married life, we were barely making enough money to cover our expenses. In fact, every time we did a budget, we came up short. God consistently provided as the needs arose, but this put a great deal of stress on my wife. Such stress need not be placed on our children when they are small. As they got older, we invited them into the trust adventure. We would tell them specific financial needs we were praying for so they could also see the faithfulness of God, too. We also shared our testimonies of God’s faithfulness. But we believed that the daily grind of knowing we were falling short needed to be borne by the parents in private.
- Concerns about Church or School— We decided very early that we would never gripe about our church, its people, its leadership, a particular service or sermon by my senior pastor, etc., etc., when our children were around. On top of that, we realized that griping was not productive nor Biblical. If we wanted to seriously discuss concerns, this was adult conversation.
Over the years we realized that a lack of such restraint may be the reason many PKs (preacher kids) came out messed up. Can you imagine kids listening to Mom and Dad gripe about the people and leaders in the church?
When I started the Christian school in Illinois, we continued this policy of no public griping — no putting down a teacher, no negatively discussing other students or families, no open criticism of a curriculum or book. If we had a problem, we went directly to the persons concerned.
- Discussion of World Calamities & Partisan Politics— As children get older, we want to intelligently discuss world events with them as a part of training our children to become responsible citizens. But we carefully guarded our tongues along the lines of Ephesians 4:29: Let no unwholesome word come out of your mouths except what is good for building others up, according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. It seems that God was very mindful that we live in a cornfield. Little ears with tender hearts who listen to us rant and rave, listen to our disappointments and anger toward our governmental leaders. We spread our bitterness unintentionally by our careless speech.
Rather, there is speech about governmental leaders that should be VERY public: First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:1-4) Bottom Line: Stop Ranting, Start Praying.
- Personal Details about Our Friends and Family Members— We live in a day and age of TMI — Too Much Information! People spill the gory details of marital discord, failures of other people’s children, go into details of tragic losses, or talk about the strife in the extended family. Children don’t need to know family secrets. They can’t be expected to keep confidential what we have not kept private. Then they get blamed when they blurt something out that was too great a burden for a child to bear.
Does Your Child Have FOMO? When our children could tell that we just zipped our lips to stop from saying something in front of them, their curiosity was alerted. They would follow us from room to room in order to catch the juicy piece of info. They were infected with the Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO). It never got to the point of them listening at a wall with the aid of a drinking glass. But we did have to talk with them about their need to respect our judgment. Same thing as a family, if any family member started speaking and then stopped mid-sentence, we all needed to respect that person’s good judgment. No crying out, “Wait! You can’t just stop in the middle of it! You have to finish!”
Be very careful what we plant in the ears and hearts of our children. We are responsible for the shaping of their tender hearts. How we say something matters — tone of voice, volume, attitude, all have deep impacts on the ones we love the most. Linda and I weren’t perfect parents by a long shot. But we think that we spared our girls a lot when we committed ourselves to reserve many discussions until we left our little cornfield. Yours in the journey, Christopher