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by Keith Burden, executive secretary, National Association of Free Will Baptists. Email Keith at

IT WAS A TYPICAL SUPERMARKET with one exception—children could ride a mechanical horse for only 1¢. During her weekly visit to buy groceries, my wife allowed our daughter to ride the trusty steed to her heart’s content. It was cheap entertainment—a favorite activity for our preschooler.

At our house, we made it a daily practice to gather around the dining room table for the evening meal and relaxed conversation. You can learn a lot about what is happening in your children’s lives if you ask the right questions and take time to really listen.

One evening, our younger daughter burst into song. We politely interrupted and asked her not to sing at the dinner table. We no sooner resumed our conversation, however, before she began to sing again. Again, we offered a gentle rebuke and continued our discussion.

In a matter of minutes, our little songbird piped up again. Leaning forward and looking her squarely in the eye I asked, “Are you going to be a songwriter when you grow up?” Without a moment’s hesitation she shot back, “NO! I’m going to be a horsy rider!”

That priceless experience reinforces some powerful principles about family communication. First, talking to your kids is vital. You can work through almost any problem when the lines of communication are open. But communication is neither easy or automatic. It must be intentional, persistent, and based on lots of prayer.

Make a conscious effort to avoid being misunderstood. I know the difference between a songwriter and a horsy rider, but their meaning isn’t quite as obvious to a three-year-old. We should be just as concerned about being clear as we are about being correct. Take time to make sure you are understood. Don’t take too much for granted when you speak.

Effective communication is multi-dimensional. Experts tell us communication is 7% verbal, 38% vocal, and 55% visual. We say more with our facial expressions and eyes than we do with our lips. Pay attention to your body language.

Make a commitment to talk with your family daily. Conversations won’t happen by accident. Busy lives and crowded schedules can choke the vitality out of the most important relationships. I’m thankful that our family gathered around the dinner table each evening. It’s a practice our grown children carry on today.

While it seems like yesterday, my little horsy rider turned twenty-two years old this past May. Don’t postpone talking to your kids. Perhaps you’ll find a bargain like we did…and pay a penny for their thoughts.






©2005 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists