Sometimes, well-meaning homeschoolers feel the need to convince other people that keeping their children at home is a must. We feel the need to cajole them into believing that homeschooling is the only answer and that if they don’t homeschool, something is wrong with them.
While, quite obviously, we prefer to homeschool and find it is the best answer for our family; I am very hesitant about what I share and how it is expressed. I would prefer that the Lord be the one working on their hearts, not me.
Over the course of several years, there are some key things I have learned about sharing my heart with other people. Things that I feel help to develop relationships and open the doors to good communication.
Earn respect. How often have we heard well-meaning advice from a complete stranger? Worse yet, someone whom you don’t respect? Before I open my mouth to speak, I ought to ask myself how well I know this person. Perhaps they are not open to receiving what I might want to communicate. I need to earn the right to be heard, not demand that I be listened to.
Learn to listen. No, seriously! How often have we spoken to someone, only to discover we didn’t really hear all that they said? Or that while they were speaking, we were already trying to form our own arguments and thoughts in response? The first step in a good conversation, is listening! Take time not to just hear the words they are speaking, but the heart of the person talking. Sometimes it is not just the statement being made, but the emotions behind them that need to be addressed.
Be humble. How much I accomplish and the efficiency in which it is done, is not to my own credit. It is the Lord who has given me my gifts and it is He who continues to sustain me. They don’t need to hear about all I have accomplished; they need to see how the Lord has directed our lives and used certain circumstances to bring us to where we are. This takes the glory out of my hands and puts it where it belongs.
Be slow to judge others. Imagine how hard it would be to bare your heart to another, only to have them turn and tear you apart. Once you have shared, they proceed to tell you all you have done wrong and how you should have gone about it. In the realm of parenting, there are many methods of schooling, training, and building of relationships. I need to understand that my way isn’t the only way and that all of us are still learning. My responsibility is to edify, encourage, and help; not to bury them under a mound of guilt.
Let the Lord lead. It is not my job to convince someone of my argument or my way of thought. If someone is genuinely interested in what I have to say, they will listen and take my thoughts into consideration. I don’t need to make them believe what I am saying or force them to confess that I am right. If the Lord leads; speak, and let Him to the rest.
Know when to keep quiet. There is a time to speak and there is time to remain silent. It is important to know what the situation calls for. It is okay to offer advice and express my views, but there comes a time when words are of no use. Know how to pick your battles and when to walk away.
When I am offering advice or answering questions about homeschooling, I want to make sure that I am not overstepping my bounds. If I have earned the right to be heard, I then need to make sure I am listening to their concerns. When I respond, my answers should be given gently and with humility. Once I have said my piece, I need to let the Lord lead them and remain quiet.
When being given advice, I need to make sure that I respectfully and humbly listen to the person speaking; whether or not their advice was asked for. Their intentions are usually well-meaning, being rude would only create distance and hinder further communication. I should pray about the advice offered and see where the Lord leads; picking my battles carefully, only defending my position when necessary.
When it comes to homeschooling, questions and advice abound. It helps to know when to speak, how to speak, and when to remain silent. I pray that I learn to speak with wisdom and patience, knowing when it is best to remain quiet.
Do you find it hard to take well-meaning advice? Do you struggle to answer confrontational questions with grace? How do you handle difficult conversations?