This is a guest post from my friend Ben Burns. I was excited about asking him to write for me on the idea of being emotionally present with your kids – something we all struggle with as parents. – Kevin


I don’t know about you, but when my teenage daughter starts getting emotional, I start praying for the Second Coming.

One night she was very anxious about a test the next morning.  She is a straight A student and worries a lot about her grades.  She was making an A+ in this particular class and had been studying very regularly for the test.  However, she was in tears that she might fail the test, which in her mind is anything below an A.

As she was crying, I was thinking, “Are you kidding – you’re a straight A student? It’s just a stupid test and you’ll probably ace it anyway. C’mon. This is, like, so Junior High. Just snap out of it, will ya?”

She could tell I wasn’t listening. She could also sense what I was thinking by the look on my face. That not only made her pull away from me, it now added shame to her feelings of anxiety.

How do you think God listens to us?

Do you think God really listens to our prayers, or do you think He skims them the way we skim blogs, listening for the big ideas? “Okay, what do we have today –  ‘new job, ‘need patience, ‘lust control’ – I got it.”  When David fumed about how much he hated his enemies, did his honest emotions make God uncomfortable?  Do you suppose the Lord was thinking, “David, asking me to crush someone’s skull is not a very nice thing to say, so stop it.”

I think God wants to hear all our honest emotions. I really think He listens not only to what we pray, but to the emotions behind what we pray.  Just before Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, John tells us that He saw the tears of his sisters and responded to their pain. The text tells us simply, “Jesus wept.”

Jesus empathized

What’s astounding to me about that passage is that Jesus knew He would be resurrecting Lazarus in a matter of minutes, but He still identified with their feelings. He didn’t say, “Ladies, believe in my sovereignty,” or “Stop your crying and trust Me,” or “Now, now, everything’s going to be okay.”  He cried because they were sad.

He wasn’t reacting – raising Lazarus was part of His original plan; it’s why He waited until Lazarus was dead before He returned. He wasn’t manipulated – the sisters’ grief was genuine sadness and even anger at His tardiness.  Rather, Jesus was attentive to their words and tears. He listened to their emotions and was moved.

I want to become a man like that toward my daughters, my son and my wife.

M. Scott Peck in his best-selling classic, The Road Less Traveled, said that the greatest way we can show love to others is by listening to them.  John Gottman amplifies that thought in his book, Raising An Emotionally Intelligent Child.  He says that our kids pick up our values the most when they see how we tend to them when they are experiencing their worst emotions: anger, fear, anxiety and sadness.

I would put it another way. Our kids develop their view of God by how we attend to them when they are emotionally vulnerable.  Their understanding of the gospel is largely shaped by their experience of the gospel through us.  We show our kids what God is like by how we listen to them.

When my daughter gets emotional now I find myself not praying for the Second Coming, but for Jesus’ example of listening to become real in me.

How well do you listen? What are some ways that you’ve found to help you to be able to fully listen to your kids? Please share in the comments.

Ben Burns is the Director of Grad Guides with Campus Crusade for Christ. His vision is to help caring adults become more intentional in helping their students own their Christian faith. To learn more about Ben and his ministry, see his website,