Do you do more talking than listening as you parent? It’s a habit that many parents have. I did it a lot because I felt that my words would fix my kids and that they certainly needed to hear what I had to say!
But I’ve come to learn, through my 30 years of parenting, that listening is just as important as the words that you say. Sadly, it is often neglected as a way to help and influence your kids.
Hearing your kids is easy. Many times they chatter on and on and you hear their words, but are you really listening?
Here’s what good listening looks like:
Good Listening Is Patient
The tendency for parents is to listen with half an ear that presumes they know what their child is going to say. That kind of listening is inattentive, and is actually merely waiting for a chance to speak. You may think you know what your child is going to say, and may be already thinking of a response. Or maybe your child interrupted you and you’re impatient for them to finish. Or maybe you are in a hurry and wish they’d finish quickly.
Author Janet Dunn explains,
Unfortunately, many of us are too preoccupied with ourselves when we listen. Instead of concentrating on what is being said, we are busy either deciding what to say in response or mentally rejecting the other person’s point of view.
Good listening demands that parent concentrate and listen with both ears. It means that you hear your child until they’re done speaking. Here’s the deal: your child usually doesn’t start with what’s most important. The deeper thoughts may take time to come out. Listen to their whole train of thought, all the way to the end.
It takes discipline to shut out the distractions around and inside of you and really listen to what your child is saying.
Good Listening is Loving
German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer says that poor listening rejects; good listening embraces. Poor listening diminishes others, good listening invites them to exist, and to matter.
Good listening says my child is worth my time. It tells your child that they matter. It shows love in a very simple, practical way. Looking your child in the eyes as you listen is another way to communicate “I love you.”
There will be days when the most loving thing you can do is to lean in and listen to your child’s pain and hurt all the way through. Sometimes that type of love will be all that your child needs.
Good Listeners Ask Good Questions
There’s a proverb that says a fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in exercising his opinions.
Good listeners ask perceptive, open-ended questions. I used to love talking with my sister-in-law when I was younger. She was 13 years older than me and I remember how she always–and still does–ask such good questions. She made me feel like she really wanted to hear what I had to say.
While asking deeper questions, good listeners watch for nonverbal communication and don’t pry or push for details that their kids aren’t ready to share. If your child knows you are truly listening, there very well could come a time when they do open up.
Parents who are good listeners gently draw their kids out and point them to new perspectives through careful and specific questions.
Good Listeners Know When to Speak
Sometimes good listeners only listen, and keeping silent is the best option, at least for the moment. But usually good listening leads to an opportunity to speak truth into your kids. As another proverb goes, a fool gives an answer before he hears, but the wise person listens to the whole story, without judgement, and when the time is right, speaks to the issue.
Obviously, as parents, you have to discern those times when words needs to be said right away and times when more listening needs to happen.
I know that hindsight is 20/20, so I will tell you that after 30 years of being a mom, I can clearly see now that I should have listened a whole lot more and jumped on my kids a whole lot less. It’s a lesson I’ve gradually learned and although I’m not perfect, I’ve definitely come a long way!
Parents, never underestimate the impact of a conversation where you listen, ask, listen and ask, then choose your words of response wisely. Those are the times when your child will be ready to hear and will be more open to hearing truth, because your good listening will communicate your love and support in a way that a barrage of words won’t.
If you would like to become a better listening, but are not sure how to incorporate this in your parenting, I can help. I’m a life coach for sports parents and I’d love to hear from you. Contact me here.