"One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say." ~ Bryant H. McGill
I hear it so often I can barely stand listening to it anymore (pun intended). Parents regularly complain that their children never listen to them...never. Besides the drama of that statement, I find it challenging because I see and hear how many of us, as parents, don’t listen to our children.
We are distracted by so many things: a phone call, our to-do list, work, tomorrow’s activities, tonight’s dinner...the list could go on and on.
Just for the record, I am the mother of a ten year old and sometimes I definitely feel like he is not listening to me. However, I am also very clear that sometimes I do not listen to him either - at least not actively. Our listening needs to be active. The gift is to be able to be fully present to someone, especially our children, when they are trying to communicate with us. What are they really trying to tell us?
If we do not pause to figure that out, they will just stop trying to tell us anything except what we are doing wrong...hmmm I wonder where that comes from but thats for another time.
Why is it difficult to listen to our children?
I think it is difficult to listen sometimes because we want to be heard ourselves, and if these little beings won’t listen to us then who will? Many, if not all, of us complain, silently or out loud, about not being heard by someone we believe should pay closer attention to us.
What is really humbling to think about are all of the times we have fallen short in being good active listeners. Especially to our children! When the distractions get our attention more then the person in front of us. When the words being said cause us to want to rebut rather then listen, missing out on the rest of what is being said. If we, as an adult, cannot perform the desired skill of listening, is it really reasonable to have that expectation of our children?...Ouch.
What is the next step in getting our children to listen to what we say? Perhaps improving our own active listening skills towards them is a great place to start. I believe we will see improvement in how they communicate as we actively listen. We teach ourselves so many skills, this one seems an obvious one to acquire that we have overlooked. I am going to try it and see if anything changes.
How to Begin?
I find it useful to have questions to ponder...to really pause and think about, in order to gain an understanding to any challenge I might be facing. Here are a few that showed up around active listening:
• If we become better active listeners for our children will they become better active listeners for us?
• At what age did we become a good active listener?
• Have we become a good active listener?
There are also many great websites to continue the pondering. I especially like http://www.peacefulparent.com perhaps because I like the idea of being a peaceful parent.
The website www.skillsyouneed.com has a great outline of what it means to be a good active listener and is useful in clarifying where we have room for improvement in our own listening skills and where we are doing alright.
Like so many things in life, becoming good at being an active listener takes time, effort and patience but the journey is worth it. I am guessing the rewards of better communication with our children would be priceless.
Listening = paying attention to someone in order to hear what is being said
Actively listening = fully concentrating on what is being said rather then passively ‘hearing’ the message of the speaker