“Did you hear me?” “Have you been listening to anything I’ve said?” I’ve probably asked these and many other similar questions to my children more times than I care to count (or just today). I also may or may not have asked it with a raised voice as well. It seems my children are hearing deficient when it comes to my voice. As a parent we spend so much time talking to our kids and then wonder why they don’t seem to hear us.
However, my children also sometimes have to work at gaining my attention as well. Many times they have resorted to draping themselves over my body, hanging from every appendage, and endlessly repeating, “Mom. Mom. Mamma. Mommy!” My teenager just goes straight for the first name because she’s learned, in many instances, it is the fastest way to get my attention.
Parenting is all about communicating with your child. Positive two-way communication is essential to building those caring relationships. Listening is tough work for both parent and child. It takes time, concentration, and interest in the other person. Listening involves centering your focus on an individual and opening your mind and ears to what is actually being said. Quality listening affirms the value of each person and makes our relationships stronger. So how do I do this as a multitasking mom? How do I get my kids to do this too?
If I want my child to be a good listener, I need to be a good role model. I guess I am going to have to purge some of my bad habits to be an example of what I want my kids to be. Here are my top 4 resolutions for listening more to my children in 2015.
Listen first and talk last. It’s funny how I will remind my preschool class to “put on their listening ears and a bubble in their mouth” before we start each day. But how much am a really listening to each child when I have an entire classful?
When I get my own daughters after school, seldom do I listen first to their day but instead start in on what needs to be done when we get home. Listening first takes a lot of practice. I am trying to wait to put my two cents in until my child has told me what it is they need to say. This requires patience too (another area I lack).
Focusing. Yes, I am usually typing on the computer for my at home marketing job, folding the laundry, making dinner, or a plethora of other chores and hassles around the house. When I am busy and distracted I tend to tune my child out. So when my child approaches with something, I have a hard time switching that focus from what I am doing to them. I need to just stop. Taking that time each day to listen to my child without any distractions and paying attention when she speaks will let her know she is valued to me.
Active Listening Skills. This means I need to face my child when she is speaking to me. I should be asking those questions to entice more response from her such as, “How do you feel about that?” I need to rephrase what she has already told me to give her assurance I am hearing what she is saying. This positive two-way communication is essential to making her feel valued and loved and worthy of my time.
Also, even though it is difficult for me, I love that my teenager is still coming to me with those tough issues. It’s sometimes hard for me to not interrupt so that she can discuss issues without the fear of over-reaction on my part. It’s hard not to step in and lecture or criticise. But if I am actively listening when she children speaks, she will (hopefully) learn to be a better listener as well.
Actions speak louder than words. It’s sometimes hard to remember that the way I listen also includes my body language. Maintaining eye contact with my children may mean squatting down to the same level as my child instead of towering over them. However, with my teen, I find our best chats happen while driving because I have to keep my eyes on the road which allows her to feel more comfortable telling me things that she may not if I were looking right at her. Using a gentle tone of voice will allow better conversation flow. Yelling only encourages more anger. This is much easier to write than to put into practice though. The other thing that is hard for me is my patience level when the girls are taking a while to tell me what they need to say. I have to really try my best to not roll my eyes, tap my foot, or sigh out loud. I want them to talk to me, not discourage them!
Hopefully someone (mostly me) will find this information helpful as I go into the new year with new resolve to be a better listener for my children. I know my schedule is busy with the many demands of parenting, teaching, and driving 3 girls to endless activities, but I am vowing to allocate some time every day to simply sit and listen to my children. Children thrive with words of encouragement and praise.