The Art of Listening
A key to successful parenting is the Art of Listening. Kids know when adults are paying attention to them and when they aren’t. Half hearted listening gets picked up automatically and causes them to feel as if what they are saying doesn’t matter. As a parent you have to be present in the moment. Give them your attention and your time. Those are the most important gifts you can share with your children and often the hardest.
When you are really listening, you can pick up on what is going on with your child, because sometimes it is not what your kids are saying, but how they are saying it, or what they are trying “not to say,” that is important. When you are only partially paying attention you may miss something valuable that your child is trying to communicate to you! And when you miss it, in most cases that chance is lost forever.
1. Being in the Moment
The Art of Listening is about really being in the moment and being present. Letting go of what you didn’t do yet today, what you need to do later, or what needs to be done tomorrow. All of those things will get taken care of in due time – but being there, listening and really communicating with your child is more important than the small details of life.
2. Listening Fully
Listening requires not only the use of your ears to hear, but your eyes to see, your mind to interpret what is really being said, or not being said, and most importantly your heart, to feel what your child is trying to share with you. Children can sense your interest, respect and compassion coming through. They want to feel more valuable than the phone you have to answer, the work that you have to do, and the other people that are demanding your time.
This is one of the main reasons children open up to me when they come to see me at my office. They share their most intimate thoughts and feelings because they sense I am interested, I am genuinely paying attention to them, and I won’t interrupt them. It is amazing what I can find out that many times parents aren’t even aware of. That’s because the right environment hasn’t been provided to let their child open up, or they have allowed a breakdown in communication to occur.
3. Free Flowing Communication
The Art of Listening requires being there for your child, and having an open relationship with free flowing communication.
One example of a breakdown in listening is when one person is not truly into the conversation. In the past I would call my cousin on the phone to get caught up with what had been going on in her life. She lived over one thousand miles away from me so it was hard to see her in person, but I would try to catch up with her via the phone. However, every time I would call, our conversation would be constantly interrupted. She would stop in the middle of a sentence to yell at her kids, tell them something, or give in to their interruptions. This made me aware that she wasn’t really paying attention to what I was saying, as she was divided between me on the phone and her kids in the room. We never really had a free flowing exchange.
Although I love my cousin and wanted to share my thoughts with her, as well as find out what was going on in her life, it always seemed to leave me feeling dissatisfied and eventually it didn’t seem worth the aggravation. I perceived my conversations with her as having an empty feeling attached to it. Soon I didn’t want to pick up the phone and call at all because I knew the experience would not be worth it.
Another example of a breakdown is communication is with my mother. I can remember growing up and trying to tell her about something that happened in my life. But as I tried to share, she would constantly interrupt me to interject something of her own that may have nothing to do with what I was trying to say. Then my train of thought would be lost, and in some cases I would just walk away believing that she really didn’t care to hear what I wanted to share. Finally, I gave up trying to share anything of significance with her. I felt that she was never paying attention. Later on in life, after I became an adult, she asked me why I never confided in her and we discussed the problem. Today she is so much better!
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