Listening well is a crucial skill for building a strong relationship with your child. When a parent gives a child focused and undivided attention when he/she is talking, it makes that child feel valued and understood. All children crave this kind of attentive listening. It’s serious parent-child bonding time!
Listening well can be a difficult thing for busy parents to do. Children often want to talk at inopportune moments - like when we’re in the middle of cooking dinner or changing the baby’s diaper. If our hands are free, our minds may not be. We are frequently preoccupied with work/relationship issues, household logistics, and the big picture of life. And let’s be really honest here - some children talk incessantly; making it feel that it’s necessary to tune their chatter out just to survive. They even write children’s books about this phenomenon.
Take heart, dear parents. You can become a good listener without completely jettisoning your to-do list or watching your sanity float out the window. Here are some tips to light the way.
Face your barriers
Listening well to children (and others) is challenging because the things going on inside of us can get in the way. To be a good listener, you have to suspend your agenda. It means not mentally rehearsing what you are going to say while your child is talking. It means withholding judgement (so hard!) about what is being said in order to FULLY UNDERSTAND first. It involves steering clear of placating (you’re fine, everything’s going to be okay) or advice giving tendencies (what you need to do is…) so common in our parenting toolbox. We are prone to repeat the conversational patterns our parents modeled for us whether we are consciously doing so or not. What did your home life teach you (or not teach you) about the value of being a good listener? Learn more about listening to your child here: Positive Ways to Talk and Listen
Make time to listen
While it’s unrealistic to think we can drop everything and give our children undivided attention whenever they want to talk, making time each day to give your child undivided attention is doable and important. It doesn’t have to be a long period of time, maybe 15 - 30 minutes is enough (hint - consider time in the car without devices as one option), but it works best if it is a regular time of attentive listening. Don’t fret it your listening time looks different than what another family is doing. Give yourself permission to carve out time that works best for you and your family. If you plan for purposeful listening-connecting time, and make it a habit, we promise you this: your child will eat it up!
One more thing. Did you know that the Bible teaches us that God is a listening God? How wonderful is that?