Do you find yourself talking to your children more than listening to them? Do you find that most of your talk to them is about putting something away or doing homework? Sometimes our lives are so fast paced it seems our conversations can become that way as well.
So, when are the best times to listen to your children? The short answer is, when they are willing to talk. The longer answer is setting the right atmosphere for good listening to occur. Why should we listen to our children? Our children have important things to say and truly listening to someone says they are important to you.
So, here are some suggestions on best times to listen to your children:
1. The car is a great place to have a conversation. One, the children are captive and can’t (hopefully won’t) jump out of the car. Also, they don’t have to make direct eye contact so it is easier for them to talk. Instead of saying, “How was your day?” say, “What was the best part of your day or the hardest part of your day?” I have noticed sometimes my children want to be quiet in the car and sometimes they are chatter boxes. Try not to be on the cell phone, but listening to what your children have to share.
2. Listen to your children when you are putting them to bed. There is something about when the lights are out that children start to open up about their day. Now, I will be honest with you by that time of the day I’m ready for bed and not a long conversation, but those are usually the most heartfelt conversations of the day. All the worries or concerns come out or just funny events of the day. Be willing to listen at the end of the day.
3. I have one child that likes to start conversations in the hall or when I’m leaving a room. I have purposely stopped what I’m doing, make eye contact and listen to what he has to say. Conversations with him tend to be more informal.
4. Some children talk better when they are doing an activity. Boys, in particular, may talk more while shooting baskets or throwing a baseball. You can really have some in-depth conversations. Girls might want to sit on your bed and have a long conversation about every detail that happened to them that day. I know these are generalizations and all children are different. The key is being available and learning to listen in the style that fits your child best.
5. Be interested in what your children are interested in. Right now, I’m learning that the ugly frog is the size of your hand and the fire belly toads that we have are the size of a half dollar. Personally, I prefer smaller toads even though if you touch them they are poisonous. Believe, if you had asked me ten or fifteen years ago if I would become an expert on toads, I would have laughed at you. But, I’m learning quite a bit from my son. Take time to learn as much as you can about your child’s interests and be involved with them.
6. If it is important enough for your child to talk about, then it is important enough for you to listen, whether you have the energy or interest. If we don’t find time to listen to our children, then our children will find other people to talk to.
7. Ask your children questions when you are listening to them. Let them be the expert and teach you. When my children are studying something in school, that frankly I don’t remember, they love to say, “You don’t know that?!” I let them know I knew it at one time, but it is long gone from my brain.
8. One of Jesus’ favorite ways to teach was telling stories or parables. So, if we listen to our children’s stories, in some ways we are modeling how our Savior taught.
9. Children who have been listened to are more willing to listen to their parents. If children see the conversation as always one way, you do the talking and they do the listening; they quickly lose respect for you.
10. Listening to our children is a gift we can give them to show our love for them. Doesn’t our Heavenly Father listen to us anytime, anywhere? We should model that for our children.
Is there a perfect time to listen to your children? Probably not. You have to know your child’s personality and yours as well. The most important thing is that you are willing to listen and be available. Some of my most precious conversations with my children have been when they share their hearts with me and what is going on in their lives; it is truly a gift. One final suggestion, a good way to get to the heart of what is going on in your child’s lives is to ask, “How can I pray for you?” You will be surprised at what you hear. Then, follow through and pray for your child.
May we learn to be as good a listener as our Heavenly Father.
Kimberly M. Chastain, MS, LMFT is the Christian Working Mom Coach and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. She is the author of 2 ebooks, Pearls of Encouragement for Christian Working Moms and Help! My Preteen/Teenager is Driving me Nuts. You can find both of those books at www.christianworkingmom.com. Also, check out her blog and Online Bible Study as well. You can have coaching tips delivered to your email box daily, find out more at http://www.kimberlychastain.com/cwmtips.htm.
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