The Importance of Listening

How well do you listen to your child? Do you ever have trouble striking a balance between empathizing with your child and requiring strict obedience?

Those of us who follow the Ezzos’ teachings know that maintaining a parent-centered or family-centered home is important. We do our best to ensure that our lives aren’t too child-centered. We want our children to know that they’re not the center of the universe. They may in fact be the center of our universe, but for the sake of the marriage, family, and the foundation upon which the child stands, we treat the child as a welcome member of the family but not the center of it.

Despite our emphasis on parent-centered methods, we cannot undervalue our children or their thoughts and feelings. The idea that the child is best seen, not heard, is simply unacceptable. In fact, it’s when we show cooperation in conquering the world together that we get better behavior and acceptance from our children. If our children know we are on their side, they will share their thoughts and more readily adopt our values.

This post is inspired by the book How to Talk so Your Kids Will Listen by H. Norman Wright, and though I’m only 30 pages in, it’s very enlightening. One idea that stands out to me is this:

“How do you get kids and teens to listen to you? Listen to them,” (p. 28).

It’s so true. In fact, the times that I’ve struggled most with obedience is when I’m immersed in some other activity or in my own thoughts. If I’m unavailable or detached from my children, they know it and they see it as license to do as they please. Alternatively, if I listen and interact with them, they are much more likely to hear me and obey my instructions.

It’s like what the Ezzos say about the threatening and repeating parent. When we threaten and repeat, we train our children not to listen to us. The same is true when we speak to our children in anger.

Knowing that there’s value in listening, we must also understand that listening is an art form:

“Listening is giving sharp attention to what your child shares with you. It’s more than just hearing what he or she says. Often what your child shares is more than what he or she says. (Read that sentence again. It’s a key thought.) You must listen to the total person, not just the words spoken. Listening requires an openness to whatever is being shared: feelings, attitudes or concerns, as well as words,” (p. 31).

Rather than having our own agenda or formulating our own thoughts or response, we must simply be quiet and listen. It’s only after we listen that we can reply. And understand that listening doesn’t mean complying. You can listen to your child ask for a lollipop for dinner, but that doesn’t mean you have to agree. Listening simply shows that we care.

The following statement is great:

“Listening is an expression of love. It involves caring enough to take seriously what your child is communicating,” (p. 31).

And when they see that we’re loving them by listening, the reward is huge:

“When your child knows you hear him or her, your child will trust you and feel safe with you. And if you’re a good listener, your child will be more apt to invite you into his or her life. Your child also learns through your example to respond openly and lovingly to what you share with him or her,” (p. 31).

So if you’re struggling with your child, try just listening for a little while. Whether you have a tween who’s challenging your values or a preschooler who refuses to obey, simply listening to their thoughts and feelings will strengthen your relationship and move you one step closer to your goals as a family.

Speak Your Mind