When I called my husband, Mike, at work to discuss our evening plans, I identified the sound of computer keys tapping in the background on his end of the call. Recognizing that he was working rather than listening, I began talking nonsense. I said something about how the shoe in the road that fell off a tree was yellow and red, and was in the way of the horse carriage, and oh, I like licorice. When I was done with my gibberish, I paused briefly and asked, "Is that okay, honey?" And sure enough my husband responded, "Okay, baby, sounds great!"
Now before it sounds like I'm throwing my husband under the bus, I should note that Mike is a brilliant listener. It comes naturally to him. Listening is Mike's forte (when he's not at work, at least!). I, on the other hand .... not so much. I really have to work on being quick to listen and slow to speak (James 1:19). To use my ears more than my mouth. And this is especially true in my parenting.
When it comes to our kids, be they tots or teenagers, there are few things we can do that are more meaningful than our mere willingness to listen.
Listening well requires that we learn how to talk with our children, rather than at them. If we talk at them, they will come to learn that we do not respect their feelings or their thoughts, and we are mostly concerned with being heard, venting our frustration, and seeing them obey.
However, if we talk with them, and we are thoughtful about understanding what’s in their heart, we send a message that what they feel and what they have to say is worthy of being heard.