With so many things competing for our time and attention, how many of us moms are struggling with really listening to our kids? Our guest writer today, Renee Swope, gives us some great insight into this common issue and helps us understand the importance of this gift. We hope you’ll enjoy hearing her wisdom.
I heard my husband, J.J. calling our thirteen-year-old dachshund, Chelsea, to come get her treat. It was part of his night time ritual of luring her to the back door and then to her doggie bed in our laundry room.
Daisy, our beagle, was already in the backyard doing her business, anticipating the reward of a doggy biscuit if she obediently came back and went to her bed.
J.J. eventually gave up and went looking for Chelsea who was sound asleep in her favorite chair in our den. When J.J. and the boys came upstairs, I asked if they thought Chelsea had “selective hearing” because she didn’t want to go to bed or if she was going deaf. I had a feeling it was the latter. We reminisced about how Chelsea used to hear and bark at everything from the ice maker in our kitchen to the wind blowing leaves outside.
A few minutes later, my then eight-year-old, Andrew, came to me with a concerned look and said, “Mom, I hope you don’t go deaf like Chelsea when you get old.”
I laughed and told him it might be nice if I can’t hear everything when I’m as old as Chelsea since she gets more sleep than I do and doesn’t hear us laughing at her. My lighthearted response didn’t wipe the concern off Andrew’s face, so I asked why he was concerned. And he answered without hesitation, “Well, sometimes you don’t hear me now. Like when you’re on the computer and I ask you a question, sometimes you don’t hear me.”
I had no idea Andrew thought I couldn’t hear him, and his response almost plunged me into a “bad mom” moment. Memories of recent times I’d heard him but didn’t listen because I was deeply distracted flashed back in my mind.
Although I was tempted to define those moment with shame and guilt, I decided to apologize instead. I pulled Andrew close and told him I was sorry for not listening sometimes. I didn’t want him to fear old age could make it worse, so I explained that me being on the computer was like him watching playing a video game and how it’s like he is in another world and can’t hear me calling him for dinner. He nodded with a smile, and I could see his concern fade.
My example helped him understand, but I didn’t want it to become an excuse to make me feel better. So, I made him a promise I hoped I could keep: “Andrew, I’m sorry. Will you forgive me for not listening sometimes? You’re more important than anything I do on the computer or on my phone. What you have to say matters to me. And I’m going to try really hard to stop what I am doing when you come to me, look away from my screen and listen to what you’re saying.”
Psalm 17:6 reminds me of our human longing to be heard:
I am praying to you because I know you will answer, O God. Bend down and listen as I pray. (NLT)
In the same way we go to God because we want Him to listen and answer us, our children come to us because they want to be listened to and heard. Being heard gives them a sense of connectedness, which every child craves and needs.
That night God showed me a valuable gift He offers me and wants me to give my children: the gift of listening. I give it each time I simply stop what I’m doing and turn my full attention to them when they want to talk to me.
The Bible offers the wonderful listening advice: “Everyone should be quick to listen, [and] slow to speak” (James 1:19). This verse encourages me to really listen by leaning in and hearing what our kids have to say, instead of thinking about or interrupting with what we want to say next.
In our culture of constant contact through texts, social media, cell phones, apps, and multiple devices, our attention is divided, and our focus is easily shifted away from those who are in the room with us. Our children need to know they are worth more than the screens in our hands and the competing thoughts in our heads. We don’t need to let them dominate our attention all the time, but when we listen with our whole heart on a regular basis, we give our children a deep sense of value and we develop a heart-connection with them will last long into their adult years.
This article was adapted from A Confident Mom: Simple Ways to Give Your Child What They Need Most, by Renee Swope
Simple Ways to Give Your Child the Gift of Listening
From Renee’s new book, A Confident Mom