Ever wonder why you kids aren’t listening to you? I’m sure you’ve heard of the phrase, “Monkey see, Monkey do.” If you don’t take the time to listen to them, why should they listen to you?
Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about it what it really means to listen to your kids. Some of the funnest times that I’ve had have been just listening to my little boy talk to me and tell me about things he feels are important in his life the right now.
Having these small moments with your kids may not mean whole lot at first but I really feel that listening to your kids brings you closer to them. So here are 5 points to help you listen to your kids.
Listen to the small stuff so that they trust you with the big stuff
It is so interesting to me when I hear a parent complain and say, “Well my kid just never listens to what I have to say.” Next thing I see is their kid trying to tell them something that they did and the parents completely ignore them.
Time is a very precious to each of us but when you take just 30 seconds to hear some small thing, to them it is a huge deal. They think, “Hey, Mom and Dad listen to me!” Then when it comes to the big stuff they will trust you with it. It makes it easier for them to talk to you because they have talked to you about a lot of little things so it becomes natural to talk to Mom and Dad.
Find out what is going on in your child’s life
Another phrase I hear parents say is, “I can’t keep up with my kid’s activities and life. I have no idea what is going on.” Well, I feel like saying “Just ask them, dang it!”
Talk to them and ask about what is going on in their life. I used to teach religion classes to the youth in our church and when I wanted to know if the students understood what I was teaching, I would ask questions.
But you must ask good questions. The worst conversation killer/starter is a yes and no question. For example, a common question that we ask our kids is “How was your day?” or “How was school?” The most typical answer is, “It was good or ok.”
Here is the kicker–use a follow up question. Don’t expect your kid to just go on and give you detailed info from a yes/no question. Try, “Well, what made your day so good?” or “What did you do?”
Use questions that make it easy for them to communicate with you. If you do this and take time to ask them what the heck is going in their life, they will let you know as long as they trust you. That’s why point #1 is so critical, because that trust has to be earned.
Have fun with them when you listen
Remember, some of your kids are barely learning how to talk all the way up to teenagers leaving the house. Keep it light and a comfortable environment so that they want to be there with you to talk. You don’t want to have every conversation turn into a boring lecture from mom or dad. And not everything is about you so use your own childhood stories sparingly.
Kids say funny things and you need to have fun along with them. When C tells me how his day was he can be so dramatic and it can be so funny. He will talk in one long run-on sentence about things that happened today or things that happened months ago. We laugh together and he isn’t afraid to tell me how he’s doing.
Not every conversation should be while you’re stuck in the car together. Talk while you play or while you watch a show. It’s not hard to talk when you work together on a project or run errands together.
You don’t always have to fix things
Listen with love so they know that you care. Don’t formulate an answer while they’re speaking. Listen and when they tell you what is wrong, don’t feel that you need to fix it right then or ever. Sometimes they just need to talk to someone, to get out how they are feeling and weigh out the options. Just talking might help them make up their mind about what they should do and they just need a little encouragement to go through with it.
Don’t be so quick to judge when they haven’t finished telling you the whole story. Maybe they got sent to the principal’s office because they stood up to a bully and the teacher did not get the full truth from everybody. But if you are to quick to judge and get all mad, you never hear the full story. Just shut up and listen to them and let them explain how they’re feeling.
When they finish talking, instead of saying, “You should do XYZ”, pose a question for them. “What do you think you should do?” or “Why do you feel that way?” We can’t tell our kids what to do forever and if we can guide them to start making their own decisions, they will be better off for it.
Come to their level
What I mean by this is to get down on their level physically and emotionally. Every time we have an issue with C, if something happens or if he’s trying to talk to me I try to kneel down to his level to be at his eye level with him or I sit him up on the table and we try to talk.
When you come to their level you are not some tyrant speaking down on them. You are on the same team. We love our kids and want the best for them so love them back by listening to them is the best way to show that.
It takes work but it’s worth listening
We’re all human and with all of our good intentions, we might mess up every once in a while. But like every skill, listening takes a lot of practice but I promise, if you take the time to listen to your kids it will make all the difference.
I’m not saying that if your child does something wrong that you shouldn’t take the appropriate action. But listen to the whole story and then talk about the punishment that should be in place.
Find ways to talk and listen with your kids today. It’s not too late, even if they are grown. It will take time but you will be connected to your kids.