“Look at me when I’m talking to you! Oh yeah…and take your fingers out of your ears too.”
As a parent with profound wisdom and insight to share (NOT), I really hope my kids listen to me when I am talking about something important (like putting their laundry away).
How do I teach them to be good listeners?
I know when they slink off into a slouch or physically turn their bodies away from me, they are doing everything they can NOT to listen. My instinct tells me to point out the behavior…which I do.
“Please sit up…I’m talking to you.”
This hasn’t worked as well as you would think. They have traditionally sat for a moment, and then before a full sentence has left my mouth, something jello-like takes over their organs and I have a puddle of a kid on my kitchen floor.
This intrigues me. They don’t do this for their teachers…or in the presence of other adults. I’ve NEVER seen them do this at a practice or a dance class. What is it about my voice that provokes this internal melting?
For those of you who have been reading my stuff for a while, you’ll acknowledge that I am forever conducting experiments on our children. Nothing dangerous (okay…so maybe a little dangerous because they are psychological in nature) but I am learning this parenting thing too, so how can you call what I do as a mother anything but an experiment?
I have spent some time the last few years investigating this listening thing. It’s harder than I thought…for me!
What I’ve discovered is that it is fine to point out the behaviors of good listening, but it is more important how good I am at listening.
Frankly…lately I’ve sucked.
I listen when they are saying what I want to hear.
I listen with bias and opinion already forming on my lips.
I listen in spurts between what I’m trying to capture in my writing or between glances at the emails on my phone.
I talk a good game, but these days I haven’t been playing the part of the listener very well.
I know I can be better…I used to be much, much more intentional about how I listened to our kids.
When our children were babies, I taught each of them sign language. I was fascinated by their ability to communicate before they could speak, and I would listen to them for hours.
Maybe I listened better when they were little because it felt like they were listening too. I would teach them something and hear. “red…square… bus… spider” in adorable little-kid repetition.
What I wanted them to hear would come back to me in validation.
Pre-teens are not great at validating.
So, as I’ve written through this blogpost, my challenge has become abundantly clear.
I need to parent my children with intentional listening. PERIOD!
These strategies are hard when the growing children in our house physically guard themselves against touch or Active Listening, but good parenting isn’t about what I need…it’s about what they need.
Don’t get me wrong, I deserve, (we all deserve) someone to listen to and validate our feelings, our experiences, and our ideas. I just have to stop expecting that from my kids…they need me to teach it to them first.
I need to seek and accept validation from somewhere other than our kids. It’s not their job right now.
That’s why blogging communities of mothers are so necessary. We are each other’s listeners…we are the ones who can validate, assure, and comfort. I’m better having gone through Momalom’s Five for Five challenge this week…not because I blogged everyday (although that provided much-needed distraction) but instead because so many of you listened…and for that I am truly grateful.
Copyright 2012 Meagan Frank www.meaganfrank.com Choosing to Grow