If asked if they are better listeners than their kids, many parents will quickly answer, "Of course, I am." After all, we are smarter, more mature and do things better than our kids. So naturally we are the better listeners.
Really? Not so fast!
That very position of superiority can hinder us from not only listening, but understanding our children. We make decisions based on our own wisdom and experience, without input from the very child it will affect. After all, we know best. End of conversation.
I believe children tend to be better listeners because they have more of an investment in the information they hear. You may be thinking, "What? My kids never listen to what I say. They ignore me and I have to repeat myself a hundred times." Oh, they most likely heard you the first time. They just chose not to respond because it wasn't beneficial to them.
"Clean up your room," isn't motivating.
"Turn off the TV," isn't what they want to do.
But have a quiet conversation with your spouse in a room separate from your teen about something that will critically affect them and, amazingly, they hear you. The expression is true: "Little pitchers have big ears."
Parents are too busy giving orders, multitasking and expecting unchallenged compliance from their children. I believe that makes us bad listeners. And we set a bad example for our children to follow. As James A. Baldwin said, "Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them."
I suggest we work on intentional listening instead. One way we can be intentional is through empathetic listening.
Empathy is to put yourself in the place of another person and understand their feelings. As parents, we can listen empathetically when we:
Don't demand agreement.
Don't rush to fix the problem.
Instead, we are:
Aware of what our child is saying.
Here are three common statements by children and contrasting responses by parents:
Julie K. Nelson is the author of "Parenting With Spiritual Power" and "Keep It Real and Grab a Plunger: 25 tips for surviving parenthood." She is a mom of 5, a proud grandma, and a speaker and professor at Utah Valley University. Her website is www.aspoonfulofparenting.com where she writes articles on the joys, challenges, and power of parenting.