Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
“Hey mom can you get me some lunch money? I have a project due tomorrow. My teacher wants to talk to you. Is there any more shampoo? Why can’t I go out Friday night? I don’t want to clean the kitchen. Sound familiar? My ability to tune out seems to be increasing, along with my age. Maybe that’s a good thing and sometimes it is, but more likely, my kids are getting the message that I just don’t really care.
With my work at YouthZone, my ability to listen impacts everyone who walks through the door, from parents wanting to know how to get their kids to pick up their toys or the staff member who is having a rough day.
I had to face my lack of good listening skills the other day when I asked my 11-year-old daughter the same question three times, and she finally just looked at me and went back to reading her book.
Lesson number one. Stop what you are doing and pay attention! It really is very basic. It actually takes less time to really listen and is much more effective and fun.
Yes, fun. It’s an awesome thing when your kids share who they are with you.
Being present is the beginning of great communication. When we stop and are aware of the person we are listening to, the next step is to listen without judgment. My mind is usually on my response before my kids even get their words out. And my response is usually telling them what to do or not to do and how they should do it. Wow, no wonder their brains shut down and they mumble something and walk away!
When I listen with the intention of really understanding my kids, I find myself asking more questions. When I am curious about what they are saying, and I want to know how they think and feel and react to things, I pay attention. If my goal is to tell them all the amazing, brilliant ideas I have, then all I do is wait for them to hurry up and finish so I can talk. When my goal is to truly understand my kids, I will shut up and pay attention to what they are saying. I actually will be so busy just listening that a beautiful thing happens; I haven’t had the time to formulate an opinion and solve the problem and I am literally speechless. Then another amazing thing takes place. My kids fill the empty space with more talking! Great, I have a chance to get to know them even better.
If you want to keep the love alive with your kids, stop giving them answers and start listening to the answers they have. Get used to less stress and healthier talks, because that’s what happens next. Just don’t be shocked by what your teenagers end up telling you!
Lori Mueller is a YouthZone program director
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