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By Alan on Jan 13 in Blog tagged accuse, advice, attention, body, ear, Family, feelings, foul, head, hear, heart, interrupt, judge, language, late, lectures, less, listen, mistake, mouth, music, opinions, prayer, strategies, talk, thoughts, tone, voice, words | 2 Comments
From the Publisher: Families today are so busy trying to pack into each day so many things that they become distractions and really are not that important when it comes to having a successful family and a loving home.
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Many sounds in our world compete for our attention. As parents, life can become so hectic that we fail to truly listen to others, especially those closest to us–such as our children. The words of an anonymous author teaches a profound lesson about listening:
A wise, old owl sat on an oak
The more he saw, the less he spoke.
The less he spoke, the more he heard.
Why can’t we all be like that bird?
The ancient Greek philosopher Zeno of Citium said that we have been given one mouth and two ears that we might hear more and talk less.
Careful listening is one of the best ways parents can influence their children for good. It is one of God’s primary ways of influencing us. He has said, “Be still, and know that I am God.” He listens and responds to every heartfelt prayer.
Head and heart listening requires that we attend to more than mere words. To understand the full meaning of what a child is saying to us, we have to “listen” to tone, inflection, feelings, and body language. By truly listening, we are saying to our children: “You are a person of worth. I love you, respect you, and want to understand you.”
Unfortunately, we are often so eager to get our own point across that we interrupt our children with our own ideas and don’t pay enough attention to their thoughts and feelings.
For example, in the movie “Are You Listening,” a father is awakened in the middle of the night by loud music. He arises angrily and heads downstairs to find his teenaged son slumped on the couch, oblivious to the music’s volume. The father steps over to the stereo and switches it off. He then begins a tirade, rebuking his son for being up too late, listening to foul music, putting himself at risk for bad grades and impaired hearing, and every other mini-lecture he can come up with. The son repeatedly tries to explain himself, but his father interrupts and overpowers him each time.
How often as parents do we make a similar mistake?
The goal of listening is to hear, understand, and accept the other person’s feelings and views. Parents need to set aside their lectures and opinions and strive to truly understand their children’s point of view. No one can understand at the same time they’re giving advice.
Anytime we want to truly grasp our child’s thoughts and feelings, we have to give up lecturing (“What you need to do is . . .”), talking about our own experiences (“That same thing happened to me when I was a kid”), and playing down our child’s concern (“Everyone feels that way once in a while”).
Strategies for listening to your children with both your head and your heart include:
Show understanding by paraphrasing. Paraphrasing means to restate or reflect what another person has said–but without parroting it word for word. Paraphrasing can be especially useful when you’re trying to help someone get to the heart of a problem. Remember the example of the father who blasted his son? In the movie, this same scenario occurs a second time, but this time the father reacts differently. As he enters the room where his son is listening to blaring music, the father calms himself, then notices a disturbed look on his son’s face. Instead of launching into a lecture, he turns the stereo off and asks his son, “What’s going on?” At first the son hedges, “Dad, you don’t want to hear this.” But his father persists, and the son ends up pouring out feelings and fears common to young men. As the father truly listens, he understands, and he’s able to help point his son in the right direction in a way that lectures and commands can never accomplish.
Written by Stephen F. Duncan, Professor, School of Family Life, Brigham Young University.Portions adapted from Dr. Duncan’s article, Communication: Building a Strong Bridge Between You and Your Children , published by Montana State University Extension Service.