Listening connects with one of our children/teen’s greatest felt needs; to be known and understood. Consider for a moment the people that you regularly interact with. Who among them stand out as people who truly understand you, your heart, thoughts, feelings, and desires?
These are truly unique individuals and wonderful gifts to us. Now that you’ve identified them, what characteristics set these unique people apart from others you interact with?
Of all the characteristics you might describe; accepting, non-judgmental, they value me, they are ‘safe’ to speak with, there is a sense of unconditional love. The fact that these people have connected so deeply with you would indicate that they most likely offer you the gift of listening.
Being listened to is a profound experience today, maybe because being listened to is so rare in our hyper busy society. When another person is totally with you – engaged, curious, interested in every word, eager to empathize – you feel known and understood. Deeper still is that sense of feeling loved.
David Augsburger said, “Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person, they are almost indistinguishable.”
Our children and teens are more eager to open up to us than we often give them credit for. They often do not open up because they fear being judged, rejected, fixed, devalued, or having their thoughts minimized.
The act of listening affirms and empowers our children/teens to express themselves with confidence. When you listen consistently and intently, the message you are sending is,
“You are important!”
“What you are saying is important.”
“I value you and what you desire to say.”
Listening well means suspending our own needs, including the need to feel like we are doing something – solving problems, saying the right thing, or diagnosing what is truly going on. Listening is a gift we give to our children/teens.
Just because you are not talking does not necessarily mean you are listening. You know as well as I that we can appear as though we are listening yet at the same time be entertaining 101 other things within our minds. You may hear what your teen is saying, in part, but are you really connecting to and understanding their heart? Probably not.
When your child/teen approaches you in conversation it is an opportunity for them to process life and consider the deeper matters of their hearts. What they need is an engaged and listening mom or dad. During these moments they are not looking for a response or judgment, an opinion or solution, or your fix for their dilemma gleaned from your multiple years of experiential wisdom. So take time to fully engage in listening.
The following are some tips to keep you on the listeners edge.
- Eliminate distractions. Don’t try to multitask when your child/teen comes to speak with you. This simply communicates that you do not value them as much as what is in front of you right now.
- Look at your teen when they are speaking with you. This will help you focus upon them.
- Watch their body language, what are their non-verbal clues, gestures, and facial expressions indicating you should ask for more clarification on?
- Ask curious questions that allow your child/teen to open up and share.
- Don’t interrupt, talk over, or correct. Just listen.
- Ask clarification questions to ensure you are truly understanding what they are intending.
- Thank them for sharing openly with you, while resisting the strong temptation to fix.
Remember, we cannot make our children/teens open up to us, but we can create an environment where it is more likely that they will. The way you listen to your child/teen goes a long way in determining their willingness to open up and share their deepest thoughts with you.
Taking it home:
The next time your child/teen has something to say, give him/her your undivided full attention for 5 minutes.
How long did those 5 minutes seem? How difficult was it for you to stay focused on them? How hard did you have to work to not jump in and say what you wanted to say? What benefits did listening in this way have for you, your teen, and your relationship together?
Until next time, Listen to connect. Sometimes what our children desire most is not our words but our listening.
Your friend and pro-active parent coach
Pro-Active Parent Coaching &
The Legacy Centre