“When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know.
But if you listen, you may learn something new.” Dalai Lama
I read someone’s blog post recently about listening to our kids. This wasn’t a guilt post that made me question whether I was listening to my child enough. Nope, it actually encouraged me in all my normal, inconsistent mama humanness.
She wrote: There are different levels of listening.
I overheard one of my children say, “I think that kids should get a pension — they’re not allowed to have a job, but they need money. Old people just die anyway.” I didn’t catch her statement at first. Too much was going on in the van as we were driving to town. Then it hit me: Say whaaa? Pensions for children? Good thing we weren’t in public–the tiny village where we live is a retirement destination.
Sometimes we parents multitask while our children are telling us about their Star Wars dream for the fourth day in a row. Sometimes we mostly tune them out but smile widely when we know that a smile is what they’re really after. (If a non-parent is reading this, you might think me heartless. If you’re a parent of a brood that spans toddler to teens, you are likely nodding along). Get enough voices in the room and one subconsciously tunes out whether one knows one should or shouldn’t.
But there are many times when we must wholeheartedly listen.
Sometimes we need to listen closely, pay attention to the subtext of their conversational focus — especially when they get older and their willingness to talk is hit or miss. Boy do we need to pay attention then. The subtext doesn’t always get unpacked for us, so we need to determine how to unpack it — so listen closely. Learning someone’s new language can be difficult, especially someone who doesn’t necessarily want you to learn their language.
When one of our children routinely uses loud voices and an expressive tone to lay out her case against another sibling, I instinctively want to shut her down. The whiny tone does much to annoy. But I’ve learned that this is her baseline expressiveness, not a sign of her guilt or innocence. I need to listen to the content of what’s being said. Often there is a reason she’s coming to me as she’s feeling impotent in responding and won’t be heard by her sibling.
So many opportunities to listen!
There are definitely moments we need to selectively listen to our kiddos, and more often there are moments when we need to listen hard. We all want to know and be known by the important people in our lives. To really hear what someone is saying, or not saying, we gotta listen.