Last year, the week before Labor Day, I was at the bank drive thru making a deposit. As we wrapped up the transaction, the teller said to me, “Remember, wear clothes on Monday.” “Excuse me??” I responded to him, yes HIM. “Wear clothes?” “No ma’am, we’re CLOSED on Monday.” Oh my goodness, I immediately put my sunglasses back on, pulled out, and determined it was time to find a new bank, at the very least a different branch! My point in sharing this story, other than to give you a chuckle at my expense, is that often in parenting, we don’t hear, really hear, our kids. Or, maybe we just aren’t listening well.
Listening is tough for me. I am a “to-do” list kind of girl. I like to have my list prepared in advance for the day and get down to the business of checking things off. Interestingly, “listening” never makes it to the list. “Listening” actually infringes on the accomplishment of the list. However, over the years, I’ve learned that the list is far less important than the people who live in my house. One thing is for sure: When it comes to our kids, listening is always worth it.
Since each of our kids differ completely in their personalities, Andy and I set out, early on, to be “students” of them. What are the circumstances that are usually in place in order for each to open up? What motivates him to talk? What encourages her to share details? What makes him shut down and not want to talk? What are the best approaches for reaching out to each one of our kids?
One of our kids is a “just the facts, ma’am” kind of kid. He gives facts, and prefers to receive facts. He loves humor though. A funny story is a great segue into getting him to talk. Another one of our kids opens up best when he’s being given a back massage or back scratch. He’ll talk till my fingers wear out. He’ll answer questions that he might otherwise not want to answer. He’ll even take instruction and suggestions easier while the back is being scratched. Our daughter’s best time to talk is immediately after school. She usually comes in the door with all of the news of the day tumbling out. But, if she gets up to her room before I’m available to talk, I miss the opportunity!
Be a student of your children.
Learn their communication styles and preferences.
Structure your time in a way that allows for the best listening opportunities. Turn away from the computer screen and make eye contact while they talk. Have meals around the table together, fostering communication, talking, and listening with the whole family. As your kids get older, you’ll find the lines of communication to be far more two-way and rich as a result!