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It is so easy to “listen” to our kids but never hear a word they have to say. I have talked about listening before, but I think we can all agree that listening is first and foremost removing distractions and clearing your mind. Listening is not an absent minded “hmm-mmm,” while texting, posting on Facebook, or surfing the web, not that I would know anything about that or anything.
Being intentional in listening really isn’t hard, I have found it just takes a bit of practice in getting your ears to tune in to the voices of our children when they are saying something. Of course with a bustling family there is often random chattering going on, and this is not what I am addressing. I am referring to the sentences that often start with things like, “Hey, Mom” “Guess what?,” “Today at school (or wherever),” “Remember when,” and so on. Being tuned in to these opportunities takes practice, but it is an opportunity to spring into action, which means setting aside ALL outside distractions to focus on the little who is speaking.
I have found that removing distractions during these 10 activities really makes tuning in for these catch phrases that signal someone wanting you to listen. Focus only on waiting for the conversation to start during these times, or, start a conversation of your own!
- In the car. This is the easiest place to listen, and talk for that matter, since you are all a captive audience for one another. This would also mean turning the radio off
- Meal times. Again, seems kind of basic and you have heard it all before from plenty of others, but the idea of meal times being a self-esteem builder began way back in the dark ages before parents could be running the world remotely from their phone or computer during the meal
- Those first few moments when you see each child in the morning. Their minds have been resting, but their minds have also been busy, which means they usually have plenty to say upon getting up
- Those last few minutes before bed. My older kids have been too old to tuck in for awhile, but a goodnight that lingers is an awesome time to have a simple conversation. Often they want to reflect on something from the day during this time
- While doing a task together, like preparing a meal, folding laundry, or working in the garden. As with riding in the car your audience is fairly captive here
- While working on homework or schoolwork of some sort. Take a break every now and then to focus on something else. Ask if they have any questions about something other than school. And then listen to what they say
- Take someone with you to run errands, just one kid at a time, you are creating an opportunity for being in the car here. Just make sure to keep track of whose turn in is
- When coming home from someplace, stop in for a quick ice cream cone or special (and frugal) coffee drink somewhere. This speaks volumes to kids, taking an ordinary trip in the car and turning it into a “mini date” with them
- Take them out for a more formal date. Often dads take girls and moms take boys, but it doesn’t always have to be that way, either
- Keep a communication journal that you both write back and forth in. Hide it someplace in their room so that only the two of you know where it is. The key is, to be diligent in seeing what they write. They won’t want to participate if they are always having to say “hello, are you there?”
Some of these take more effort than others, but none are difficult by any means. Pick a few to get started with, and then get started!