Listening is an active process that involves more than just hearing someone speaking. It’s an act of giving our undivided attention to another.
As a busy parent it can be easy to feel overwhelmed by the “have to do” tasks on our never ending list. We feel pressured to give 100% in our jobs, to have the perfect, clean, tidy house, a well maintained garden, the car washed and our hair and make-up always in place or a freshly pressed shirt on. In the battle to keep up appearances we become unwitting slaves to constant activity and exhaustion; feeling unable to spare enough time to stop and focus solely on our child.
Contrary to the popular old saying, all children desire to be both seen and heard.
As we have two ears and only one mouth we are designed to listen more than we talk.
We all know what it feels like to be talking to someone and they are not listening, however, have you paused to reflect “HOW do I know that?”
As we really listen we will make eye contact with the other person, smile and nod. Often we make positive, encouraging noises so that they will continue. Unconsciously we will mirror their body posture, or lean forwards and become unconcerned about the other things going on around us. Just observe a couple flirting and you will see what I mean.
Children are excited to share their world with us. If we are not taking notice they will either give up asking or escalate their efforts to gain our attention. Are you familiar with the whining child or the repeated calling of “Mummy” or “Daddy” with increasing volume until you respond? In my experience it’s much harder to shout at a child when you are looking into their eyes.
Listening actively, even for a few moments, transmits the message of acceptance, that we value who they are and what they wish to communicate to us. Children don’t care if the floor is grubby, the dishes are not washed or their bed is unmade. They won’t remember the messiness of toys spread all over the house or unbrushed hair. They will treasure memories of their paintings hung on the kitchen walls, the laughter shared over a game of Scrabble or cards, a walk in the park collecting leaves and feeling listened to and understood around the dinner table each evening.