The magic of listening

I heard this scenario in a cafe the other day. Mum and child sitting at the table next to me and the little one says;

“Mum?” wanting to talk to mum.

No response. Mum’s staring at her tablet.

“Mu – um!” Much louder this time. Other people in the cafe now glancing towards the child but mum is completely oblivious.

“MUM!” he shouts and gets her attention but not in the form he wanted as a listening ear, he gets chastised instead. Conversation killed dead before he’s remembered what he wanted to say!

Does this sound familiar? I’ve done it too, at times. Even with my young adult home again over the summer I sometimes missed what she was saying. Actually, there were quite a lot of time she missed (or ignored!) what I was saying but generally we show each other the respect and consideration of listening.

Most of us underestimate the value of listening. The power it gives, especially to a child.

As a parent you can solve problems just by listening, redirect mounting crises, prevent your child from becoming incredibly demanding (if they know they’re going to be listened to they have no need to demand), you can develop their language, vocabulary and speaking skills and best of all you can show the most important thing of all: you CARE!

Listening, whether it’s to our children, our partners, our mothers, our friends; giving up our time and truly engaging with listening, is one of the most powerful ways of demonstrating care and respect and educating our children about living together.

There are times when we’ll need to say ‘just a sec….’ but we must see we take time to listen when that second’s up. Other times we might need to say; ‘I want to hear what you’ve got to say, but must finish this first then we’ll have a chat’. Sometimes we need to stop right there and then and make sure we listen and converse. Sometimes it’s just a single moment of eye contact and a suggestion from you in response that is fulfilling enough – it works like a kind of magic. Youngster goes off happy.

Having time in a family for listening and chatting together is part of family care – and of education. The simple courtesy of listening can weave magic into relationships.

After all, we want our children to be caring people and to listen to us, we want our partners to listen, we want the respect of being heard ourselves. So we need to practise showing that consideration to others, particularly our children. It is not the case that just because they’re small we assume they have nothing valid to say and they can be ignored! We have to listen anyway.

Let’s show we care enough for that.

And I’m listening if anyone would like to leave me a comment? :)

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14 thoughts on “The magic of listening

  1. So true. I’m definitely more of a talker than a listener when it comes to adults but somehow am much better with my daughter so far. Something I’m always trying to work on as i spend half the time someone’s talking to me working out what I’ll say next!

  2. As you say, we as adults want the courtesy of being listened to, and to really be heard can make such a difference to your mood, to your day and to your relationship – why wouldn’t we want to give that gift to our children too. Especially when they come out with such interesting things and can often offer us a different take on life! My son can only say a couple of words so far (four if you count moo’ing and woofing…) but I love listening to him chatter away to me.

  3. You’re spot on Ross as ever. So often you see parents plugged into their phones or staring at their tablets whilst their little ones are desperate for attention. It’s sad. To me though, the worst thing is the “pretending” to listen; when we make all the right sounds, nod along, utter an affirmative response when we’re not listening at all. I agree with you completely that we need to show others, especially our children who follow our examples, the courtesy of listening and although it is just that – a courtesy – it is that respect and showing that we care that makes all the difference in a relationship!

  4. So many parents, and mainly mums seem to be stuck on a phone or other device when out with their kids that the chance of normal chatting is cut off instantly. Even when I am with my son Ben he often demands (and quite rightly) full eye contact from me when we talk together because it is only then that you are rally engaged in a proper conversation. I often tell people of the time when Ben’s mum was approached by a man in the supermarket, when Ben was a baby/toddler, and he told her how he liked the fact that she was talking to Ben and not just dragging him around the shop. The cheapest and most important thing we can give our kids is our time and our undivided attention.

  5. So true! Reflective listening is especially powerful, it seems to cure most problems with my two. To know that you’re being listened to, and to know that you’ve been understood, does wonders.

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