Being both a mother and a teacher makes each of us spend hours talking to our children. There is so much they need to learn about and improve in each day, so many detailed things to tell them. We can become so very busy accomplishing things and giving out information that often it is easy to ignore our option of gaining information that would help us to know and understand our children and their needs better. Learning to listen is a never ending task but is still the best way to develop more patience and joy.
Do you find yourself giving long explanations or reprimands? And are you always ready with an answer when someone is talking to you, immediately speaking things at the first moment of silence? These are signs that listening is a skill that could be improved in your life. Scripture encourages us to “be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath”; thus, God thinks listening is truly important for our lives.
Since realizing in recent years that this area in my life is still weak, I have prayed about improving in listening. By trial and error (my current method) I am discovering that careful listening involves asking good questions, not interrupting, and, often, just simple silence.
Instead of making too many glib comments, it can generally be helpful to ask simple questions that require more than a yes or no answer when you are learning to listen better. Ask questions such as why, what happened, where did you find it, what do you think about it, will you be alright? Questions like these can help a child to be specific in his answers. Many variations of these “w” questions make good choices when clear communication is needed for a decision or discipline. Good questions bridge the gap between sudden responses and silence. Older children, especially, often share more readily with someone who is a quiet listener, because the minute you comment, they may clam up. Instead, quietly asking a caring question may lead to heartfelt openness and a lovely time of fellowship, the kind that brings joy and hope to your life.
The temptation to interrupt someone or insert helpful words can be strong and hard to overcome. A verse in Philippians that I occasionally remember in time (to keep me from interrupting as much) is “in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than themselves.” If we really believe the other person who is speaking to us is more worthy, would we cut them off or let them finish? How often is something left unsaid by your child which would have helped you to understand, if you had not interrupted but waited silently instead? Whether that child is two or twenty, you can benefit from learning patience in this area.
Sometimes, however, the best option in responding to a child is just gentle silence. A short space of quiet can show respect and helps you think before you speak. Quiet with a kind look or touch speaks volumes. Peace and calm are maintained if silence is the first option in a tense, stressful conversation. Considering first, then speaking honestly and kindly shows that you not only listened to them, but listened carefully in order to give a thoughtful and timely response which may diffuse rather than agitate the situation and the relationship. It is a difficult but rewarding challenge to discover ways to draw out a quiet child or calm an excitable one. It takes practice to enjoy the silence while you think of a good question or even choose to just stay out of a conversation between siblings in which you would rather add your two cents.
Training yourself now to truly listen more often can help you prepare to have a more lovely school year. Your new listening skills can benefit any relationship and bring a new awareness of others feelings and needs while growing more fruit in your own life such as patience, self-control, and, best of all, more joy for the journey. If these thoughts strike a chord in you, I hope you will begin today to seek opportunities to listen and learn.
© 2011 Melanie Lippert, Joyfulmoms.net / Ps. 113:9
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