Several times an hour, each and every day, my boys run downstairs to share their latest invention, drawing, Lego starship design, or plans to overtake the world. Their excitement and enthusiasm is accompanied by sound effects, simulations, and full-body animation.
And most of the time, I'm in the middle of prepping for a meal, replying to an email, folding laundry, putting away dishes, pulling weeds, burping a baby, writing a blog post, or trying to finish a conversation with their dad. There's always something urgent pressing, and something needing my attention.
Oftentimes, my response to their ideas and creative presentations is:
"Wait just a minute." "Oh, okay." "That's neat." "Uh huh." or "I don't have time right now."
And, usually, I'm half-way paying attention or staring blankly at my boys while I'm trying to figure out what to make for dinner in my head.
How To Listen
This summer, my mom came to visit for a week. She speaks English relatively well, but words like "jet-pack," "cybertron," "IOS 4000," "warp speed," "galaxy squad," and "cataclysmic" are just not typically in her vocabulary. And yet, she listened, and listened intently. It's not that the boys even talked incessantly, but that she maximized every minute they engaged her. She valued time with them and didn't take it for granted.
And, the boys thrived on her interest in them. They clearly loved her, and appreciated her, even when she would ask, "What is a 'storm trooper?'"
Here are a few things I was reminded of as I watched her interact with my boys...
An engaged listener:
- makes eye contact
- stops to listen
- asks questions
Some questions an engaged listener asks:
- What interests you the most about this?
- Why did you choose to do it that way?
- How will you solve that problem?
- Can you imagine this happening in real life?
- What inspired you to create this?
- When do you think this invention would come in handy?
Why Should You Listen Intently?
To listen to our children intently and to engage them purposefully is not about elevating our children to center stage. It is not about building up their self-esteem or centering all things around their immediate need for attention. Instead, it is about showing our children how to value others, how to be generous in relationship, and how to focus our attention. When we say, "wait," may they understand it to mean: "I will give you my full attention after I complete my task," rather than "What you have to say is not that important to me."It is to show them that we value what they have to share, so that they might demonstrate value of others as well.
Some of us are mothers to children who have interests and hobbies we either know very little about, or have little inherent fascination with. And, some of us have sewing and crafting skills, but had boys who love weapons and warheads. Nevertheless, here is the principle: We do not need to be naturally fascinated with the things our children talk to us about in order for us to show them that we are fascinated with who God created them to be.
May we begin by simply learning to listen, by engaging our children purposefully.
Because of grace,
Ruth Simons, www.gracelaced.com