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Listening without talking is hard. It is especially difficult as a parent. Our children come to us with a problem and our instinct is to fix it, to save our little darlings from fallout resulting from mismanagement of the dilemma du jour. And it doesn’t matter what the problem is. Whatever our kids face, it is likely that on the hike up our own craggy road we’ve already been there, done that, and know where the trail leads. We want to shelter our kids, help them, save them from whatever we believe is lurking around the curve ahead.
And so we talk. And talk and talk.
And we lose them. Because, guess what? They didn’t come for advice.
Kids need a safe place to hear their thoughts spoken aloud, to listen to their arguments and suppositions, in their own voices, for the purpose of making their own decisions. If they want parental advice they will ask. If they don’t ask, it’s a good bet that isn’t what they’re after.
Sometimes kids, like parents, just need to vent.
My daughter Stephanie told me that, and though I never forgot it, it took me so long to really “get it” that she probably questioned my intelligence. The worst thing is that even though I know it to be true, I still have trouble—as all three of my children will attest—with keeping my big mouth shut and my ears wide open.
Now, I’m not saying kids won’t benefit from parental advice. But how can we expect to give them what they need if we don’t listen first?
I believe that great listening is an art. It requires the ability to commit one’s full attention to another, to draw in every word and nuance of tone and expression with the intent not to judge, but to understand.
See you next time –