Put Your Listening Ears On

I love to talk. I'm sure you're all shocked by that statement. I process information by talking it through. If I'm at home by myself, I'll talk to the dog just to have someone with whom to talk. Unfortunately, I'm not always the best listener, and I've discovered that being a good listener is an important part of being a mom. If I can't hear what my children are saying, then I can't be wise in instructing them.

My oldest daughter is a talker, as well. My dad likes to say that I deserve every minute of her chatter. Because she talks so much, it's really easy for me to tune her out sometimes. However, when I do that, I run the danger of missing something important, some place where she really needs me to tune in and help her out. God has been talking to me about the importance of really listening to my girls because if I don't listen now while they still want to talk to me, they're going to think I don't want to listen when they're teen-agers and I need them to talk to me.

The other reason I need to be a good listener when my kids speak is because it teaches them how to be good listeners. If we don't know how to listen to each other, how are we ever going to hear God's voice?

The Bible actually has a lot to say about listening. All throughout the Bible, the prophets and even Jesus exhort us to listen to the words of God. Listening keeps us from answering wrongly or heading off on the wrong track. Study these verses so you can apply them to your life, then use them to teach your kids:

  • Proverbs 12:15 -- The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice.
  • Proverbs 13:1 -- A wise son heeds his father's instruction, but a mocker does not listen to rebuke.
  • Proverbs 15:31 -- He who listens to a life-giving rebuke will be at home among the wise.
  • Proverbs 18:13 -- He who answers before listening— that is his folly and his shame.
  • Ecclesiastes 7:5 -- It is better to heed a wise man's rebuke than to listen to the song of fools.

Let's look at two practical applications for the art or listening. First, we'll start with you. This afternoon when your kids walk in the door from school, put down whatever it is that you are doing and really pay attention to what your kids are saying. If supper is late getting on the table or your bathroom doesn't get spotlessly clean, it's ok. Taking 5 or 10 minutes to listen to your kids is more important.

Set aside a time during the day when your kids know that they have your undivided attention to listen to them. For some of you, that might be bedtime. For others, it might be over the breakfast table. Whatever the time, make it consistent and make sure your kids know that that time belongs to them. Don't spend all the time asking them specific questions. Just open up the conversation with some open-ended questions and let your kids do the talking while you do the listening.

Instill the value of listening in your kids by instituting a rule that when someone else is talking, the others in the family are listening. Make it a practice at the dinner table to let each child have a turn to tell something about his or her day. After they are done, each person has to ask the child a question about whatever was said. This keeps everyone's focus on the person doing the talking.

Show your children how much we miss when we are so busy talking that we're not listening. Take your kids outside in the evening. Have them stand quietly for two minutes and listen. After the two minutes is up, ask your kids what they heard. Try to identify all the sounds. Your kids will be amazed at how many different sounds they heard. Talk with them about how when we are talking, we can't listen well at the same time. Ask them if they think they might miss important things that other people say because they are too busy talking themselves. Stress the importance of listening to others.

This week, let's lead by example. I plan to do less talking this week and whole lot more listening. I hope you do, too.