You are not Listening!

by Belinda Letchford


I had to say to one of my children this week, “Stop!  You are not listening!”  Their response to me was, “I am listening!”  At this point we had a quick reminder lesson that listening isn’t just hearing the words but hearing them so well that you are able to act upon them.

We tend to stop listening if

  • We have our mind on something else
  • We think we know what is being said
  • We want to say something instead

To be honest this is a challenge for parent and child alike.   I wonder how many times our children talk to us and we aren’t really listening.  Not that we have to do everything they ask of us, but we should at least hear their requests, hear what they have to say so that we can respond appropriately.

I am reminded of the character quality of attentiveness:  Showing the worth of a person by giving full concentration to his or her words (Character First).  One of the things we can do to demonstrate that we are paying attention to the person speaking is to look in their eyes.  How many times do we stop what we are doing and really look in our children’s eyes as they tell us something or ask something of us?

I remember when my kids were little if I had eye contact when I asked them to do something then half the battle was over.  Imagine calling down the house that it is time to pack toys away; the chances of obedience is very slim.  You are 2 rooms away and the chance that they can get away with a bit more play is very high and a risk they are prepared to take!!  But if you walk down to that playroom, call their name, have eye contact and then ask them to put the toys away, obedience is much more likely.

Thinking back to when I told my child that they weren’t listening – truth be told, I didn’t have eye contact right from the start, and I should have waited till I did.  And I can think of several times, just yesterday, that I didn’t stop what I was doing and look at my children as they came in to talk to me.

Now there is a challenge!

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3 Comments to “You are not Listening!”

  1. Oh, goodness, yes. I think half of the discordant moments in our house are caused by someone hearing, but not listening — and at least a quarter of the time, I’m the one who’s not listening.

  2. Thank you for this important reminder. How does attentiveness look when you have a 3-year-old who almost never stops talking? I want to value her and her conversation, but if I were to always stop my work and make eye contact, I’d never get anything else done! :)

    • Ha! Fair enough Rebekah!! I remember my chatterboxes too – I used to have blocks of quiet time – no talking – throughout the day. Even in the car which was a time where I would like to think. I would say to them for the next 15 minutes (and put a timer on) there will be no talking. If they couldn’t slow down enough to remember to stop talking during these times (which is selfishness and lack of self control) the consequence was to stand still and put their hand over their mouth. This gave them a break and helped them physically realise that I needed them to stop talking. The timer would start again at this point. Once I felt their focus had changed I’d encourage them to go off and do as I asked. They’d say yes mum and off they’d go.

      I also remember saying to them – mummy has to keep doing the dishes here – you can keep talking but I have to keep working. I think that is a real life situation, I work and talk to my older kids, and even my husband at times. I don’t think all conversation needs eye contact, but important conversation (including giving instructions) does. I think when we aren’t making eye contact we do need to make verbal sounds that we are listening to general conversation.

      I also taught them to find the right time to talk to me. This probably was built on the above two points for when they were a bit older. But just like I taught them to interrupt me when I was talking, I transferred that courtesy to interrupting me when I was working or thinking or reading. They are not to just walk in a room talking at me…. I may not be talking to another person but thinking and reading is like a conversation with yourself and my brain isn’t listening to them so they need to wait till I’m ready to listen. So starting to teach her to interrupt with courtesy is a good habit that has flow on effects.

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