The Power of Listening to Your Kids
“Okay Mom, enough of the lectures,” said one teenage son to his apparently overly communicative Mom this morning. I was that Mom, and so far I’d really only ‘encouraged’ him to eat healthy, speak positively about others and keep his drawers more organized, in three separate 10 minute conversations. Did I mention it was only 10 a.m.?
listened to his feelings reacted in fear internally. (I’ve heard these teenage years are tough, he’s starting to shut me out… that kind of fear).
How are you doing with listening, responding and reacting? This is an area I’ve struggled in, but I’m seeking to make imperfect progress. The fact that we are human and interacting is a recipe for potential hurtful exchanges. Trusting though, that these moments are opportunities for breakthrough and growth can elevate and grow relationships.
Since as imperfect humans, it comes more naturally to us to react first, and later respond or listen, let’s discuss them in that order.
React: to act in response to an agent or influence
An appropriate response to a sudden danger; dodging a flaming arrow. Not the best response in human interactions.
One phrase that helps me put things into perspective, is to ask myself: “emergency or inconvenience.” If it’s an emergency then you want to be in reactive mode. Recognizing it’s an inconvenience will help you shift to respond mode.
When you notice a reaction that doesn’t quite line up with the severity of the situation, that’s our God given clue, that there is something lurking under the surface that needs to be addressed.
Respond: to act in return or in answer: firefighters responding to a call.
After I reacted internally with fear over my son’s comment, my next response was to draw in my husband as a referee, and tell us who was right/wrong. I’d forgotten that no one really wins in that scenario, that these moments are for gaining understanding, not proving a point. Thankfully, he wisely stayed neutral. I then made the first wise response; to beeline to my prayer room (bedroom) to get some perspective.
By responding with taking time to pray, before engaging further in this conversation where my feelings had ran ahead of the logic of the situation, I was able to avoid saying unhelpful things that might deplete our relationship.
Listen: to give attention with the ear; attend closely for the purpose of hearing; give ear.
James 1:19: My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.
As I prayed, I was reminded that under that protective layer of acting like we’ve all got it together, is really that deep inner question, “Am I worthy of love? Do I have what it takes to (fill in the blank)?
My helpful suggestions that morning (or criticism/nagging), were certainly not affirming those questions in my son. While there is a time for those topics to be addressed, I remembered that I first need to make sure my heart is in the right place. Am I coming from a place of humility where I can empathize with his struggles and remind him of God’s deep love and mercy despite our many imperfections?
Upon recognizing that my heart was not coming from a place of humility, but perfectionism, I was able to repent first to God and gratefully received his forgiveness. Secondly I went and gave my son a big hug, and apologized for going overboard on the nagging.
Even though my first two reactions were faulty, God’s grace covered those and allowed for our relationship to repair and grow.
While we’re certainly called to address character qualities in our kids, I’m reminded that our heavenly father doesn’t overwhelm us with a long list of everything we need to work on at once.
I’m praying both you and I can experience the growth in relationships that occur as we strive to increase our time in the listening and responding mode.