We’ve heard over and over how important it is to listen, by which we mean “hear what someone just said.” And frequently I’ve heard parents say, “She just doesn’t listen,” usually meaning “she’s not doing what I asked or told her to do.” Consider: our very young children are very keen listeners and know that listening to what we say is critical - whether they look like they are listening or not. And even learn that acting as if they are “not listening” is a great (i.e., “acceptable” excuse for not doing what mommy or daddy wants us to do.
Listening is so much more than hearing what is said. It is learning to know what to act on, what to ignore, how to pretend to listen, among other things. You and I, parents, determine whether our children are listening with openness and full of possibility, or is best thought of as something needing to be carefully managed.
I’m suggesting that taking more time to sit and listen - no matter what your child has to say - is one of the most well-spent times that you can have - as long as you make eye contact at eye level, scoot up close, and are not pretending to listen (unless that is what you want them to do). When it doesn’t work for you to stop your own thinking and truly listen, say so: “It doesn’t work for me to listen right now as I am (getting dinner ready, going to the store, shutting off the main water valve because the basement is flooding, etc.). I will let you know when I am ready.” No correcting, no coaching, no judgment … just listen as if you listening to your most valuable partner. You are. And that partner is paying attention to how you say and do what you say and do.