Sunday, September 12, 2010

Listen Up! Or Have We Forgotten How?

Not listening
Photo credit: Mollypop (Flickr)
"Mom, I can't find my noculars!" (Translation: binoculars). He'd been telling me this for half an hour and I'd absently respond to keep looking while I put in laundry, changed a diaper, straightened, and swept.

It was finally time to sit down and have some internet time when he crawled onto my lap, wrapped his arms around my neck, and said, "Mom, I can't find my noculars!"

Oh, right. Those damn noculars. I opened my mouth to tell him to keep looking and then I realized I wasn't listening. I was so caught up in what I was doing that I wasn't hearing what my three year-old was really saying, "Mom, help me find my binoculars." So I stopped and listened to his request, met his eyes, and asked, "Do you want me to help you look?"

The joy was instant. Not only did I understand what he wanted, I had listened.

Like most parents I have developed the ability to tune out my toddler. It's a bit of a survival skill when you are together twenty-four hours a day, but it can easily backfire. When we can't take the time to listen our children, we pass this skill unto them. And when we don't listen and clarify their needs, we lose out on opportunity to model communication skills. My son wasn't expressing what he really needed. He needed me to model the question for him.

Photocredit: Mollypop (Flickr)
I guess that's why so many people can't communicate today. We're simply too busy to engage in real communication. For better or worse, Facebook has replaced the phone call, and texting has replaced an afternoon visit. We're more "connected" than ever, and it's causing a huge disconnect.

Like a lot of people it makes me groan to see a teenager out with his family, texting or playing cell phone games, completely oblivious and disinterested in what's going on around them. Some would say this is completely normal behavior - it's just teens being teens. I find that idea insulting. If you aren't interested, why expect your teen to be? your child? your toddler? your husband? wife? friends?

We waste a lot of energy not listening nowadays. We work harder to get our points across passively. We are more frustrated that people just aren't listening when we try to tell them something. We repeat ourselves constantly with our kids. But it's time to step back and remember communication is at least a two person activity.

Disconnect from the tech. Make eye contact. Engage. Clarify. Listen. Connect.
It's your call
Photocredit: Mollypop (Flickr)


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