As I mentioned the other day in my entry about Forever Families Camp, all too often, we listen to reply. By that I mean, as we are listening we are forming a reply in our head even before the person speaking has completed their statement. This is something that frequently leads to misunderstandings. Unfortunately, there are times we really do know what someone is about to say so our response is appropriate. The reason I say that is unfortunate is because it leads us to a place where we become more confident in our abilities to "read the mind" of the speaker.
Now, listening to reply is OK in some situations. Like the cocktail party. Hey, if you misunderstand someone and say something off track, a little laugh will get you back on topic and no one is any worse for wear. There are other times when listening to reply or "not listening" to reply can get you into trouble but doesn't really do any harm. Like when you are watching the ballgame and your wife comes in the room to ask you to do something. Before what she asks you to do is out of her mouth, you are already formulating the reply. Something like "next time out" or "after the game", or maybe a "yes, dear". And you never heard what was asked.
Then the next time out comes, or the game ends, and you get asked when you are going to do the said task, and you are befuddled because you don't even remember being asked. This is a time when you can certainly get into trouble, and should be avoided when possible, but again, it is not the time that I am talking about.
I am talking about the times when your children are talking to you. You can never truly know what your child is going to say. Some of the most surprising things can come out of their mouth and if you aren't listening, you might not hear it. Children can be truly amazing. When you really listen and think about what they say, their comments can be very profound at times. This is true of children of all ages. It doesn't matter if they are 4 or 14.
AND IT IS IMPORTANT TO THEM TO BE HEARD! Your wife may be used to you responding with the "yes dear" of "after the game" comment and it really doesn't bother her. She is an adult and will get over it.
Children won't. As I said, they want to be heard. They want to know you are listening to them. They want you to make eye contact with them while they are talking to you. In these days of easy distractions with cell-phones, face book, twitter, and instant messaging, it is so easy to become distracted while carrying on a conversation with your child. It is so easy to want to formulate your response while you are still "listening" to what someone else is saying so that you can then move on to the next "instant" message that has to be tended to.
Keep this in mind. I know it is difficult, and even more difficult for the younger generation that has grown up with all of these handy distractions, but nothing is more important than listening to your children and really hearing what they are saying before you try to formulate your response.
This is true for ALL children, but especially true for children that have different life experiences than the majority. Children who have been in foster care. Children who have been adopted. Children who have different color skin then their parents.
Henry David Thoreau is credited with the quote:
"The greatest compliment that was ever paid me was when one asked me what I
thought, and then attended to my answer"
So pay your children a compliment every day and make sure they know that you are not distracted by them, but that you love them and are truly listening to what they say.