by Mark Gregston
Have you stopped to consider how well you listen? I’m not talking about hearing what someone says, I’m talking about listening—the act of digesting and absorbing what they’re telling you.
Well, you’ll never understand the heart of another person if you never take the time to really understand what they are trying to communicate to you. And, if you’re looking not only at being a better person, but a better parent, you’re going to need to learn to listen to what your teen is saying, and you’re going to need to make active listening a priority in your relationship—especially during their adolescent years.
Listening is difficult, and you’d be surprised at how hard it is to do these days. Our world is constantly on the move and we’ve somehow taken multi-tasking to a new level, but our teens want to feel valued and loved and one of the best ways we can show them love is by listening to what they have to say, when they want to say it. So, if you’re in need of refresher course on how you can become a better listener, this is the article for you!
Six Ways to Become a Better Listener
1. Close your mouth. When you stop talking, you leave room for your teen to talk. A good listener has the ability to let people know they matter without saying a word.
2. Stop thinking about how you’ll respond. Effective communication is a two-way road, but you’ll need to focus on the other person, more than you focus on your own thoughts. Philippians 2:3-4 says it best: Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourself, not looking to your own interest, but to the interest of others. Can you honestly say you’re listening to your child because you value them and your relationship? If not, consider that you’re missing the heart of your child.
3. Ask good questions. The key to active listening is understanding what you hear. So, ask questions that probe the depths and that lead to opening the door to a deeper relationship. Bonus tip: when you ask a teen his or her opinion, you’re offering them a way to feel validated and affirmed and that’s a desire of every teen (and person) on the planet.
4. Want the best for your teen. It sounds crazy, but there are actually people out there who are not involved in their child’s life, and who don’t know what’s going on with their teen on a day-to-day basis. So, when the opportunity to listen arises, make it a priority. When you put your child off, you’re sending the message that they just aren’t as important as whatever it is you’re doing at the moment. You don’t always have to agree on everything, but when you take the time to listen to what they have to say, you’re letting them know that they’re valuable, precious, and more importantly, that you’re on their team.
5. Listen with your actions, not just your ears. When your teen speaks, turn off the radio, television, or whatever distraction is in front of you and focus on them. Give them eye-contact. Consider setting up a standing date with your teen, so that the two of you can just talk and enjoy each other’s company—even if nothing of significance gets said!
6. Quit Interrupting. When you interrupt your teen, or just blurt out what you’re thinking before they have had a chance to say what’s on their mind and their heart, then you aren’t listening and you aren’t communicating that you value what they have to say. Consider how you feel if someone did that to you. If you’ve been working hard to keep the lines of communication open, don’t douse the flames of further conversation by being insensitive to their feelings.
A Few Thoughts to Consider
Our teens need someone to listen to them, so if they feel they aren’t being heard, you can be assured that they’ll scream louder and in different ways. And some of those ways will include risky behaviors. Today’s social media culture is all about pushing the one-way expression of thoughts on the masses, but is anyone really listening to what’s being said or communicated? Tees need to be valued and loved, and when you listen to them—actively and intently, you’re communicating both to them.
Mom, Dad … let me close this article with a couple of Proverbs. A fool speaks. A wise man listens. A fool appears wise when he keeps his mouth shut. A fool delights in sharing his opinions. Get the message? The intent is for all of us to hear what our teens are saying to us. You need to grasp the message of their hearts so that you can respond in a wise and appropriate way. A smart parent only believes half of what they hear. But a wise parent, knows which half to believe. Your teens are craving a listening ear with the hope of having someone know who they are. My prayer is that you’ll understand God gave you two ears and one mouth because He wants you to listen twice as much as you speak.