“YOU NEVER LISTEN TO ME!!!!”
The scream echoes through the house. As does the slam of the bedroom door.
Have you been there?
It’s an all too familiar family scene. It’s after dinner, homework isn’t even close to being done, and a mild reminder about finishing up a book report has turned into WWIII.
My husband and I look at each other. I have steam coming out of my ears. He looks as if he’s witnessed a car crash.
“I just wish he’d listen to me!” I fume as we straighten the pictures on the walls sent rocking by the shockwaves.
Meanwhile my son sulks in his room. “I just wish you guys would listen to me!” he vents.
But I AM listening!
Then again, am I really?
While I was in grad school where I was getting my Master’s degree in organization development, I learned that not all listening is created equal. As an organization development (OD) consultant we practice something called “active listening” as a means to help clients analyze their issues and brainstorm solutions.
I never suspected it then, but I was also learning how to be a more effective parent.
Active listening is a way of fully hearing what the other person is saying. Not just assuming we know what they’re going to say after hearing the first two words and then spending the rest of the time they are talking preparing a perfect response. Instead, active listening focuses on dropping assumptions and working to understand the feelings, motives, and views of the other person.
We don’t quite realize it, but a lot of the time, we as a parents, don’t listen actively at all.
How often have you just heard a few words from your kids and jumped in to correct them or offer solutions? How often have you lost patience while kids fumbled to put their complex thoughts and emotions into coherent sentences? How often do you just take a look at the situation and know what needs to be done, without even giving your kids a chance to explain?
Yeah, when I viewed my conversation with my son that evening through the lens of what my professor had told me about active listening, I was quite ashamed.
It was time to try something different.