Listen to Your Kids So They Will Talk to You
“Mama, watch this!”
“Mama, why is the sky blue?”
“Mama”… followed by a five-minute narrative about favorite cartoon characters, movies, or toys.
“Mama, why does that lady have red shoes on?”
“Mama, why is water wet?”
“Mama, today at school we got to play with markers that wash off the walls.”
“Mama, what if I went to live at Disneyland, would I get to eat all the waffles I wanted?”
“Mama, today Caleb brought a Transformer for show n’ tell”, followed by a lengthy narrative about the origin of Transformers and all of the characters.
“Mama, guess what happened in math class today!”
How many times a day do we hear “Mama”, followed by one of the previous types of questions or statements?
According to several studies found on the Internet, preschool age kids ask an average of 100 “why” and “what if” type questions per day. By the time they reach middle school they stop asking questions.
Their “audience” stopped listening.
Kids are inquisitive and excited because that is how God made them and that is how they learn. When they share something with us, it is their way of inviting us to learn what they have learned and to enjoy what they enjoy.
Sometimes, though, we receive these conversations as inconvenient interruptions. I have been guilty of this. If I’m in the middle of something and am asked a question every couple of minutes I grow impatient because my project gets interrupted. Sometimes I handle the interruption well, and sometimes not.
Proverbs gives us some instruction in this area.
A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
If we repeatedly tell our children “not now, I’m in the middle of something,” or don’t even bother to look up from our device screens when they are talking to us, we send the message that they, and what they have to say, is not important to us. After a while, our kids will think twice about sharing and asking us questions because they think we don’t care, or to avoid a sharp response.
In contrast, if we say “Honey, I really want to hear about this, but I have to get this project finished right away. Will you please give me a few minutes and we can talk then?” while making eye contact, our children still feel valued, but understand that they need to wait their turn. It is important that we respond gently, it is equally important that our children learn the importance of being respectful.
We then need to make the time to listen.
Just like we can be confident in approaching God, knowing He doesn’t see our questions as interruptions, our kids should be confident in approaching us.
The Bible talks a lot about being faithful stewards with our finances, our work ethic, our family, and even the message of the gospel. Scripture is also clear about the principle of being trusted with more when we prove we can be trusted with little. What if we applied this to our conversations with our kids?
If we welcome our kids’ questions from a young age about why water is wet and listen to our children give a detailed, thirty-minute recount of their favorite movie, they will grow to trust us during their tweens and teens with bigger questions and conversations.
By being faithful with those seemingly “small to us” conversations, we are building equity and influence in our relationships with our children. Equity that both of us can draw on. That equity can be used by them when they need to talk to us about something serious going on in their lives, and can be used by us as influence with our answers, or in broaching an important matter with them.
One thing is for sure; our kids will find someone to listen, and someone to answer. We need to take the utmost care that we are the ones doing both.