Be a Good Listener: A Lesson We May Need More Than Our Children Do

A thought recently popped into my head, and I haven’t been able to get it out.

So here it is:

How can we as parents tell our children that they need to learn to listen, when we haven’t seemed to learn to listen at all?

I mean think about it.

Look at your social media platforms. Your Facebook wall is riddled with people sharing something they believe, things they feel strongly enough to share.

Instead of reading, or watching, truly listening, and letting their words or feeling sink in, most people who disagree angrily type a rebuttal.

It seems that we are so desperate for our own beliefs and feelings to be heard that we can’t hold space for anyone else’s.

Yet here we are, every day, scolding our children to stop talking over us, to stop arguing with us, and just listen to what their parents have to say.

Funny isn’t it?

What’s good for our children to learn, seems to be lost on us adults.

We’re all guilty. We don’t even realize we’re doing it!

When someone states how they feel, maybe even share some statistics to support that feeling, instead of listening and holding space for that person and acknowledging that they’re feelings are valid, it seems our rational minds shut down and we revert to toddler behavior. We primitively think “surely their feelings cannot be valid because that means mine aren’t!”

Rationally we know this isn’t true. We all have different life experiences, and all of them are very real and very valid.

Intelligent, rational, educated adults react this way. In person, and behind their computer screens.

So how can we expect our children to learn to be good listeners and acknowledge other people’s feelings if we seem to have lost the ability ourselves?

We seem to forget that we are all the same on the inside. We all have feelings. We all have hurt and pain. We all bleed, we all cry. We all experience anger and love.

Whether you realize it or not, we all feel deeply, and we all want to be heard, adults and children alike.

There is room enough for everyone to share their beliefs and feelings, we just need to share that space. Truly share it. That means being a good listener.

It doesn’t mean you have to agree with that person. It means that you hold space for that persons feelings.

You listen to what they have to say without interrupting, without judgment, without arguing. I mean think about it; if your kid interrupts you while you are trying to speak what do you do? You reprimand them, and tell them what they are doing is wrong. Tell them no arguing, just listen to what I have to say!

So why is it ok for us as adults to do this on a daily basis to one another? How will our children learn to listen and work together, when their greatest teachers can’t seem to do so ourselves?

In a world where everyone’s opinions are louder than ever, it’s time we start walking the walk, and talking the talk.

Instead of deleting your friend off Facebook for their post on antiracism and structural racism statistics; read it, take it in, look at their sources and sit with what they are telling you. Assess how it makes you feel, and instead of hitting unfriend, realize that they are asking to be heard, not asking you to take up arms with them. You may not agree with what they have to say, but you may connect with them on a deeper level knowing a pain they are feeling.

If your friend is posting police lives matter, and you feel like that is attacking your cause, don’t press unfriend either! Read it, listen to their message, sit with their pain too. How does this make you feel? Why does this make you feel this way? Don’t respond in anger, just let them be heard just like you want to.

What if your child “unparented”you because they didn’t like what you were telling them. That would be ridiculous right?

Kind of like how ridiculous it is to let people voicing their differences in opinion be a reason to end relationships with them. Think about that next time you hit “unfriend” because you can’t believe your friend on fb feels differently about something than you do.

Political posts, religious posts, feminist posts, spiritual posts, Veganism, keto diet, parenting, and any other hot topics people love to argue about on the internet (it seems like everything)…. just read it, watch it, observe what that person is trying to tell you they are feeling.

They are trying to show you a piece of themselves. They’re asking you to look at their hearts, their pain, their struggles, their triumphs, their love, their victory, their passions and just hold space for them.

They aren’t trying to force you to believe what they do, because no one thinks they’re going to change your mind based on a post on the internet.

We all just want to be listened to.

So think about that next time you tell your kid “you’re not being a good listener!”

WE are not being good listeners.

WE, the adults, need a good hard lesson in listening. WE need to do better.

Think of how much better the world would be if we listened to one another, really listened. We could understand, and use empathy to work with on another.

Understanding someone’s pain or belief doesn’t mean that you feel the same way, it just means you acknowledge that it is very real for them.

When we can do this, we can work together.

We tell kids to do this all the time when they play with, or work on projects with kids they don’t necessarily get along with or enjoy. So why is it different for us as adults?

It shouldn’t be.

As parents we all want to raise our children to be good, kind, successful… think of how much better, kinder,and more successful they will be if they learn to listen to others, and be able to work through differences.

So let’s teach our children to listen by first being good listeners ourselves.

Start today, and be the example for your child.

It starts with us.

When we listen so will they, and because of it, the world will be a much better place.

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