Do you do more talking than listening as a sports parent? It’s a habit that many parents have. I did it a lot because I felt my words would fix my kids’ sports frustrations.
But I’ve come to learn, through my 31 years of parenting, that listening is just as important as the words you say. Sadly, we often neglect it as a way to help and influence your kids.
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Hearing your kids is easy. You hear them vent when they come home from practice or games. They may go on and on about the coach or their teammates. But are you really listening?
Here’s what good listening looks like:
1. Good listening is patient. The tendency for parents is to listen with half an ear that presumes they know what their child is going to say. That kind of listening is inattentive, and is actually merely waiting for a chance to speak. You may think you know what your child is going to say, and may be already thinking of a response.
Good listening demands that parents concentrate and listen with both ears. It means you hear your child until they’re done speaking.
Your child usually doesn’t start with what’s most important. The deeper thoughts may take time to come out. Listen to their whole train of thought, all the way to the end.
It takes discipline to shut out the distractions and really listen to what your child is saying.
2. Good listening is loving. Good listening says my child is worth my time. It tells your child that they matter. It shows love in a very simple, practical way. Looking your child in the eyes as you listen is another way to communicate, “I love you.”
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There will be days when the most loving thing you can do is to lean in and listen to your child’s pain and hurt all the way through. Sometimes, that type of love will be all your child needs.
3. Good listeners ask good questions. There’s a proverb that says a fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in exercising opinions.
Good listeners ask perceptive, open-ended questions. When their child comes home from practice, they ask questions that go deeper than just, “How was practice?”
While asking deeper questions, good listeners watch for nonverbal communication and don’t pry or push for details that their kids aren’t ready to share. If your children know you are truly listening, there very well could come a time when they do open up.
4. Good listeners know when to speak. Sometimes, good listeners only listen, and keeping silent is the best option, at least for the moment. But usually, good listening leads to an opportunity to speak truth into your kids. As another proverb goes, a fool gives an answer before hearing, but the wise person listens to the whole story, without judgment, and when the time is right, speaks to the issue.
Obviously, as parents, you have to discern those times when you need to speak right away and times when you need to listen more.
Never underestimate the impact of a conversation where you listen and ask, listen and ask, and then choose your words of response wisely. When you do, your children will be more prepared to hear than if you tried to fix them with a lot of words.