Day 3–Cultivate the Art of Listening (31 Days of Proactive Parenting)

In James 1:19, it says, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” God gave us two ears and one mouth–that should tell us something, huh? Man, I really need some help in this area. I get so insane as I attempt to manage our crazy busy lives that sometimes I am actually the opposite: slow to listen, quick to speak and quick to become angry.

So often I get it all wrong. I usually realize it after the fact. Common scenario in our house: I asked Boy #4 to pick up the toys that he left out in the living room. I leave the room and when I see him again, he is playing with his stuffed animals on his bed–or at least that is what it looks like he is doing. When I go to the living room, I see the same exact toys strewn all over…still! I start fussing and fuming. Inside I’m projecting this moment wayyyyyy into the future: “How will he hold down a job if he can’t even do the one thing I’ve asked of him? How will his wife feel when she realizes she married a slob?” I start ranting and raving how he should have picked up his toys the first time I asked. I was so caught up in the moment that I failed to realize all his stuffed animals were on his bed. Then it hits me like a ton of bricks.

“Mom, I didn’t pick up the toys in the living room because before you asked me to pick up those toys, you had asked me to make sure all my stuffed animals were on my bed. I hadn’t done that yet. I thought I should do that first and then go get the toys in the living room.”

{I now have a huge lump in my throat.}

“Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25). We need to keep in step with the Spirit, especially when it comes to our kiddos. One minute they might need a consequence. The next minute, they might need a hug. Or they might simply need us to slow down and really hear what they are saying instead of assuming we know.

We need to cultivate the art of listening.

  • Listening to the Lord.
  • Listening to your spouse.
  • Listening to your kids.
  • Listening to wise counsel.

We can’t listen if our minds are preoccupied. I’ve been guilty of pseudo-listening many, many times. I still struggle every so often. But I’m becoming more aware of when I slip into that mode. For some reason it usually happens in the truck when we are going somewhere. Maybe it’s because we are not talking face to face. Have you ever had one of your children talk and talk and talk …. and talk? I’ve gotten so good at slipping into pseudo-listening–or at least I think I have. I mutter “yeah” and “okay” at all the right times, but my mind is a million miles away from that conversation he thinks we are having. {Insert another huge lump in my throat just thinking about this.}

Usually I’m distracted with really exciting things, you know, like what I’m making for dinner, the toaster is acting funny, or did I wash my favorite pair of jeans for tomorrow. There are, of course, times we can’t give our undivided attention, but for the most part we need to be fully present in their lives. Communication is more than just the words we say. It’s how we say them. It’s our body language. It’s using our eyes to convey feeling. It’s stopping what we are doing and being there. Being fully present when we are talking with and listening to our kids conveys we care, we empathize with them, we value what they are saying because we value them, and we are a safe place for them to express themselves–even expressing themselves in ways we might not necessarily like because they don’t have the words to articulate what they are REALLY feeling or going through.

I have been challenged today to be fully present when I am with them and to cultivate the art of listening to the Lord first of all and then to my boys. As I listen to the Lord, He will guide me in raising them. He will tell me when it is time to speak and when it is time to be quiet. He will tell me what is really going on in their hearts not just what their behavior is telling me. He will lead me!

He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young (Isaiah 40:11).

To be a proactive parent, we must:

  • Trust
  • Cultivate the Art of Listening

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