Today is World Down Syndrome Day and to celebrate the kids were asked to wear blue and yellow to school.  When they came home from school yesterday Tyler asked me, “What is Down Syndrome?”  I gave him a quick explanation about chromosomes and we moved on to homework.  I didn’t think too much of it until we arrived at school today.

I volunteer at the school on Wednesdays reading with my youngest son’s Kindergarten class.  We stopped in the office so I could officially check in and the kids noticed the pins the office staff ladies were wearing in celebration of WDS Day.  Tyler started talking to them, trying to explain how chromosomes make up who we are in his 8-year-old way.  He couldn’t recall the word “chromosome” and the office ladies were having trouble understanding what he was trying to tell them.

But they were intently listening nonetheless.

They didn’t let that long line of people trying to check in behind him steal their attention away.  They didn’t think of the relentless list of priorities they have to get done that day.  They didn’t multitask.  They didn’t tell him to hold on a minute.  They just looked at him and listened.

Aware of that long line behind my boys and the few minutes that remained before the bell would ring I had already started walking away.  When I turned back to see all three women intently focused on my sweet little boy trying to make sense of the world it hit me like a ton of bricks.

It was then that I realized I need to be a better listener.

Our children crave our undivided attention and our busy, hurry-to-the-next-activity-society doesn’t necessarily put this skill at the forefront of our minds.  Importance is placed on getting things accomplished.  Checking off the tasks on our to-do list.  Getting the most crammed in to each day.  I am so guilty of this.

There are many perks when it comes to working from home but it also has its challenges.  It’s difficult for me to break my attention away from the email I’m trying to send to look at the 17th Lego creation my son has made in the last five minutes.  Or to put my phone down to watch his newest light saber combat moves.  “No wait, it goes like this Mommy!”

But after I left the school office as I walked my children to their classrooms I was very aware that this time I have with them at home with me daily is limited and I’ve been taking it for granted.  The time it takes to stop and listen is worth the investment and one that I vow to make my priority.  It paves the way for a deeper connection with your child and teaches him how to listen as well.  I don’t know about your children but mine could use some improvement in that department.  I need to be a role model for them because they are always watching and learning.
Mom with two daughters looking at each other

I love to research and when I have a problem or are looking to improve in some way I jump on the internet and search for a solution.  Here are a few strategies I’ve read that will help accomplish this goal that you might also find beneficial:
1.  Don’t interrupt.  This takes a lot of patience (something that is not my strong suit) but when we interrupt we rob our children of the chance to finish their thought.  Even when your child says something that sounds ridiculous or wrong try to let him finish.
2.  Don’t tell your own stories.  I used to think this demonstrates empathy and shows the speaker you are listening.  However, when we allow our child to fully express their feelings without interruption, they’ll oftentimes come up with their own solution.
3.  Watch your child’s facial expressions and body language.  Listening isn’t just about hearing words, but about trying to understand what’s behind those words.  Make eye contact and repeat back what he or she says.
4.  Don’t try to cheer them up or rush into problem solving.  Your child has a right to their feelings.  Instead of trying to fix their problems you might want to say, “tell me more about that,” or “is that how you felt?”  Helping your child interpret their emotions allows them to accept it and move on.  Letting them express themselves shows them that it’s okay to feel hurt, angry, or sad.  Many times children just need to vent those frustrations and are not looking for you to fix anything.
5.  Don’t judge.  Listen with compassion and unconditional acceptance and your child will reward you with a lifetime of trust.

I am committed to sharpening my listening skills.  How about you?  Do you find it difficult or does this come naturally to you?