Have you ever tried to talk to your kids and been absolutely, positively sure they weren’t listening to a word you said? Well, you may be mistaken, and I’m going to tell you why.
Let me start by acknowledging that all the research has confirmed what we have suspected for years: people – kids and adults alike – can’t multitask and truly give justice to any one task. Divided attention means partial attention. That means that texting while sitting at the dinner table does not allow teens to talk to their friends and be fully engaged in your conversation. They will definitely miss the finer points of your family discussion and sometimes even the big picture. So no, your kids aren’t always listening when you’re talking.
But I’m talking about a different kind of listening. I’m talking about kids hearing who you are, what you believe in, and what you’re trying to instill in them. I’m talking about the important things. Here are three powerhouse suggestions (“powerhouse” because it only takes these three to turn everything around) for helping your kids hear you when it’s really important:
DON’T LECTURE! Did you appreciate my yelling at you just now? I’m betting you didn’t, and neither will your kids. If you want to get your kids to shut down faster than electricity in a Texas storm, start lecturing. It doesn’t matter how calm you are when you lecture, all kids will hear is you yelling at them. The minute you start, the barriers go up and it really will feel like you’re talking to a brick wall.
Model the behavior you expect. You know the old adage about actions speaking louder than words, and this especially applies to kids. How many times have kids thrown your actions back in your face to remind you that you’re guilty of the very thing you’re warning them about? There you go. They’re absolutely paying attention. Behave the way you want them to behave.
Make respect the cornerstone of your family foundation. When kids see parents speaking to each other with respect, they learn how to do the same. When they are talked to with civility and not name-calling, cursing, and blaming, they learn how to express differences constructively. Our mantra was always to treat family members as well as or even better than you would treat your friends.
Kids are listening more than you think. I can’t count the number of times my kids have responded, sometimes years down the road, to a conversation I thought had fallen on deaf ears. They may fight you to your face, but what you’re saying is still being heard.