When my children were in elementary school I walked to pick them up every day. Driving a dually truck made it difficult to navigate the sharp turns. Getting honked at was inevitable. With this challenge came a blessing because I soon learned that I’d much rather walk. It gave me a little exercise to work off “the extra baby weight” and valuable time with my kids.
The walk home was filled with classroom, playground, and friend stories. It was a time for each child to talk, and a time for me to listen. My older two would sometimes fight over who got to go first.
Taking time to listen paid off in huge dividends. I learned where they were struggling. I learned who their friends were. I learned what brought them joy. I learned who the mean yard duty ladies were. It was always valuable information.
They learned they could always talk to Mom. At the end of this post I am going to let you in on how this played out in the long run.
As they got older these talks turned into more serious ones:
- “Mom, a kid in my class is doing drugs during our class!”
- “Mom, there’s a girl I like.”
- “I’m thinking of dropping a class.”
- “Carly pierced her ears during class time.”
- “My friend is pregnant.”
- “Mom, I think I am going to marry a pastor.”
What parent doesn’t want to hear about these things?
There is however a trick to this. Do you want to know what that is? YOU CAN’T RESPOND. I’m not kidding. As soon as you overreact or respond with advice… conversation over!
Listen. Listen. Listen.
Your child needs someone to talk to.
I know what you’re thinking What if they tell me something that I absolutely have to address? I am not saying you never give advice or address critical issues. But while they are talking it is much better to ask questions than to respond with advice.
This is what it can look like:
“Mom, some girls in my class want to meet up later to smoke and go online to harass another girl.”
“Hmmm. Interesting. What do you think about that?”
“Well, I definitely don’t want to smoke. I already tried that with you and it made me sick. And the girl they want to harass is really sweet and I wouldn’t do that.”
“So, what did you tell them?”
“I wasn’t sure what to say. What do you think I should say?”
Bam! Now you’re in! But a note of caution: As you proceed do so with many questions and make it a discussion and not a dictator conversation.
I did whatever I had to do to get my kids talking.
For one of my sons this meant going to get ice cream. For one it meant a trip to Taco Bell. And for my daughter it was as easy as jumping on her bed for some girl time. Whatever I had to do I did it. Whatever time it took, I made the time. However many attempts it took before they opened up and shared their life I waited patiently for it.
There were times I heard things where inside I felt like I was being strangled and couldn’t breathe, holding back sobs with a tear that trickled down my cheek. Or other times where I wanted to yell and throw something. Poker face. And when I was alone I worked out my emotions just me and God.
How often do you listen to your kids? They need to talk with you. They want to talk to you.
Today, now that my kids are all adults obviously our relationship has changed. Actually, it is better than ever. Yes, as your kids age it can get better and better. I receive frequent invitations to lunch and hang out time. I love it. And my son who is living out of state calls me on his ride home from work usually daily, just to catch up. Just like our walks home after school.
And my daughter, yes, she married the most wonderful pastor any mom would be proud to call “son.”
When you establish a pattern of listening and making time for your children it will follow into their adulthood. The person who will reap the most joy is you.