Thinking about that awful tie or useless-to-you tool set that you’ll be getting in a few days? Why not think about what gift you can give your children instead?
Give them the gift of paying attention! And wait, there’s more, with paying attention you also give them the gift of self-esteem, confidence and self-respect, in a boxed set shaped like a loving adult.
You can give these simple gifts through listening. I’m not talking about being silent while your child babbles on excitedly and you’re secretly reading the newspaper or listening to the sports announcer. I mean truly listening.
“You cannot truly listen to anyone and
do anything else at the same time.”
The Gift of Paying Attention
You probably love to tell others what’s important to you – your great golf shot, the fabulous method you have for cooking a perfect steak on the grill, how you landed that big deal.
Your kids have their own things that are important to them, and they’ll eagerly tell you, sometimes in great detail, as long as they know you’re listening.
And they always know when you’re not.
“Listen earnestly to anything [your children] want
to tell you, no matter what. If you don’t listen
eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they
won’t tell you the big stuff when they are big,
because to them all of it has always been big stuff.”
~ Catherine M. Wallace
This Sunday, Father’s Day, let your child talk for 15 minutes, and he’ll walk away thinking, “Wow, Dad is awesome.”
Let your child talk to you with your undivided attention for 15 minutes every day, and you’ll walk away thinking, “Wow, my kid is awesome.”
Let Questions be Your Gift
Think that you can’t do it? It might be a little tough to get started, especially if you’re a new parent or if you’re not used to engaging with your children this way.
When you don’t know what to say, ask a question.
Here are a few kinds of questions to help you get started and to keep you focused on them:
- Ask open-ended questions. Use the reporter’s trick of asking how, who, why, when, what or where (pick only one!). They are great for letting your children take the conversation in their direction, and keep you from sounding like an interrogator.
- Ask how the experience they’re sharing made them feel.
- Ask opinion-seeking questions to learn what they liked about it, or what would have made it better. These show that you value their views and can also help them evaluate the experience for themselves.
- Seek their advice about how you should act or what you should do if you encounter that kind of situation. Not only will they feel grown up, their answers help you understand how they interpret the situation and can open the door to deeper conversations when necessary. They also learn how to advise themselves on similar matters in the future, because they’ll remember your conversations. In time, they’ll even imagine themselves telling you about things as those things are happening.
And a few more ways you can keep them talking:
- Give them recognition. We all need recognition. Affirm they handled it well, or did a good job, or that next time they’ll have the experience or wisdom to make a different choice.
- Give acceptance. Sometimes, conversations turn serious or difficult. In those situations, give them acceptance.
- Give them absolution. Particularly in difficult situations, give them implicit forgiveness because they couldn’t have known or done differently, or acted better, and that mistakes happen no matter our intentions.
- Stuff the urge to give advice, until they ask for it. If you’re an irrepressible advice-giver, use questions to help them talk about the situation in ways that they come to see how they could have handled it differently or how next time they might try something else. If that’s a struggle for you, and it’s really important that they hear your advice right now, ask if you can offer some advice. Then, respect their wishes. Even the most fervent “No!” may well actually mean, “not right now, Dad.” They’ll come back to you, if not about the current story, then a future one. Keep in mind that most of life’s ‘crises’ are really quite survivable and temporary, even without your advice.
“A child seldom needs a good
talking to as a good listening to.”
Live Honest, Open and True
Let this Father’s Day be a day of resolution for you to be the best dad you can be and to give your children the gift of your time and undivided attention for a few minutes every day. They’ll see you as awesome, you’ll recognize how awesome they are, and they’ll grow up understanding they are esteemed, confident in their abilities to handle life, and imbued with self-respect. Could you ever ask for a better gift?
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What gifts of yourself do you give to your children? What suggestion do you have for learning how to effectively listen to them? Stop by our Life is HOT blog Facebook Group and leave a comment or tweet me @LifeIsHOTBlog with the hash tag #LifeIsHOT