The title of this blog, is hopefully, an obvious rule to most parents. We expect children to listen to their parents. But, it’s equally, perhaps more important that parents listen to what their children are saying.
When I was in elementary school, I frequently had a sad disturbed look on my face. One day, my teacher asked me what was wrong. So I told her my parents don’t listen to me. I was too embarrassed to tell my teacher the rest of the story, and here’s where it becomes interesting.
She, apparently spoke to the principal, who was also puzzled. The principal called my home to try to speak to my mother. In my home, whenever the phone or doorbell rang, a light would flash on and off. If it was a steady rhythm — on 2 seconds / off 2 seconds and repeat a few times, that was the phone. Otherwise, it was the doorbell. (Although, I must admit that occasionally, my brother or I would play a “joke” by pressing the doorbell at the same rhythm as the phone. It’s a good thing my parents had a sense of humor about this.)
My mother had some hearing, but minimal. She answered the phone and asked, “Hello, who is this?” But she couldn’t completely understand that my school principal was calling. After asking a few times, my mom hung up. The principal called, again, a few times, and got the same reaction. After the third try, the principal gave up.
She explained to the teacher, “Well, I don’t know quite what to make of it, myself. The kid’s mother didn’t want to listen to me either!” The principal called me downstairs to her office and told me the story. That’s when I shook my head and told her, “Of course my mom couldn’t listen to you. She’s deaf!” We could have saved a lot of headaches and embarrassment, I guess, if someone had explained what they were planning to do or, perhaps, ask me better questions.
My point, here is to pose a hard, honest question to today’s parents. Do you really know what happens in your kid’s school and in your kid’s life? If you get the same routine each day when your child comes home — “Hi. How was school, today?” and the only answer that satisfies you is “Fine,” then, really, things are not fine. A better question — and, maybe do this after you give them some down time (and, believe me, school bus rides can be extremely stressful — more on that in a future blog) — a better suggestion might be “Can I see what you learned today? How about if I help you with your homework? Tell me what you did today.” Perhaps, even out the field. You tell them what you did; now it’s their turn.
Fortunately, I had incredibly great grandparents. My grandma would drop her entire schedule and spend an hour or so on the phone to listen to me. Sometimes, she gave me a bit too much advice. But, I always knew that she cared. And, of course, my mom and dad cared. It was just more difficult to explain things to them.
Don’t be deaf to your kids. It’s not pretty. They look at you to solve their problems. Most of the time, you really can solve them. And, even if you can’t, maybe someone else can. And, if no one can, I think kid’s already feel better if you tell them that you can’t, but, at least they know that you will take the time to listen to them, first. Then, you can ask them to listen to you.