With a loud sigh mom responded, "Come on, pick a book. Spring break is almost over and you still have not figured out which book you want to bring back to school next week for your book report. Hurry up! Dad will be home soon and we need to get going!" I continued to watch as the child aimlessly stacked one book on top of another without giving any one book much attention.
As mom stood to formalize her desire to leave the boy yelled out "How can I pick a book when I don't know what they say ?" I held my breath waiting for mom's response and tried not to look anywhere but at the book shelf in front of me. I guess all three of us now had an inkling of why the boy may not have liked school. Could it have been his struggles with reading that were making his return to school less than desirable?
I audibly let out a sigh of relief as I watched for mom's response only to see her quietly descend to her knees to gather her child up on her lap. She finally "heard" what he was telling her, after almost missing it! Book by book she went through reading the title and sharing what the book was about.
How many times have we failed to get the full picture of what our child was trying to tell us because we were not actively listening to what they were saying? When we actively listen we don't judge, agree or make recommendations. We just listen and allow our children to tell us all that they need to express. This is not always an easy task and boy do we feel bad when we miss the mark. Keeping an open mind and actually listening to what our kids need to tell us can be challenging. But by taking the time and making an effort we tell our kids that we respect them, want to know what they have to say and will be there to help them when needed.
Curious after my trip to the library, I came home to search the internet for a helpful, "parent friendly" description of what active listening looks like. I came upon a podcast that I would like to recommend to all parents. http://centerforparentingeducation.org has a great library of podcasts on parenting. The one I listened to was great and I would have loved to recommend it to that mom in the library. The topic was how to have healthy communication with children. It is easy to listen to and offers a lot of help in just a few short minutes.
Actively listening to your child requires patience, practice and intention. Take a moment to listen to this and other podcasts you'll find at this site. I hope that you will find them helpful! I am happy to report that the boy left the library with book in hand and a smile on his face while holding his mom's hand. Both parties looked relieved to have achieved their goal of selecting a book for school. More importantly, I think he left the library feeling like he had been heard.