“I didn’t hear you.”
“But I told you three times.”
“You don’t have to yell at me.”
“I don’t want to, but you won’t listen.”
“I’m busy right now.”
“Did you stop to consider I am busy too.”
Whom are you listening to?
Most parents, maybe all parents, have trouble getting their kids to listen. Chances are, your parents said the same thing about you. Parents and kids live under the same roof, and the family dynamic is an ongoing negotiation.
We want the people in our lives to listen, usually according to our priorities or schedule. Listening skills are something everyone could use a refresher course in now and then. Listening is like owning an Alexa. It works better if you do the necessary updates.
Everyone in the family needs to respect one another’s rights and forgive each other’s wrongs. Let’s face it: most parents teach their kids how to listen. Chances are, if your kids are ignoring you, it’s because they have learned about ignoring people from their moms and dads. It’s one of those “We all have sinned and fallen short” kinds of flaws.
There is a spiritual dimension to listening. Learning to listen to each other with respect and compassion will strengthen family relationships, but it will also help our relationship with God. The Bible says a lot about listening. One of the most important aspects of knowing God as our Father is learning that we need to listen for his direction. Your kids need to be taught that lesson—and you will probably be their model.
God speaks all the time through his Holy Spirit, his word, our circumstances, and the wisdom of others. The key is to know that we need to listen for his voice in the moments of our day. Do your kids see you listening to God each day?
If you will, they will learn to do the same.
Why won’t you listen to me!?
In “How to Get Your Kids to Listen the First Time” for Psychology Today, Dr. Erica Reischer offers suggestions to help your kids learn to listen the first time you speak so you don’t have to resort to yelling or nagging. She suggests:
- making eye contact with your kids before you speak
- realizing they might be distracted rather than ignoring you
- realizing they might be choosing to ignore you
- speaking and then waiting for them to respond
- allowing them to live with the natural consequences of ignoring you.
It’s commonsense advice, and, truthfully, I bet you already know most of it. The suggestions are great, but let’s think realistically: if they are playing a video game and have almost reached the next level, you can tell them the house is on fire or you’ve just won the Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes and they still won’t hear you.
But, our goal is improvement, not perfection!
How to listen biblically
What advice does Scripture give us on the subject of listening?
- James 1:19 says, “Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” Imagine what your household would be like if all of us lived with this standard.
- Proverbs 19:20 says, “Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future.” Our children will want to listen more often if they understand it will benefit them in the future. It’s good to start with a phrase like, “I know you’ve got that paper due or that test this week. I’m happy to help, but I’ve got a busy week too. If you need my help, Tuesday or Wednesday will be my best days.” If they come to you on Thursday, the day before the paper is due, asking for help, let them own their choice and make the lesser grade. One C or D is worth the lesson.
- Proverbs 19:27 says, “Cease to hear instruction, my son, and you will stray from the words of knowledge.” Kids want advice, but they rarely want to ask for it. Are there some ways to give them the wisdom and instruction they need without making it a lengthy lecture? Before you hand them wisdom, consider how you can help them discover it for themselves.
- Proverbs 18:2 provides a solution to most family arguments: “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.” If parents and children alike will accept this proverb as great wisdom, everyone can learn the importance of listening. Sometimes, if we will understand why our kids are thinking or feeling something, we will be more open to their opinions—even those opinions we know are borne from their limited experience. This proverb teaches that truly listening is the difference between an argument and a discussion.
The best way to earn your children’s respect is to give them respect. The best way to teach your kids to listen to your words is to make sure you listen to them. And it is our job as Christian parents to teach and require the biblical standards for life in our homes.
One of the best ways to listen to one another is to listen “up” to God. Let them argue with his “rules” instead of yours. God always listens, and he is always right. None of us can make that claim.
If you can teach your kids to listen “up” to God, you will have a better chance of teaching them to listen to you too. That skill will be one of the most important life lessons you will ever give and one of the best you will ever receive.
My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you,
turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding—
indeed, if you call out for insight
and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver
and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.