I have written in the past of how folks today typically just aren't very good listeners. These days, you can add to this rather selfish habit, the distraction of talking on cellphones, texting, chatting on-line or answering e-mails on cell phones. But today's column is not about being a good listener. For you moms and dads, today's topic is when to not listen to your children.
Parents listening to their children should obviously be high on the priority list for all moms and dads. But I have to ask this: Do you as a loving parent need to always stop everything you are doing when little Bradley or Susie has something to say? My opinion is no, you certainly do not.
You see, though it may not feel like it, stopping whatever you are doing every time your child has something to say is not always a beneficial thing to do. The good news is that parents can show their child or teen that what he has to say is always important, but that right now isn't always the appropriate time.
Let's break it down. At times, kids will be excited to tell Mom or Dad about their day or a particular issue. Other times, they may simply want something from you. Parents need to discern how important the matter truly is. "Guess what happened at basketball camp today?" is much different than, "Mom, can you fix me a sandwich? I'm starving." Parents may want to monitor what it is the kids are constantly interrupting them about.
It may very well be a little game that children learn to play. It is the pasttime of monopolizing Mom and Dad because kids crave attention and approval. That, in itself, is not a terrible thing, but merely a normal part of child development. However, children should learn that interrupting adults is not only inappropriate, but can even become rude.
I have heard the argument that children should never be told "not now" or "wait a minute" when they have something to say. Have you heard it, or perhaps said it? "Children need to talk with us and we should never discourage this. If you don't stop what you are doing and allow them to say what they want, they may just stop talking with you as they get older. I mean, what about when they are teenagers?" When you examine it, listening is not really the issue here.
Keeping a welcomed, open line of communication is vital for healthy parent/child relationships. However, that doesn't mean children should interrupt you every time they have something to say. Interrupting encourages the false idea that children shouldn't have to wait for anything.
Children can't continually interrupt their teacher in school. And get this. They won't have many friends if they constantly monopolize all the conversation. Parents can be great listeners with their children, yet not feel cheated out of uninterrupted conversation with others.
Teach your children the art of patiently waiting for their turn to talk and be sure to give them your full attention when they do.
Bryan Greeson, a nationally certified School Psychologist residing in Gastonia, NC, answers your questions. E-Mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.