When my children were toddlers and I had a specific instruction I wanted them to carry out, I would hold their little chin in my hand and look directly into their eyes. From time to time, their little eyeballs would wander and I would say, “Look at my eyes.” It was then I was assured that they were truly listening to me and they were then expected to carry out the task I was giving them, which they did 100% of the time (Insert eye roll!). In the busyness of my life with little ones, from time to time I would hear one of them say, “Mommy, look at my eyes!” They had been trying to tell me something, and I was distracted; and they knew that if they could get me to look into their eyes I would be listening to them.
In just a few short days my youngest child will turn 13, and I will have four teenagers in my home! Throughout the years, I have learned the importance of listening to my children, and I believe it is even more important now that they are teenagers. All of us had our mothers tell us, “God gave you two ears and one mouth, so listen twice as much as you talk.” As mothers, we know it is our job to teach our children, but too often we forget the necessity of listening to our children. We will be more effective in teaching and training our children if we are good listeners.
Listen even if what they are saying seems to be unimportant.
One of my teenage boys went through a season when he was focused on lifting weights. I can remember one day he was telling me all about his workout plan―how many reps of which exercise he needed to do, what kind of pre-workout he was doing, and what results he was expecting to see. I listened attentively even though I really did not have much interest in what he was saying. Then enters my next teenage son. He begins telling me about his new video game―how long it had been out, what level he was on, what struggles he was having, what level his friend was on, and on and on he went. Again, I listened and even asked a few questions, but honestly didn’t really care about the answers I was getting, but I was enjoying the conversation with him. Once he left, my son who had been telling me about his workout plan said, “Mom, I don’t know how you listen and seem so interested in all that―I know you don’t really care about his video game.” I laughed inside because I had the same interest in his workout regiment as I did in the video game, but he did not see that at all!
Listening, whether or not the topic is important, will keep those lines of communication between you and your child open. They will know that you care and want to hear their hearts, and they will develop a habit of just “chatting” with you. Listening to their chatter about their lives will give you insight into many areas of their lives. You will learn much about their friends. You will hear about how they respond to their teachers, how they are interacting with each other, what their parents allow them to do. This will help you make wise decisions on what you allow your children to do with those specific friends. Just listen!!!
Learn to ask questions that get them talking.
“How was your day?” will usually yield a “Fine.”
Rather, ask questions like these:
Did anything exciting happen at school today?
What are you learning in Bible class right now?
Was anyone absent from your class?
Who did you sit with at lunch?
What was preached about in chapel?
What was the hardest thing you did in school today?
Did any of your friends do anything funny?
If your child is ready to talk, be ready to listen.
Some children are naturally more talkative than others. Teenage boys can be especially difficult to get to engage in a conversation. If you’re ready to go to bed and they want to talk, be willing to sacrifice some sleep to hear the heart of your child. Many times, the most productive communication with our children is not done in a formal setting. It may come during a car ride across town or while you’re folding laundry or cooking dinner. I would encourage you to be ready and willing to embrace these opportunities with your children.
Enjoy the journey with your children. Whether you have little ones running around your home or teenagers preparing to leave, listen to their words; and more importantly, listen to their heart.
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Mrs. Evertson is wife to John Evertson, who pastored for 19 years in Woodland, CA. They both graduated from Golden State Baptist College, have been married for 20 years, and have four children. In 2019, God called the Evertsons back to North Valley Baptist Church, where they have been a tremendous blessing to the church and college.