Listen to their Hearts
My oldest child is now 11 and in middle school. She will soon be a teenager.
I can already sense that parenting will look significantly different as we approach and enter the teenage years. Her mind is engaging at a new level of critical and independent thinking, and those skills will only deepen and progress with each passing month. I’m not really having a panic attack; in fact, I’m already enjoying watching her mind develop. I may be naïve, but I think the teenage years could be a treasured time of parenting!
I have already noticed something powerful in my parenting of her in this new phase: listening.
Do you remember when you were a teenager? Though there were many moments we all want to forget, we know that those years are full of important exploration and questions. We’re figuring out who we are, what we believe and why, and how to make sense of this crazy world.
One element of parenting that my parents did particularly well in my teenage years was give me space to talk. They made time for me to just pour out my random thoughts and ideas. My parents rarely interrupted, and they didn’t give advice too quickly. They simply listened. Over time, it built a relationship of safety and security: I felt safe to go to them with just about anything, because I knew they would hear me out. It feels good to be heard. I grew to treasure their advice rather than reject it.
I’ve noticed this with my daughter too. When I make one-on-one time with her and let her start talking, it builds a deepening trust in our relationship. Believe me, there are dozens of times I want to interrupt to correct her way of thinking. There are other times I am utterly confused about her line of thought or what she is talking about. But I am improving at slowing down my mouth and listening. I look her in the eye, or we go for a walk, and I close my mouth. Then the most interesting thoughts and questions begin to emerge.
James 1:19 says, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger.” This applies to parents too. There are times that we need to correct them and give them a lecture, but it’s amazing how listening opens the door for those needed moments of correction. Listen well. Listen for heart issues, feelings, and fears. Ask probing questions. As they feel more and more safe to open up to you, and more and more heard by you, then they’ll be more likely to hear you when it’s time to share your wisdom. It’s tragic when your child or teenager does NOT come to you with their struggles, because they feel unsafe or unheard.
Most importantly, this will help them to believe that God listens to them. He hears our prayers and pays attention when we pour out our emotions and struggles. He is a Father who hears. As we model that for our older kids, they will better understand this glorious truth about God. Listen well!