A good friend of mine said, "God gave us two ears and one mouth so that we would listen twice as much as we talk." What wisdom that statement contains. But, I am afraid we Lebens girls really like to talk and have not always heeded this counsel! So we are now reaping the harvest we have sewn. We have found that often times there are more people talking than listening. Not at all a beautiful sound or understandable situation. Our children seem to struggle with wanting to speak their every thought. As little toddlers there is only so much ability to think without speaking, but as our children grow past the age of 4 or 5 they should have the ability to control their mouths. With the training of self-control they can do it much earlier, but won't be able to internalize thoughts without speaking until a later time.
So what is a mom to do, but get the heavy training artillery! At our house that sometimes means that the privilege to speak gets taken away so they can listen more. It also means we do training games. Before I tell you what those are let's figure our why listening is so important.
To have wisdom Proverbs tells us we must first hear. Proverbs 8:33-34 wisdom is calling us to, "Listen to my instruction and be wise; do not ignore it. Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway." To grow in understanding and knowledge and to learn we need to have the ability to not only hear words, but, to really listen to them and understand. If we are too busy thinking of the words we are going to say next, or speaking we cannot grow. For children this is especially difficult. As soon as they hear something that they can understand they usually want to share about it. It is beneficial for them to learn to completely hear a matter and then answer, controlling their thoughts and excitement. When our children are young we can encourage this by stopping often to make sure our children have really listened, and then to listen to their thoughts.
Another reason listening is important is that it will help our testimony with those who do not know the Lord. We have all had a conversation with someone who goes on and on about themselves and doesn't let anyone get a word in. This leaves no room for the Lord to work through us or for another person to connect with us, if we are the person chattering on. Connecting with someone is not a one way conversation! We want our children to be able to listen to another person and direct a conversation so that they can talk about Jesus when the time is right. Other's are so blessed by a patient open ear. We can practice this first by doing it with our own family. As parent's listening to every word the children say and being interested can be time consuming, can interrupt us and can slow us down, it is the perfect opportunity to model listening skills and capture your child's heart through conversation.
We teach children how to respect when we require them to completely hear a matter. The dinner table at our house seems to be one area of great temptation to interrupt for our children. Knowing this we have tried to use this time to encourage respect of others. Let your little ones know that love is not rude, listen to what your sibling has to say. If the children interrupt dad or mom that is another great time to remind them that they cannot honor when they interrupt.
But what happens if they need you and can't get a word in? There is this beautiful tool we use called the interrupt rule. The child simply puts their hand on dad or mom's arm and waits for the adult to address them. If they cannot address them right away dad or mom will rest their hand on the child's letting them know they are there. We have tried to train our girls to use the interrupt rule when we are talking with others, on the phone, reading, concentrating on something, or teaching a sibling. When this is used it is a such a blessing to parent's. We just have to remember to answer in a timely manner or our children will not do it again out of frustration that mom and dad don't answer.
One last tidbit on listening. I have heard parent's say of their teens that they just won't listen to them or talk to them. I have not had to deal with this yet and hope I find the teen year's to be a time of great communication between my children and myself. As a motivator I want to make sure that I am available to listen to them now. I believe that if the children learn when they are young that mom and dad are too busy to listen, or don't care about what they have to say by the time they get to their teen years they will have had many years of practicing not talking to mom and dad. No one wants to feel like what they have to say in not important.
Here are some games to help children develop listening skills. Some of these we have done and some are new to us. I would like to increase this list, so if you have a tip or game about listening, please share it!
- Hide a set egg timer. Have the children work together to find it. They will have to listen more than they talk to hear the ticking
- Play telephone.
- Tell a continuing story, where one person starts a story and then each person adds on their own part.
- When telling stories or reading have the children ask each other questions about the story to see if they listened.
- Set goals in listening when at others homes. Ask them to be ready to share an idea, someone else had.
- Have an open ear to playtime, if the children need help "listening" be available to moderate.
- Pray for one another. Have the children listen to a prayer request from another family member and then pray for it.
I hope there are some helpful tips here for listening that you can use and I also hope to hear from you on what you have found successful at your house in training.