by Diana C. Derringer
“Listen to me, Mom!”
“I am listening, honey.”
“No, you’re not.”
“Yes, I am. I’ve heard every word you said.”
“But, Mom, I need you to listen with your eyes.”
This story, shared in a training session for foster and adoptive parents, drove home the point that all children (and adults) need to know beyond any doubt that we value and hear them. In our multi-tasking world, we must regularly ignore everything else and focus totally on the one we love.
During those special blocks of time, we hear not only the words but a far greater message. It reveals the emotions behind those words.
- If children have a bad day, they free themselves of a negative outlook by addressing their trials and knowing someone understands and cares.
- Giggling together over something silly they said or did creates stockpiles of goodwill to help weather future misunderstandings.
- Discussing warm fuzzies about nothing accomplishes the same goal.
- Encouraging them when they’ve demonstrated care for others prepares them for a lifestyle of service.
- If they confess a behavior and express remorse, our forgiveness and unconditional love gives a glimpse of God’s agape love; at the same time we nurture the development of sound judgment, self-discipline and responsibility.
With such attention, children feel respected and encouraged to share their inner concerns and desires.
- They develop greater skills in social interactions and accept others more easily because they feel accepted.
- They become less likely to use misbehavior as a bid for attention.
- Because we help them feel capable, they become capable. Just as fruit and vegetables feed their physical appetites, openness to thoughts and questions nourishes their mental, emotional, and spiritual cravings.
- Frequent hugs and kisses sweeten the offering.
When to Avoid Eye Contact
We must also recognize when to avoid eye contact. If discussing difficult information or when emotions run high, side-by side activities relieve part of the pressure. A short walk, sitting together on a couch, or any activity where eyes focus elsewhere usually works. Although you give full attention, they feel less on the hot seat. They’re free to explore their difficulty, bounce ideas around and seek resolution.
Frequently no words of advice are desired or necessary. They simply need to know you hear and care. Thus, by their teen years, they can quite capably resolve their situations when offered the opportunity to reflect. Actively listen with “Mn-hms,” “I see,” “So you’re saying…” in order to keep the conversation going.
Whether eyes or no eyes, all children need to feel heard and see their concerns addressed.
Verbal Cues that Say, “I Hear You.”
Is that so?
Tell me more.
Diana Derringer is a former social worker and adjunct professor. Through working with families in crisis, teaching university and Sunday school classes and spending time with family and friends, she’s experienced the value of listening eyes.