Child rearing is relatively intuitive for those who want to be a good parent, once we get past our selfishness and ego. This means that child rearing books are usually not necessary because generations of good parents have raised well-adjusted and good children without them. I am a CPA by training so you will not find any psychological theory in this article, but you will find what has seemed to work for the nine children that my wife and I have raised.
Every one of us is unique. Methods that help one child might not help the next. Therefore, the wise parent will listen to other’s ideas and decide what is best for each individual child.
The Greek philosopher Epictetus said, “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” This is truly wise counsel when raising children. It’s not easy but it is essential.
These are five important reasons to listen to our kids:
- It shows them that they are loved.
Time invested in our children when they are in their early teens will yield dividends for their entire lives. When you listen, it shows your children how much you value them and their opinions. Take time to hold and kiss your children and tell them that you love them. Love in words and in actions. Even teenagers need to be hugged, whether they admit it or not. This is particularly important when disciplining is necessary.
- At times, they just need to vent.
There are plenty of causes of stress in children’s lives. The home should be the shock-absorber, not the shock-creator in life. Children must know that they are safe sharing problems with their parents. As much as possible, control your temper, control your tone, control your preaching and allow them to blow off steam. When they settle down, you can respond honestly and share facts and your feelings.
- Given enough time, they can usually solve their own problems.
The best way for children to grow up and take responsibility for their actions and for their own mental health is for them to evaluate and solve their own problems. Good parents are good sounding boards. Ask questions. Never say, “You always…,” or “You never…,” because exaggerations undermine your credibility. Give them enough time to come to their own solutions.
- Sometimes, they will reveal issues that are very important to know.
If you listen well, you will learn what is bothering your kids. You want to know these things. Allowing my kids to explain themselves fully, has saved me many times from saying the wrong thing and given me needed information. Even if there is a serious problem, it is better to know the full extent of the problem before looking for solutions. Think before responding and reinforce your love for them before you share the harsh realities of consequences.
- It is the best way to know what kind of people they are becoming.
You can only know what is going on in their head if they tell you. You can assume that you know, but you don’t. You want to develop a relationship with them that will last so, admit when you are wrong, show them how important they are, use humor to make the situation less tense and praise them every time you can, without artificial flattery.
My nine kids will assure you that I am a very imperfect parent, but I tried. Even as badly as I behaved at times, our ninth child wrote this after she graduated from high school, “I knew I could tell Dad anything. I knew that although Dad didn’t particularly care who was dating who in my choir class, he would always be there to listen. He may have rolled his eyes or laughed at my stories, but I knew he was listening and really cared what I had to say.”
Relationships that last into adulthood are built on having serious conversations with our children when they know we are listening, that we love them, and that we are considerate of their opinions. Listen.