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The Importance of Listening

Local experts Amy Pate and Carol Doss, Ph.D., weigh in on the importance of listening to your child:

Amy: Have you ever rushed your kids out the door on a school day when they were trying to tell you something, chiding them for dragging their feet? Have you ever interrupted them while they were telling you about their school day because you were distracted by something else?

In business, we’re taught to listen to our clients’ needs and learn everything we can about them in order to serve them better. If we can understand their points of view, the result is less frustration and ultimately happier clients. Why, then, can’t we extend this same courtesy to our children?

Everyone wants to be heard and know that his or her opinions are valued. School-age kids spend much of their day away from us, and most are eager to share their experiences. Think about how excited you are to share good news or how great it feels to vent to an attentive listener who cares when you’ve had a tough day.

As our kids get older, the opinions of their peers become more important than those of their parents. Listen now while they still value your opinion and want to talk to you. You only get one shot with your kids. Listen to them. Let them know they’re heard. Put yourself in their shoes, and you’ll have no regrets.

Carol: Ever told your kids to look at you when you’re talking to them? You want to make sure they’re listening, but how well do you listen to them? In this era of Wi-Fi and smartphones, you can check your email, text, Tweet and access the Internet everywhere. These options can make connecting with your kids difficult.

People say they listen to loved ones, but the important people in their lives often say they don’t feel heard. Parenting young children can seem boring sometimes, but they’re paying more attention than you realize. They know when you’re tuned in and when you’re not. Ever ask them what you just said only to have them repeat it exactly?

Your presence in your kids’ lives is very important. A recent Vanderbilt University study found that girls with an active, involved relationship with their fathers actually entered puberty later. Eat meals together with the television turned off, play board games with them regularly and watch their television shows beside them. Don’t keep them so busy that all you do is drive frantically when you’re with them.

Show your kids you’re hearing them; look at them when they’re talking to you. Your attention is important to them.

Amy Pate is the happily married mother of two teenage sons and a preteen daughter. Her flexible part-time jobs as a copy editor and paralegal allow her to stay involved in her kids’ busy lives while still maintaining her sanity.

Carol Doss, Ph.D., is a licensed professional counselor with more than 20 years of experience. She is clinical director at the Family Counseling Center Association in Fort Worth.