Children Will Listen (Part One)
2 Ways It’ll Happen
Something happened yesterday that prompted me to write to you about getting kids to listen. Shannon, my next-door-neighbor, brought her two young children, Rachel, age 11 and Connor, age six over for a visit. She’s teaching them to converse with adults outside of family. We covered many topics from the Viet Nam War and my husband Terry’s loss of three buddies, to music, to Flylady and me being organized.
Connor, a typical six-year-old, started getting fidgety about fifteen minutes into our conversation. Sliding down onto the floor as his mom went on about how far behind she was with the housework what with soccer, school projects, track and a million other kid-related activities taking up her time, Connor was obviously not interested.
Rachel told us about how her desk at school is always organized and that she just comes by being organized naturally. She told that she’d offered to help a friend organize her messy desk but so far the friend hadn’t accepted.
After a stint of quiet squirming on the floor, Connor got back up on the couch and onto his mom’s lap like a puppy that’s getting too big to be held. Obviously bored, but never interrupting the adults, or his older sister when she had the floor, Connor, finally asked his mom if he could go home.
Politely he said goodbye and thanked us for having him over and headed out the front door for home. Shannon and Rachel stayed and talked another half hour.
#1 He really listened!
The next day I got an email from Shannon along with a photo of Connor and what he’d been up to in that half hour of six-year-old freedom. Here’s what the email said:
Terry and Pam,
I came home to a little boy who had dusted the furniture and set out dinner on the table for each of us. He had sharpened a container full of pencils and dumped out an entire drawer to organize it. As inattentive as he seemed to be, he sure absorbed A LOT. When Rachel discussed with Pam her organization and I told how behind in my cleaning I am, he listened :). I know both Rachel and Connor received the message of friendship as well. Thank you for your time.
My response to Shannon:
That is just amazing that Connor was paying attention to our discussions. It just goes to show when we talk about something little ears perk. It’s when we talk to a child that often the mommy voice becomes like an annoying email that keeps popping up in our inbox. We know it’s going to tell us to do something we don’t want to do. Thank you for bringing your wonderful and happy kids over to see us.
There’s a lovely song Children Will Listen by Steven Sondheim that reminds us that children do listen. (I love it sung by Bernadette Peters.) We were all amazed at what Connor heard and that it inspired action.
#2 They’ll even STOP what they’re doing to listen!
A couple of years ago, I was at my son’s home and we were talking when I brought up the names of his son Jackie, age nine and daughter Brooklyn, age 13 in the conversation. They were in the adjacent room playing and hadn’t been paying any attention to our conversation.
I saw both of them look up when they heard their names. I finished my thought and decided to lower the volume of my voice (not to a whisper) and compliment the two children using their names. “I was really impressed with the way Brooklyn and Jack helped so much before the party. And did you notice how the younger cousins loved Brooklyn and how well-mannered Jack was at the table?” Keeping my voice down and continuing to praise the two, they quit playing and came into our space to listen. Children Will Listen.
What if you had a conversation with your husband (using a quiet voice like you don’t want the kids to hear and while they are in earshot) and it went something like this:
“Dan, I was thinking we should go to the new Disney movie today, but until Mandy and Tim do their chores we can’t go. I know they’re going to do them, ‘cause they’re so helpful, but so far they haven’t and I’m tired of reminding them. Anyway, I think I’ll just wait and see if they get them done in time to go.”
Another great conversation you can have with your husband is: “I’ve got a funny feeling the House Fairy’s going to make an inspection soon.”
We really do get through to our kids when we talk about something, but a major part of discipline is talking to children and that’s what my next blog is all about. Children Will Listen: 10 Ways It’ll Happen has some great ideas for talking to your children and getting them to listen.
Thank you for reading my blog and if it was thought provoking and helpful to you, please share it with your friends who are raising children.