Saturday, August 14, 2010

Who's Listening?

It's that time of year when a mother's thoughts turn to school. Whether it's buying new lunch boxes for kids going off to school, helping that college student pack the car, or planning homeschool lessons, we want to make sure we are as prepared as possible so that our children will grow in knowledge and wisdom. There are so many externals that demand our attention, though, that sometimes we miss the simple things that really nurture our children's minds and souls.

Did you know that a good conversation is one of the best teaching tools at your disposal? Active listening with appropriate responses that draw out the child actually contribute to his neurological development, not just his self-esteem! Dr. Jane Healy in her book Endangered Minds says, "Conversation builds the executive brain." That is, the working, problem-solving part of the brain that takes in information and makes connections is dependent upon consistent, quality conversation for optimal development. All those seemingly random questions that pepper your day are more important than you realize!

This is obviously true during the early developmental years, but it doesn't become optional once children are in their teens. As you answer questions and make observations in conversation with your teen, you are modeling for them a thinking process, a template for how to "connect the dots" in their world. These moments that aren't connected to "teaching" per-se can have long lasting effects, often more so than well-plannned lessons! As a bonus, you are cementing your relationship with them through your availability to listen and treat them as adults with legitimate thoughts and concerns.

Many families like to have regularly scheduled times for one parent to go out for a time with one child. These times can often be fruitful, and they help build good memories. Our best moments, though, have been those spontaneous ones that come while folding laundry, preparing a meal, or riding in the car. Deep questions are often asked at the most unexpected times, so we need to prepare our hearts and minds to be ready to really focus and listen so that we can pursue those good conversations.

One last thought (hope you're still listening!) Our husbands thrive with this kind of attentiveness from us as well!

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