1. Parents spend a lot of time trying to get their children to listen.  Newborns endure goofy smiles and frantic rattle shaking as we try to elicit a tiny reaction.  We coo and giggle over little smiles.  The first hint of recognition is a cause for jubilant celebration.

    As kids get bigger, teaching them to listen requires a great deal of our time.  Two-year-olds test the last line of our patience.  Preschoolers learn the value of the phrase, “I forgot.” 

    If only we could make them hear us!  How many times does a four-year-old need to hear, “Pick up your toys” before mom can stop fearing the pain of an unseen Lego lodging in her foot? 

    School aged kids seem to get no further ahead in their listening skills.  You can tell your third-grader every school day for nine months exactly where the pink backpack laying in front of the entryway is supposed to go.  On the last day of school, you are still tripping over it.

    So, we preach the listening sermon until it feels like the words have their own rhythm.  It is a parent’s unofficial chant.  “Are you listening to me?  Did you hear me” slips out in a monotone cadence. 

    Sometimes they do listen.  Around middle school, especially if there is a younger sibling, you realize they have heard you all these years.  How can you be sure?  They bark out orders to the younger child, sounding just like their parents, only louder.

    Of course, your teenager does not seem to hear you when you remind them exactly who wears the parenting hats in the household.

    Teenagers remind us to practice what we preach.  They have a lot to say; they just do not say it very plainly.  As a parent, you have to learn to listen.

    What do I mean?  Remember last Tuesday when you asked your daughter to dry the dishes?  Well, she did not run to her room in tears in mortal fear of wet saucers.  She no doubt felt overwhelmed about her workload at school.  Or maybe she has a bad grade eating her up.  Tears and over-the-top reactions usually mean there is more than meets the ears going on.

    Your son is suddenly sensitive about his appearance.  He could be getting flack from a few schoolmates for his appearance.  Or, it could be a girl at school has caught his eye.  Most likely he is not going to come clean very easily; you have to lend an ear.  If he is pretty down on himself, ask a few leading questions.  He may reluctantly answer, but you should get enough of an idea about what is really going on.  Then, you can try your best to help him feel better about himself.

    On the other hand, if there is suddenly competition for primping rights in front of the bathroom mirror with his sister; he is trying to make an impression.  Keep your smile to yourself.  Save your breath for the next phase, telling him about all of the other fish in the sea.

    Remaining tuned in with older children and teens is no easy task.  Just remember what you used to tell her when she was four.  “I need you to listen to me.”  This is what she is trying to say back to you now.  She just hasn’t learned how to tell you yet.

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