Five Strategies for Listening Well

Listening is a challenging aspect of communication, particularly when parenting a struggling teen. When you listen well, you show your teen that their opinions, thoughts, feelings and perspective are valuable. You demonstrate that your child is worth your time — and you encourage and empower your teen too. Here are five strategies that you can put into action today to improve your own listening skills — and, at the same time, model for your teen what it looks like to listen well:

Be present.

With our smartphones always within reach, it is very tempting to rush to respond to text messages or check app updates as soon as you hear that telltale notification. Unfortunately, media can easily pull us out of the moment, both distracting us from the conversation and making us seem uninterested in the person we are with. Strive to set your phone aside until after the conversation is over, and ask your teen to do the same. The conversation will be much more productive that way, and people will remember that you made an effort to be as present as possible.

Expect disagreements.

Adolescence is the time when teens naturally establish their own opinions and preferences, and building this independence can be healthy! Walk into conversations knowing that you and your teen may not share the same perspective. This helps our minds remain open, and helps us stay focused on listening rather than reacting. We will be less likely to let our own thoughts and beliefs interfere with listening well. Do not be afraid to share your thoughts, but never let them override the importance of hearing others.

5 strategies for listening well Five Strategies for Listening Well

Be intentionally inquisitive.

Look for naturally occurring space in conversation for asking appropriate questions. When you do, you show your teen that you are paying attention, you are interested in what he or she is saying and you are committed to learning more. Regardless of the outcome of the conversation, your teen will leave knowing you care.

Keep an open mind.

Soak in what you are hearing. Just as you expect your teen to learn from you, you can also learn more about your teen through this conversation. Jumping in with our own response is tempting, particularly when the topic is volatile or challenging; but, if all we do is wait for the other person to stop speaking, we entirely miss what they are saying as we prioritize our own thoughts and beliefs over theirs.

Listen between the lines.

When you listen well, you can get to know your teen’s heart. As you hear their words, try and step into their shoes and imagine how they’re feeling in the moment. Once you think you have a handle to on what emotions are being represented, ask questions to make sure you understand correctly. This is a pivotal step in showing empathy for your teen.

Listening well is one of the best ways to open doors in relationships and creates a much deeper level of understanding — both for you and for your teen.

Book Reviews

couch reading sm 300x196 Book ReviewsHere are a few book reviews of various titles that I have read recently.  Some of them are better than others but each of them have something to offer.  Even if you don’t agree with a particular author, reading at least makes you think and take account of your own approach to parenting.

Shepherding a Child’s Heart  – Tedd Tripp

Dr. Tripp has written a great book for parents of young children struggling to find a framework through which to view their child.  With a distinctively Christian worldview, he tries to establish a foundation for Biblical childrearing.  Tripp highlights the often forgotten notion that behavior is an outflow of the heart.  Readers are challenged to look beyond behavior and focus on heart change and connecting with their children at a deeper level.  At times, however,  it appears overly simplistic and fails to provide clear real world direction for captivating the hearts of teens lost in our current culture of computers, drugs, and sexual temptations.

Connecting: Healing For Ourselves and Our Relationships.  – Larry Crabb

Dr. Crabb is a well-established Christian author.  In his recent writings he has worked hard to uncover the power and authority of the Christian community to bring healing to the deep pain of individuals.  While the rest of the world is focused on identifying psychological disorders and providing treatment strategies, Dr. Crabb is resurrecting the power of connection and the value of relationships.  He wants to empower each of us to invest in the lives of others.  He, unlike so many others in his profession, wants us to recognize that we don’t need professional training to connect with the deep soul wounds of others and in fact it is simply the connection that can bring healing.

Dr. Crabb believes that we can experience the healing power of God through others and that connecting plays a powerful role in addressing the core issues that lie beneath all of our personal, emotional, and psychological problems.  His work is a powerful paradigm shift from the current ‘how to’ manuals on the selves today and may unintentionally serve as a blue print for many of the Christian programs that work with teens.

Loving Your Child Too Much  – Dr. Tim Clinton & Dr. Gary Sibcy

Clinton and Sibcy highlight three common ways that parents show their children love: overindulging, overprotecting, and over controlling.  While love is an obvious requirement of parenting, it is often difficult to find balance in parenting styles.  My wife and I enjoyed discussing the various pitfalls of undisciplined love and it helped us recalibrate our own expression of love to our kids.  While it might seem simplistic, the truths are profound and Biblically based.

She’s Gonna BLOW! Real Help for Moms Dealing with Anger  – Julie Ann Barnhill

Okay, I admit it. I have an anger problem. I have no idea where it came from, but it is undeniably here. And truth be told, the problem reared its ugly head only after I had kids. Go figure. Kids have a way of bringing out the best and the worst in all of us and my worst was ugly…not abusive, but ugly. Even though I don’t consider myself a “yeller,” my facial expressions and body language frequently seem aggressive, even when I don’t mean them to. I know that I have high expectations of myself and everyone around me, but when I started to transfer this message to my kids, I knew I needed some kind of help and advice. That’s where this book comes in. This is a book for any mom who has ever “blown it” and yelled at her kids only to feel guilty and defeated once again…and again…and again. Julie courageously shares a lot of her own personal failures and successes as a mom and encourages those of us who want to stop the hollering and negative interactions (and the subsequent damage) in our homes. The book helps us understand where the anger may be coming from, our personal warning signs, possible unresolved issues, and provides a Biblical basis for change and practical tools to build a more peaceful home. Her sense of humor, honesty and conviction that mom’s can change make this book an amazingly easy read. The practical advice and Biblical truths presented in such an honest way made me feel empowered and resolved to make some changes. We highly recommend this book for any mom who knows that SHE is the one, not her kids, who needs a TIME OUT.

Preparing Your Daughter for Every Woman’s Battle  – Shannon Ethridge

It happened almost overnight. My usually kind, loving, sweet daughter had turned into a moody, weepy, hard-to-get-along-with stranger. It struck me that her hormones must be beginning that decade-long rage that I thought was still a ways off. Preparing Your Daughter for Every Woman’s Battle by Shannon Ethridge helped me to understand that my daughter was not weird and I was not imagining things; she was a sponge, soaking up from me and her environment what it means to be a woman. Her getting social cues from me is scary in itself, but her getting them from the media, etc. is terrifying.

This book is set up in two parts. The first one is for moms (or dads) to read alone. It gives insight into how to handle sex education with your daughter and stresses the importance of doing so before it’s too late. Ethridge covers everything from pornography to menstruation to homosexuality, subjects which I had no idea how to bring up. The second half of the book is read with your daughter. We have enjoyed reading together about the changes that are just around the corner and other basic things about sexuality. Ethridge includes some really creative activities to do together that give the child a tangible lesson on the ideas covered. What I appreciated most about this book is that it stresses how a girl should expect to be treated by boys. The “princess” and purity concepts come out loud and clear and I can tell that my daughter feels special when we read it together.

I would highly recommend this book for anyone who has a daughter ages 10-13. It takes the embarrassment and the awkwardness out of the “the talk” and makes your daughter feel like the special child of God that she is.

The Power of a Praying Parent and The Power of a Praying Wife  – Stormie Omartian

Both of these books have been sitting on my bedside table for years now. I need them. Sometimes I don’t know how to pray for my kids or my husband. These books have so many ideas that no matter what my children are facing, I can find a chapter, a prayer and some Biblical promises to comfort me. Whether my husband is having trouble at work, with finances, fatherhood, or (and this rarely happens), problems with his marriage, I can open Stormie’s book and get some direction, help, and the occasional challenge. She likens not praying for your family to sending them out into a battlefield without armor, something none of us would ever do. And yet, when we don’t pray for them, we leave them vulnerable to pain, attacks, and failure.

The books are divided into 30 chapters, one for each day of the month if you so choose. Each chapter gives insight into Stormie’s journey as a wife or mother, tells what she learned from that experience, suggests a beautiful prayer that includes much Scripture and ends with some verses or promises that she refers to as “power tools.” These books are a great asset to anyone who recognizes the power of prayer, but is not always sure what to pray for.