Listening – the lesser-known parenting skill

I had a conversation with my daughter a couple of weeks ago. I told her that I appreciate how she’s always trying to do her best, and she’s a kind person who cares deeply about others. She said in an offhand voice, “thanks, Mommy.” So I pressed on little bit with, “seriously, you’re a good kid and a good person.”

She paused for a moment, and then said “except when I don’t listen. I’m not a very good listener.”

First off, did you ever meet an 8-year-old who was?

Second, I pointed out to her that listening is a skill you have to practice to get good at, and that a lot of grown-ups are terrible at it. That was a mind-blowing fact to her, lemme tell ya.

In coach training, you learn a lot about active listening and reflecting ideas back to the person you’re coaching. I feel fortunate to have that training in my back pocket, because most parents don’t. We spend a lot of time nagging and instructing and correcting our kids, don’t we? I lost count years ago of the number of times parents fired program and career questions at me on behalf of their kid, while the kid stood there, staring down, clearly hoping the ground would open up and swallow them. That’s always challenging, because I desperately want to help the kid, but there’s obviously a massive communication breakdown between parent and child. And though I’ve attempted at times to engage the kid in the conversation, they’re obviously not interested. And there’s only so much I can overstep as a total stranger.

2020 sucks

This year is tough in so many ways. Kids still want to dream big, but now have this whole layer of clouds on top. Will they be able to cut it academically when they’re learning online? Will post-secondary education just be a pipe dream? Has the industry they wanted to work in vanished for the foreseeable future?

Now is the time to listen. By all means, if you can connect your kids to people who can help, if you can give them any kind of nudge they need in the direction they’d like to go, do it. Help them find volunteering roles and informational interview subjects and whatever else might get them moving toward where they want to be.

But it starts with listening.

We’re all feeling overwhelmed. We’re all wondering when all this pandemic BS is going to end. Stress is off the charts and mental illness is skyrocketing. So in the midst of all of this, no matter what off-the-wall career goal your kid has, hear them out. Ask them where they see themselves. Or if they have any ideas at all.

And then, just listen.

Not sure how to give your kids the help they need? Try a 1-hour session to talk about your kids’ career goals and what you can do to support them.

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