Building a Healthy Family System
LISTENING & COMMUNICATION
By Pat Nolan
As parents, some times we make things too complicated. In fact, listening seems so simple that it’s easy to gloss over it as a parental skill and favor more exciting things like teaching moments, fixing problems, or making sure our kids listen to us. Parents regularly talk about wanting “good communication” with their kids and kids actually do want to talk to their parents. So if listening is the foundation of good communication, then let’s keep it simple and start there.
Benefits of Listening
Listening will go far, not just in hearing the conversation, but can help fortify other areas of parenting too.
- We can gather information about a child’s life and what’s in their head
- Listening builds strong relationships
- Listening thoughtfully shows respect
- Shows them you care and that they matter
- It is always the first step in solving problems
- Kids are smarter than most adults think – they pay attention and are aware. They will teach you how to raise them if you listen.
- A child who is listened to… Learns how to listen
What is Listening?
Listening is thoughtful attention. It is intentional, and most parents have listening skills. Sometimes it is a matter of putting them into practice intentionally so that you can be a role model for these skills.
We can be better listeners with:
- Direct eye contact
- Positive body language
- Paraphrasing/summarizing what is being said (“So you want to have more time on your ipad”)
- Reflecting the emotion of what they are saying (“Sounds like it hurts your feeling when your sister calls you names”)
- Show empathy (“I remember when my parents made me go to church”)
Just as there are good listening practices, there are also poor listening practices. I call these Listening Quicksand. Be careful not to sink into these practices!
- Cell Phones – when you look at your cell phone, you automatically make the person you’re talking with a second priority
- Interrupting – you are focused on just getting a moment to break in and say what you want, not listening to what is being said
- Wanting the last word – The focus is on you plus, the conversation will never end!
- Minimizing the conversation to avoid uncomfortable topics
- Teaching moment – Parents try to use every moment as a teaching moment.
- Problem solving- It’s hard to listen and “fix the problem” at the same time
- Showing lack of interest in the conversation
- Time constraints- shutting a conversation down because of time constraints, then never picking it back up.
Know what topics become “Quicksand” for you as a parent. These topics become great
“teaching moments” and even better conversation killers. What can you do to be a better listener with these topics?
- Video games
- Social Media
Rule of thumb for Listening
- If you are talking with your kids, make your contribution 20 seconds or less at a time.
- If the conversation is 70/30 (70% you talking, 30% them) then you are not listening. Reverse it.
- Don’t be afraid of uncomfortable conversations. These are ones that stick. Especially when you show respect by listening.
- Serious conversations are set up by all the small, seemingly innocuous conversations.
- Have fun with your kids in conversation. Laughter and joking make conversations and listening so much easier.
Encounter. Formation. Expression.
One of the things we talk about at Port City Community is the idea of Encounter, Formation, Expression. The basic concept is that what we encounter in life will help to form what we think and believe. What we think and believe will inevitably show up and be expressed in what we say and do. As parents, part of our job is to help our kids maneuver in a world that is ever changing and build a solid foundation in Christ. When it comes to listening and communication, we need to remember that what they encounter is forming who they are. When they encounter parents who listen with thoughtful attention, they will begin to know they are heard and what they have to say matters. It builds up their confidence, helps form their identity, and strengthens their relationship with you, their parents. When a kid opens a door to a conversation, don’t hesitate or be afraid, go in!! And remember to have fun with your kids, they’re pretty cool!
Check out our fourth episode where we interview Michelle Starbuck, our volunteer Director of the Parent Network, on intentional parenting over the years.
Listen to our latest Parent Network Podcast where we interview Mike Ashcraft on “The Power of Intentional Parenting.”
Listen to our initial podcast where we describe the Parent Network and let you know what you can expect.
Subscribe to the Parent Network Podcast on iTunes.
Listen to our first full Parent Network Podcast where we interview Stuart Hall on “The Power of Intentional Parenting.”
Subscribe to the Parent Network Podcast on iTunes.
We’re excited to launch our Parent Network podcast where we’ll interview people who can help equip and encourage us to help our family walk with God. Click here to go to our podcast page and soon you’ll be able to subscribe on iTunes.
A Parent’s Guide to Making the Jump (from Middle School to High School)
Celebrate the Accomplishment!
Your 8th grader is coming out of one of the biggest and most important phases of his or her life. Over the last few years they have moved from being a kid to being a teen, and that’s a big deal! They have been in a phase where they have been developing their identities, and they NEED your affirmation. Take some time in the next few weeks to really celebrate them and let them know that you are proud of them. They may not seem like they need this from you, but they do! They’re still growing and learning about who they are and who they want to be. As a parent, you have a big part to play in it all. Make their favorite dinner, take them to their favorite restaurant, invite some family and/or friends … just make a big deal out of them surviving middle school.
This summer your rising 9th grader is invited to join us for our Student Ministry Summer Nights (SMSN). On these nights we’ll spend time together building community, studying the Bible and just plain having fun. Grab an SMSN flyer and put the dates on the calendar!
If your teen hasn’t signed up for our summer camp yet, you should make that happen! FUSE is the biggest and best event we do all year long, and it’s amazing opportunity for your rising 9th grader to get connected in several ways. They’ll have a chance to meet some new leaders, hang out with other students who are making the jump into high school, and take more steps towards owning their faith.
Your child will be moving from Tsunami into our high school ministry called Ripple Effect.. Just as the life of a high schooler is different than that of a middle schooler, Ripple Effect is different than Tsunami. We often find that students coming to Ripple Effect are looking to have the same experience they had in Tsunami and the reality is that it’s just different. Middle school students in Tsunami are wild and crazy and like to jump around. High school students in Ripple Effect are more “chill” and like to hang out. Tsunami is on Wednesday nights, and Ripple Effect is on Sunday nights. Instead of meeting each week at church, Ripple Effect has monthly big events at church and have REgroups in homes most Sundays. These “community groups” are organized by grade and area of town and are well suited to the high school culture. You’ll get more info on REgroups as we approach the fall. It all starts on Sunday, September 10th at 6:30 pm.
Lead … Spiritually!
As your teen moves into the next phase of his or her faith, don’t underestimate the influence you still have. Your child is not only listening to what you say about God but now, more than ever, they are watching how you live. In short, be the adult you want your child to become. Show them an example of what it means for an adult to follow Jesus in every area of life. Talk about your own faith and share with them about the grace of God in your life. Love them unconditionally and make your walk with God a normal part of everyday life. If you do, they just might.
“Train up a child in the way he should go:
and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
Print out a copy of the brochure: 8th-to-9th-transition-brochure-final-pdf