are you listening?

Contributed by Sue Patterson

When I was little, I was one of those children who talked a lot and LOUDLY. I can remember my cousin actually turning to my dad and saying, “Does she have a volume button?” My mom, who had an exhausting job, would have to come home to this high energy kid who wanted to talk and talk and talk. I can remember sitting on the floor while she read the paper or a book. I’d ask her, “Are you listening?” “Mhm,” would be her reply.

When my kids were little, I was trying to juggle a variety of things at once, and the internet was just taking off and I was thrilled about talking with other moms from around the country. My kids would ask me questions and bring something to show me. They’d ask me, “Are you listening?” “Mhm,” would be my reply.

I think you’ll be able to relate to at least one of these scenarios. Everyone has probably been the victim or the ignorer at some point in their lives. No one is doing anything malicious in these situations; we’re just people, caught up in the moment. But I think as parents who want to do better – as PEOPLE who want to do better – we need to adjust ourselves. Tuning out our loved ones is a habit of laziness really, a lack of thoughtfulness. It’s not being fully conscious about the everyday life decisions we are making. I really want to be present with the people that are in my everyday life. And I want them to be present with me.

Life flies by quickly. (At 50, I’m well aware of that fact.) You don’t want to miss it! The people who are in our lives are there because we value them. They deserve our attention. Real attention. The attention we give indicates to them how much we love them, how much we appreciate them, how much they MATTER in our lives. If your child wants to talk with you, appreciate it and give them your full attention. You can be sure they are taking note of how you interact with them. It tells them their worth and your interest in them. And think of how that translates for later in their life. If their mother is not interested in them, who will be? These are big messages we are conveying, and so often, we don’t even realize it’s happening.

Make an agreement that there will be actual conversation with the person in front of you – your child, your partner, your friend. Put down the phone, stop reading your email, don’t glance at your Facebook newsfeed. Let people know that they DO matter to you. Look them in the eyes and really listen.

Editor's note: This article is adapted from one that originally appeared on Sue's blog.