I’m convinced that being heard is a human need. Every night after I was in bed, for as far back as I can remember, my mom made a point to come to my room, sit on the edge of my bed and let me talk. If I didn't just start talking, she would ask me how my day had been. Or she would ask specifically about some part of my day, or what I had learned. Every night she made a point to engage with my heart, hear me out, find out what I was thinking and feeling. My mom made it crystal clear that she really wanted to know me. And it felt good.
To this day she listens to me. In fact, even now, if I see my mom, I start talking. She developed that reflex in me. She is a safe place, someone who hears me and doesn't judge. She loves me unconditionally. And I have tried to engage with my children in the same way. I want to know what they think and what they feel. I want them to want to talk to me.
Have you ever felt like you might bust because you couldn't wait to tell someone something you just heard or learned? Or felt like you would burn up from the fire in your heart or bones, you were so excited? It is easy to feel discouraged … even hurt or angry if no one will listen to you. It can feel like a bucket of cold water has been poured over you in an attempt to put out that fire. When your child lies down at night and starts thinking about what happened that day, or is touched by God’s Spirit or learns something deep and profound, who will listen? Who is there? Nothing is worse than being ignored, or treated like you do not matter. Parents carry a huge burden to be sure their children have somewhere to put the fire in their bones, a place to talk about their observations on life, someone who truly cares about them. Children need a fireplace for their fire.
Fire is basically a powerful and useful chemical reaction, but to help us cook and keep us warm, it needs to be harnessed. Without a fireplace, a fire can rage out of control and consume our homes and businesses. Fires need fireplaces. And you can be that for your children. Think about it: Where do you turn when you have a heart full of the goodness of God and want somewhere to share it? Or what do you do when you learn something new and want to show someone else? To whom do you turn when your heart is breaking? Who shares your joys? Who shares your sorrows? As parents we need make it our priority to be there for our children when they come home, or call home, brimming with news. We need to take time to listen, to really listen, and care. We need to do this when they are ready to speak, when they are seeking to talk to us. Taking the time to listen and understand is a big part of loving.
Being heard, really heard, shows that someone cares and being cared for is as basic as it gets. As soon as our children are able to talk it seems like they never stop. It is too easy to train ourselves to tune them out, falsely believing that whatever we are doing at the moment is more important than their baby talk. But in those early days of speech our children learn quickly if we are listening to them, if we care what they are saying. If not, they get louder and look for ways to get our attention. Eventually they will act out. Any attention is better than no attention. Precious little is worse than being ignored.
So how do we prepare ourselves to be a fireplace for all this fire? How do we prepare to listen, especially when we have real responsibilities that vie for our time?
Be a fireplace and let the fire in your children burn in you too.
What ways do you use to keep communication with your children open? Please share your comments below.
Article by Ruth Grunstra
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Hi I'm Ruth
What is the biggest challenge you are facing with your child? My husband and I had the first of our 8 children in 1984 and our youngest in 2002. We've been married since 1980 and we are always learning new ways to engage our children. We would love to hear from you. Contact us and let us know what you have found that works and what doesn't, or ask me a question.
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