Sometimes we dads aren’t too good at listening. It requires us to stop talking. We have to: (A) put on hold the brilliant comment we were about to make; (B) stop thinking about a clever response; (C) stop thinking of ourselves, and (D) give up control or at least the appearance of being in charge.
Easier to talk
Sometimes we’re the worst teachers of the art of listening. We delight in having all faces turned toward us as our coworkers, family members and friends, thirsty for knowledge, drink in our wisdom. The reason why we dads talk more than we listen is because real listening takes work, concentration. It’s easier to talk.
Imagine how much we would learn about the world around us and our kids, especially, if we focused on what they said as intently as we zero in on the 4th-down-and-a-yard-to-go drama on our 75-inch TV. What might we learn about our teenager if we pretended that he or she were sitting atop a golf tee and we really wanted to connect! What if we turned off our minds and stopped thinking about tomorrow’s task, the weekend trip or the neighbor’s new Lexus and gave our complete attention to what was being said to us at that moment?
Listening is good for you
Wilson Mizner, an American dramatist, once said, “A good listener is not only popular everywhere, but after a while he knows something.”
Dad, your work is cut out for you. We’re not sure it can be done but sometimes you need to keep quiet. Listen to your teenager and teach him or her, by example, how to be a good listener. We all want to be listened to. But how often are we? How many times do you look your kid in the eye and demand, “Now you listen to me!” How is your offspring supposed to tune in when you yourself haven’t been the best role model of good listening? Teens don’t listen effectively when they’re being shouted at. No-one does. Think of a boss you’ve had sometime in your life who was shouting at you. It was hard to listen wasn’t it?
OK, just because we write this column doesn’t mean we’re experts on this subject. After all, we’re guys. We like to be in control. We hold the TV remote close to our hearts. We insist on driving to anywhere. We prefer to screw up whatever it is—and then decide what repairman to call. We’d rather get lost than ask for directions. We admit it. It’s worse than a disease. It’s genetic.
Yet, the only hope for teaching our teenagers to listen and learn is to dig deep and practice what we preach. So here’s a tip from a couple of non-experts: Don’t wait for your teenager to have nothing to say to you because he or she is grown and gone. Treat each day that you’re with your teen as a privilege. Listen. You may hear something new.