This beautiful moment is brought to you by small children, who give us many beautiful moments.
While completing my duty of grocery shopping yesterday, a young father and I played chicken in the crammed soda aisles. I shuffled to the middle between a couple of water or snack stands to let him pass. In his cart sat a little boy about the age of four or five. Both of us went about looking for the grocery store brand soda. Then I heard a question I’ve never heard a child ask.
“Will you teach me to listen?”
“Will I teach you to listen?” the father repeated with a grin playing on his lips. “Teaching you to listen is going to be harder than I ever thought.”
I clamped my jaws down hard around my mango peach gum to keep from bursting into laughter. I left the aisles to avoid interjecting in such a sweet and unforgettable moment between a child and parent.
Will you teach me to listen? Let’s start with the first beautiful aspect of this moment. This child voiced that he wants to listen to his parents. He indicated that he would like to improve his listening skills, to better himself. Is this child human? Anyway, this wee boy has realized either through an epiphany or through adults in his life nagging him to follow directions or clean out his ears, that he needs to work on listening. And who do small children turn to first for guidance? Their parents.
Secondly, it is hard to teach a child to listen because many adults don’t know how to do it either. When a little one rambles on about something adults don’t care about, they see nods and hear “uh huuuuhh,” as the adult barely makes eye contact and goes about their business. Therefore, a child learns that. When a little one stumbles over his words, loses his train of thoughts, or repeats himself while his inexperienced, yet developing, brain tries to connect his thoughts to verbal words, adults tend to get impatient. Half of the time, adults don’t listen to their own spouses. If you don’t believe me, just ask your husband to repeat the last thing you said to him.
And our children are watching and learning these listening skills.
Listening to someone is much more than waiting your turn to speak. Listening to others is one way we download information into our brains. It is taking not only spoken words, but also body language and facial expressions into account. It is being with someone in a moment that may or may not ever happen again.
Can we always give good eye contact or respond to everyone every time something is said to us? No. But when we can, it is important to do so and teach the younger generation true listening skills.