One of the most advantageous things a father can do to benefit his child in the long-term is to develop the ability to listen. Every child is an individual and as such has unique dreams and hopes for their life. We as fathers cannot assume that we know what our child wants unless we are firstly prepared to ask them. Being able to hear what your child is really saying is paramount if we are to effectively meet their needs in life.
It is important that we as fathers do not fall into the habit of listening merely to reply, before we first listen to understand.
From the moment our wife's pregnancy has become full term and our children are born they begin to cry out in need, and as a parent it is our job to meet those needs as best we can. Initially the baby cries out because it is cold after being delivered and needs to be cleaned and warmed up with blankets. The next in a series of cries is often one denoting hunger, telling us that the baby now needs to be fed as it no longer receives nutrients automatically from the mother.
One of the challenges of being a parent is being able to identify what each cry is for e.g. I’m tired, I’m hungry, I need my nappy changed etc. The quicker we as a parent can identify what the need is, the quicker we can move to meet it. Our parenting goals should always include ensuring that these most basic needs are met.
Throughout the life of your child their cries for help will change as they change and mature, but our role and responsibility as their parent remains constant. Whether we are parenting kindergarten children or parenting teens in high school we need to become a good listener if we are to succeed as a father. By really listening we begin to hear on another level, and by really hearing we begin to understand at a deeper level.
Often all our child needs are someone to listen and hear what they are really saying, and then to show them loving support and encouragement. Following are some basic principles for developing an awareness of how and when to develop a listening ear:
Set aside some time each day to sit down and have a chat with your child
Make sure you arrive home ready to listen, for it is in those first few moments that your child often wants to tell you about their day
Ensure that you regularly ask them about how things are going at school and who they are friends with (This gives them an opportunity to vent about frustrations they may be facing)
Show an interest in the things they are interested in, listen, observe and interact on their level
If you miss their sporting game, make sure you follow-up by asking them how they thought they and/or the team played (Showing your interest and support encourages them to continue pursuing an active/healthy lifestyle)
If they discuss something personal with you make sure you keep it in confidence
Follow up on your previous discussions by asking how things are progressing (This lets them know that you really were listening and are interested and caring as a parent)
Get into the habit of talking to them and praying with them before they go to sleep
Ask your child what they would like to pray for tonight (this often reveals what are the real issues they are concerned about).
Much of the relationship that is developed between a father and his child is built upon the foundations of love, trust and communication. The things that you do today, as you relate or fail to relate effectively with your child, will often determine your future relationship with them when they are adults.
Fathers who fail to communicate their love effectively through developing a listening ear miss an important opportunity to bond with their child at a deeper level. We should not be surprised that if we don’t listen to them when they are children, they won’t listen to us when they are adults. But fathers who develop a listening ear reap the benefits of a stronger and more fulfilling relationship with their children throughout life.
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