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  Children's Ministry Today    

Today's Featured Article

The Listening Post




Parents, teachers, coaches, neighbors---everyone talks at and to kids, sharing advice, teaching lessons, offering warnings, giving instructions--in short, telling them what to do. What they often need, however, is someone who will listen, an adult who will accept what they say as important, nodding, smiling, believing, and understanding.

Listening to children is not easy for adults. Sometimes we cannot understand their words, and usually we aren't sure what they mean. At other times they seem to babble on about nothing specific, just seeming to enjoy hearing themselves talk. It is important to give them time and attention for this kind of communication, even though it makes very little sense and meets very few of our needs. We must beware, however, of falling into a "pretend listening" pattern where we hear the sounds, but our mind is on a thousand other thoughts and projects. If we always listen that way, we will miss critical communication when it comes.

This does not mean that you have to drop everything when they speak. If you are too tired or in the middle of something, let them know that you would rather not (or can't) talk now, but will as soon as you can. Except in an emergency, never allow them to interrupt your conversation with another person. It is more important to be real and honest with them than to pretend that you are listening. But, if you postpone your conversation, set up a definite time to gel back together. Besides communicating the fact that you need to have time to yourself or to do certain things, you will teach them the importance of timing and politeness, and that you really do care about what they have to say.

Be sensitive to your children's talk. There are times when you must drop everything and listen intently. At other times, they just want to be noticed and to be heard--they just want to chatter.

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