Less is more

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Because I have so much to learn in this area, I am relying on one of our Catch members today for advice on raising kids — in this case, highly opinionated kids who happen to be his sons.

This discussion on building bridges has been an eye-opener for me in that it has shown me how much I have failed in relation to building a relationship with my son, Chandler. So I am going to pass on some of Peter’s advice to you, since I’m between the answers on this, as I wrote about yesterday. I hope you will find it as  helpful as I have, and not just for kids, but for all our relationships, because we’re talking today about listening.

The more I get to know Chandler, the more I realize my first two children must have been humoring me an awful lot — letting me think I was in charge when most of the time, they were.

“I too wished at some point that my sons would tap into my wisdom,” Peter wrote, “then I found out the wisdom they needed was that I keep my mouth shut and listen to what they were saying. After they were finished speaking I would encourage them, or confirm them in what they said even when I did not necessarily agree, and they might have been extremely offensive to me in what they said. My responses were few, and when I did speak, I tried to be encouraging, because I tried to observe something that they were doing well and then compliment them.

“For years as a parent I gave free unsolicited — and mostly unwanted — advice, and I had to break that bad habit. It is still a work in progress. I also began to tell my sons that I loved them very frequently. That, and mostly listening and only speaking compliments. This wisdom they appreciate more than anything else I have ever told them.

“I have followed this now for about five years. Occasionally I can now offer a pearl of wisdom. I offer a prayer, and think about it, before I say it. Often decide not to. Funny, the less I say and the more I listen, the more my parental stock has gone up.”

I’m sure this approach extends more than to just children. Learn to listen; and when you do speak, speak encouragement. Good advice for any relationship.

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5 Responses to Less is more

  1. Thank you for your honesty, John. I’m really taking this post to heart. Sometimes, after I listen until I think I have the general idea of what someone is saying, I catch myself thinking more about my response than listening to all they’re saying.
    Listen to listen. I hear you. And I like it.

  2. Gordon says:

    Hello John.
    I have followed your blog for years, but this is my first comment.
    I am amazed at how hard you are on yourself in analyzing relationships in your family circle. I know you are not the only family member that has changes to make to contribute to the harmony of your home.
    Therein lies the “hidden” lesson in so many of your postings. When it comes to conflict between people we love, most times the only one we can change is ourself. I have followed your journey with Chandler, and empathized with you as I watch my own children, now grown, make decisions and display attitudes I feel uncomfortable with. I can still dialogue with them, but often wish their faith looked more like mine. Now I find myself relying on the principle in scripture about child rearing….
    Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.
    My kids are not “old” yet!! May I, like you, learn the lessons that build bridges, to that “teachable moment”, where we can all learn.

    • jwfisch says:

      “in the way he should go” is the important word here, and I’m sure you found that out. It really means “in the way he is ‘bent.'” In other words, not in the way you want him to go, but in the way he’s already directed. Everyone’s different.

  3. Lois Taylor says:

    Listening is a skill that mostly goes undeveloped in us. As a foreign language teacher I begin by training my students to listen. It isn’t easy. Someday, John, Chandler will come to you for advice. Give it time.

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