Friday, November 11, 2011

All Ears

For all the times Amy and I lament that our kids don’t listen to us, here’s the dirty little secret: they are always listening, and they listen well.

Case in point. Two, actually. Because I can yell louder and spank harder than Amy, the kids tend to fear me more than her. (Amy’s more liberal with the hugs and sweets, too.) But when that asymmetry in fear leads to them not heeding Amy’s words as quickly as mine, that upsets me, because it is a sign of disrespect towards their mother. So one day, I kneeled down to get at their eye level, raised their chins so they were sure to be looking right in my eyes, and in no uncertain terms I told them that they had better listen to their mother, or else they were going to feel my wrath. Sure enough, a few days later, Aaron was lollygagging after bath time, even as Amy was barking instructions about what they were to do next, and Jada scolded Aaron with these words: “Remember what Daddy said about listening to Mommy.”

Second example. This one is the opposite. This time it was Jada who was lollygagging, even as I had given them clear instructions about cleaning up their room. And this time it was Aaron who said: “Remember what Daddy said about putting stuff away.”

Look, I understand that our kids have selective hearing. Or, more correctly, that they have selectively
“acting on what they have heard.” And, more specifically, if they can use what they have heard to get over on the other sibling, then they take action. But what that tells me is that it’s not that they aren’t listening. They are always listening, they just aren’t always acting on it. So Amy and I had better be careful about the words we use around them. Because, in some way, those words are going in, and who is to say if, when, and how they will lead to action.
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