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When you speak, you hope the other person listens.

When other people speak, do you listen? Do you tune the other person out due to a distraction or because you can’t wait to respond or share your thoughts?

How about your children? When they talk, do you listen?

A friend shared a quote today from Catherine M. Wallace, a cultural historian and literary critic who serves on the faculty of Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. It pertains to listening to children. Parents, take note:

“Listen earnestly to anything your children want to tell you, no matter what. If you don’t listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won’t tell you the big stuff when they are big, because to them all of it has always been big stuff.”

Good advice, wouldn’t you say? Sometimes it might be tough to sit and listen to a child ramble about something that happened at school, or about a favorite toy, story or movie. The message is important to them, so much so that they want you to hear it.

My middle schooler loves to read. Her reading class requires her to keep a log, tracking the number of pages she reads per week in a book of her choice. She also needs to log the book titles and authors that she reads. That in mind, I often ask about the books’ plots and sequences. When she does her homework, I ask about each subject’s focus, just to keep her thinking and what she’s learning at the front of her mind. Sometimes I connect with what she’s learning. I listen, then share my thoughts.

My kindergartner comes home chock-full of information about learning, friends and more. So I listen. I love to hear his stories, or even hear him sing along with the radio like he did Monday evening as we waited for his sister to finish dance classes. He also loves to read, and he likes to try and read his own books or even take a gander at whatever I might be reading (it’s usually kid-friendly. 🙂 ).

Parents giving children their undivided attention — sans phone, television or whatever task has your hands full, from dishes to tidying up the living room — means more than we realize. Listen now. When children grow and encounter situations with friends, activities, academics and emotions, they can take comfort in knowing that mom or dad care enough to hear what they have to say.