The power of listening

Jun 10, 2021

 “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry”  James 1:19

‘It’s simple enough in principle, and nearly impossible to live. Too often we are slow to hear, quick to speak, and quick to anger. So, learning to listen well won’t happen overnight. It requires discipline, effort, and intentionality. You get better with time, they say. Becoming a better listener hangs not on one big resolve to do better in a single conversation, but on developing a pattern of little resolves to focus in on particular people in specific moments.’ (Mathis, 2014).
I find it very easy to hear what my children are saying on a practical level, but don’t always take the time to actively listen to them.

What is active listening?


Active listening involves intentionally engaging in conversation in a positive way. This includes listening attentively to absorb, understand, respond and retain what is being said, listening to the whole of a person in order to genuinely understand and show interest.
This is an unhurried exercise to do with your children and requires effort and commitment. It is helpful to designate some time if you are not in the habit of active listening. Have a think about the time in your days and weeks that works best for you and your kids. I find the best time in our household to actively listen to my boys is before bedtime. It is in these moments that I am one on one with each child, they are less distracted and very willing to stall before bedtime and have a chat with Mum. It takes effort on my part because I am often tired and ready for them to be tucked up safe (and quiet) in bed! It is in these moments before they close their little eyes that I ask questions about their day and wait, listening to their responses and letting them speak without my own agenda in the discussion


Some of the practical things to do when actively listening:


  • Make eye contact

  • Positive body language

  • Do not interrupt or finish sentences

  • Ask perceptive questions

  • Reflect or summarise feelings

  • Wait – don’t be afraid of silence to let thoughts gather

Listening builds healthy relationships


When we listen to our spouse, children, friends, co-workers, etc. we demonstrate caring, attentiveness and respect. Who listened to you as a child? Your parents? Friends? Teachers? When someone takes the time to truly listen to our kids they will find connection with that person. I want to have that connection and healthy relationship with my kids and teach them how to have that with others and with God

Leading by example


We’ve written in previous Blog posts about how our kids are sponges that will follow the model of their parents in many ways. If we as parents demonstrate how to be an active listener, both to God, others and our own children; then our little sponges will develop their own understanding of the value of listening.  


How do we demonstrate listening to God?


  • Prayer: our prayer life is not a one-way conversation; we must listen to God, pay attention to what He is saying to us and respond

  • His Word: meditate on scripture and what God is saying through His Word

  • Thoughts, feelings and spiritual discernment: If you feel God speaking to you in these ways then give Him your attention and unpack what He is saying

We can all demonstrate healthy relationship to our children through the skill and practice of listening, intentional listening that will leave them feeling cared for, respected and loved.

References: D. Mathis (2014). 

Being His Presence In Every Place