Listen so your kids will talk

I cannot count how many times I have heard the adages, "Talk so your kids will listen and listen so your kids will talk" or "if you listen to the little things, they will tell you the big ones". Whoever started this trope didn't have precocious kids who do nothing but talk! And while this is true, I am seeing it first hand now that my kids are older, it is exhausting. Purely exhausting. Listening to my kids talk is frequently grating on my brain and nerves. Older parents told me often that if I listened to every word that popped out of my precocious young children's mouths that they'd still talk to me when they were older. This was certainly easy when Rory was young. They spoke before age 1 and never stopped. At 14, they still share thoughts, feelings, and even text conversations with me without hesitation. They know they'll be met with love and compassion. And listening not judging. Occasionally, they get some advice, but often not unless they ask for it. Fast forward to Will as a toddler. He didn't talk intelligibly until age 4. He signed. He made noise when he needed to. But he has never been a big talker. He was also easy because he always only talked to me when he needed to. This is still the case. Mack. Mack was much more like Rory. Talked around 18 months and never stopped. He hasn't waned in his verbosity either. He is nearly 10. And I don't think has spent more than 3 consecutive minutes quiet in his whole life. I try hard to listen to him but sometimes, I just need to set a boundary. Boundaries must be ok. Even when they mean saying no to my kids when they want to talk. Mack knows that I need quiet sometimes. He also knows how to communicate an emergency that needs talking instead of a desire to tell me every thought he has. Kae, like Mack and Rory, is a talker. This child gets offended when others don't want to hear her speak though. I have to tread carefully with her so she knows I value her needs and wants, but need a minute to stop the noise. I fail more than I would like to admit. I snap at her to just stop talking. I sometimes fear this will result in her shying away from sharing with me, but I am aware and apologize and ask what she'd like to share with me. While I cannot possibly listen to every word out of all 4 of my children's mouth, not to mention the other 5 I work with three days a week, I can demonstrate that they are important to me and I will listen as often as I am able. That doesn't mean all the time. That doesn't even mean if I could listen to one that I can listen to another right now. So, if I regularly have 9 children under my care and whom I am teaching, I must be conscientious about how I listen. I try to set aside time to listen to each. When I can listen, I listen completely. No phone, no book, no computer. The child and I focused on one another to the exclusion of all else. This is connection. Listening to everything a child says is impossible. If other parents tell you that you must, nod and smile and move on. The quality of the time you spend in conversation with your child is more important than listening to every word. You can absolutely build the necessary trust with your children through quality conversation and time together.

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