Did you realize there are dozens of verses in the Bible about listening? Whether it’s listening to God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, parents, wisdom or instruction, it is clearly important to God that our children listen and listen well. If you have children, you have probably been frustrated more than once with their ability to listen – and we won’t even talk about the obeying part!
Strong listening skills are essential to any Christian who wants to make an impact on the world for God. Yet parents, churches and schools spend little time training children how to listen well. Oh, a few may have children practice repeating what they have heard or even answering questions about it, but the listening skills your kids need go far beyond merely recalling details.
So what are the listening skills you need to help your children learn to master?
- Listening for content. This type of listening will allow your children to recall the details they hear. If listening skills are taught at all, this is usually the focus. Being able to recall the details of a conversation is crucial for being able to follow instructions or to do what needs to be done.
- Listening for meaning. This type of listening is important for understanding. Children especially, may be able to tell you every word that was said, but not really understand what the person was trying to help them understand. There are many different reasons for this, but it is important to teach your children to make sure they understand what someone meant when they used certain words. Unfamiliar words, regional differences in how words are used and more can mean your child hears something very different from what was actually said.
- Listening for emotion. This type of listening is an important key to successful relationships. Many times the words people are saying don’t match their true emotions. Think for example, of the various ways someone can say the word “Great”. Facial expressions, tone of voice and other little things can change the meaning of the word from “terrific” to “horrible”.
- Listening for truth. This type of listening can save your children from being swayed by false teachings, tricked by those wanting to hurt them and from being brushed off by those who really need and want their help. This is one of the most difficult listening skills to develop. There are often ways to fact check what is said, but sometimes decisions must be made much more quickly. Often people give subtle clues in their facial expressions, body language and the way they speak that they are not telling the truth. If your children miss these little details when listening, the results can be bad.
- Listening for the unspoken. This type of listening is crucial for relationships, serving others and sharing their faith. Many times people are fearful of revealing too much and hold back important information. Sometimes this missing information is the most important. It is important to teach your kids how to pick up on the little signs there may be more details they need to hear.
In my next post, I will share some fun ways to help your children develop each of these listening skills. In the meantime, think about each of your kids. In what ways are they good listeners? In what areas do they need more instruction and practice? Training your children to be great listeners, can make a huge difference in their Christian walk.