A September to Remember: Don’t Miss Out on this Incredible Opportunity!
How many missed opportunities are there in your day? This question has been beating in my chest the last few weeks. Let me back up a little and explain what I mean.
I keep getting a sense that the greatest skill I can develop in my life is the ability to listen. People, including my children, don’t need or want my advice or opinions, they just want to be heard. It is our heart’s cry to be truly heard and understood – and this is a powerful thing. It’s one of the greatest gifts we can give to another human being.
Why is Listening so Powerful?
Life brings all of us different challenges and experiences; some full of heartache and pain. We all have emotions surrounding the different events and scenarios in our life. When someone listens to us, it creates a safe place to share and release those emotions. By listening, you are providing that person an opportunity to process and work through how they’re feeling. Listening helps those difficult feelings to surface and be released. This is healing. The more you feel, the more you heal.
Biblically, I think of all the metaphors about coming out of darkness and into the light. I think when our feelings are released it is like they are coming out of the “darkness,” where we stuff and hide our painful emotions and into the “light,” where we feel and release the pain bringing us clarity and healing.
“But when anything is exposed and reproved by the light, it is made visible and clear; and where everything is visible and clear there is light.” Ephesians 5:13
Listening to Children
I want to share an example. I live with my husband and four boys in Costa Rica and I’ve been homeschooling them. Recently we made the decision to put my oldest son in the little public school close by for the year. This was a difficult decision for us, but we didn’t want to miss the precious opportunity for him to become bilingual at this critical time when his brain is so receptive to language. We know this is the right decision for now, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. My son is at a point in his language where he can understand and participate in class, but it’s hard socially because his conversation skills are not strong. Not for one second do I want to underestimate how challenging this situation is for him and how brave he has to be to go to school each day.
We recently had a two-week school break. It was a fun two weeks filled with surfing, skating, relaxing and having fun. I knew it was going to be hard to go back to school. Sure enough, the night before school started up again Kai began angrily declaring that he was NOT going back to school. This soon escalated into a fit.
In these situations situations my natural reaction is to want to say, Sorry, you are going to school. Period. No discussion – Now go to your room until you can stop this! But why do we so commonly react this way? I think it’s because our children’s strong emotions are difficult for us to handle or accept. We just want it to STOP! It makes us uncomfortable. Well, I easily could have done just that, but thankfully God’s been teaching me this valuable lesson and so I didn’t. Instead I took a deep breath and then I went to sit by Kai on the couch.
He pushed away from me at first, but I stayed close. Finally, he let me hold him on my lap while he cried. After awhile I asked him to talk to me and describe how he was feeling. And then it came pouring out. He said he hates school because it makes him dizzy sitting in class trying to understand. He’s always the last one finished. He doesn’t understand anything. He has no friends. He said at recess no one plays with him and he just sits alone on a bench. “That’s all it is,” he cried, “It’s just me sitting alone on a bench.” My heart just broke. What could I even say? I just held him and empathized about how hard that must be. I think that is the last thing in the world any mom would want her child to go through! I held him until the crying subsided. He calmed down and went to bed in peace.
I was so nervous about how the next morning would go. Well, you wouldn’t believe it, but to my surprise he woke up happy, chattering excitedly about his science project he was doing that week and enthusiastic about going to school! There was no mention of the things he talked about the night before. He has been happily going to school ever since this experience. I am actually amazed. All I can think is that somehow being able to feel deeply and release those painful feelings (bringing them out into the light, so to speak), helped him to heal and gain the strength and courage he needs to face each day. This process of acquiring a new language is hard, but he’s doing it and I’m so proud of him!
I can’t help but think, though, of how easily things could have gone very differently. And I would have missed out on hearing my son’s heart and providing him that space to heal. I shudder to think of it. And it makes me wonder how many missed opportunities there are each and every day? With my children? With my husband? With friends? I am learning that when I choose NOT to listen, I miss out on a chance to hear someone’s heart, to offer space to feel and heal, to understand and connect more deeply with that person. I don’t want to miss any more opportunities with the people I care about. This isn’t optional anymore, or just a “nice” thing to do. It’s critical.
Written by Leslie Freeman
Leslie is a wife and mom of four boys. She and her family live and work in Costa Rica reaching out to children at risk. She writes at Real Child Development about taking the study of child development and applying it directly to her real, everyday life with kids.
Award-winnning author, L.R.Knost, is the founder and director of the children's rights advocacy and family consulting group, Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, and Editor-in-Chief of Holistic Parenting Magazine. Books by L.R.Knost include Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood ; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages ; The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline ; and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, and children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series.