The reason why we dads hate to listen to anyone is because it means we have to stop talking. Think about it. When someone invites us to listen, it requires us to (A) put on hold the brilliant comment we were about to make; (B) stop thinking about a clever response; and (C) give up control or at least the appearance of being in charge.
Dads are the last persons to teach the art of listening. We’re terrible. Come on, admit it. We like to spout off on all that we know (which sometimes should take all of 15 seconds), and we delight in having all faces turned toward us as our family members and friends, thirsty for knowledge, drink in our wisdom. The reason why we dads talk more than we listen is because real listening takes work, concentration. And silence scares us to death!
How much are we missin’ because we don’t listen?
Imagine how much we dads would learn about the world around us—the house we live in—the children we sired—if we focused on what they said as intently as we zero in on the fourth-down-and-1-yard-to-go drama on our 75-inch TV screen. What might we learn about our teenager if we pretended that he or she were sitting atop a golf tee and we really wanted to connect! What if we turned off our minds and stopped thinking about tomorrow’s task, the weekend trip or the neighbor’s new Lexus and gave our complete attention to what was being said to us at that moment?
Dad, your work is cut out for you. Part of your job as wise old sage is to keep quiet, listen to your teenager and teach by example how to be a good listener. How many times do you look your kid in the eye and demand, “Now you listen to me!” Yet, how is your offspring supposed to tune in to what you’re saying when you yourself haven’t been a role model of good listening? Do you expect your teenager to listen to you because you’re shouting at him? How does that work for you when your boss shouts at you?
OK, just because we write this column doesn’t mean we’re experts on this subject. After all, we’re guys. We like to be in control. We hold the TV remote close to our hearts. We insist on driving to anywhere. We prefer to screw up whatever it is—and then decide what repairman to call. It’s worse than a disease. It’s part of our fatherly fabric.
Set the example while you can
The best hope for teaching our teenagers to listen and learn is to dig deep and practice what we preach. So here’s a tip from a couple of non-experts: Someday your teenagers may have nothing to say to you because they will be grown and gone. So treat each day that you’re with them as a privilege. Listen to them. You might hear something new.
Check out Tom and Bill’s new book, “Tools for Raising Teenagers.” Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org or like them on Facebook.