One of the most important things we can do for our children is listen to them. We need to listen, not only to their words, but to their tone, facial expressions, body language, to their complete and total message. In fact, we need to listen to their hearts. The more accurately and often we do this, the more emotionally intelligent they will become. That's right: our listening makes them more emotionally developed. As a result, they will get along better with us, their friends and teachers. They will do better in school. They'll be physically and mentally healthier. They'll enjoy all these benefits and more – just because we listened.

Although the idea of listening seems easy enough, it is, in fact, a very difficult thing for us parents. We prefer to talk. We like to teach and explain. We like to correct and offer guidance. Indeed, we sometimes talk so much that our children think we are lecturing instead of educating! They sometimes cover their ears because they've heard enough of our speeches! We tend to think that our job is to give over important information; we must teach them why it is important to eat nicely, be kind to siblings, do their homework, be prompt, etc. We spew fountains of information aimed at helping them grow and improve. It seems counterintuitive that we should stop talking and listen.

However, if we could be sure that our listening would "pay off," perhaps we'd be more inclined to do it. Research shows that listening to children leads to better problem-solving, more cooperation and better learning. In order to help this come about, however, parents must learn to trust that children have answers inside of them, installed by G‑d.

For instance, suppose a mom sees her teenage son lying in bed daily when he should already have left for school. Her old approach involved a speech about the importance of punctuality, fulfilling responsibilities and so on. All of it seems to have fallen on deaf ears because, day after day, week after week, the youngster is still in bed long after his alarm has finished ringing.

Today, Mom tries a new approach. She is going to try to listen. So she asks her son, "Sweetheart, is there some reason that you don't want to get up on time?" The boy, surprised by the question, first mumbles "no." But Mom persists: "No, really, Honey. There must be some reason that you don't get up on time to go school." Realizing his mother is actually interested, the boy rouses himself, rubs his eyes, and says, "I find the first class way too boring." Mom is tempted to launch into a speech, but refrains, deciding instead to continue listening. Making a huge effort to be receptive, rather than judgmental, Mom acknowledges her son's words. "You find the first class boring." Her reflection invites him to explain further. "Well, not all the time, but usually. Mr. Simon is the worst science teacher I ever had." Again, Mom curbs her teaching instinct. She is really trying to understand.

Slowing down to think, Mom realizes that what her son is saying makes sense. He has been diagnosed with ADHD – Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. It is harder for him to sustain attention when the subject matter is boring. His brain craves stimulation. Of course a boring science class is hard for him. "Yes, I get it. It's hard for you to listen to Mr. Simon's uninspiring lesson." Now the boy is stunned. His mother actually understands! "I'll try harder to manage," he says out of the blue. "I know I really have to show up for the class even if it's hard."

The miracle of listening has just occurred! For some reason, being heard releases the feelings and thoughts of the listener. Being understood can unlock stuck behavior. It doesn't happen like this in every conversation, but it does happen frequently. Sometimes there is a delayed result, rather than immediate. Over time, however, consistent listening leads to consistent growth and development.

Try it sometime and see for yourself.