John came into the room today and declared in no uncertain terms, “I decided that I don’t want to talk to my dad anymore.” Startled, I turned around and asked him why? I knew that he was frustrated trying to get a hold of his father, because his dad just never picked up when John wanted to talk. Then, when his father called back, John would be away from his phone. They play phone tag often and it’s annoying. So when John came in and told me that he decided that he no longer wanted to talk to his dad, I figured he just missed a call again.
Turns out John got his father’s return call. The problem was that his father got on the phone and just started talking and talking. Remember, John called him, not the other way around. John wanted to talk. John had something to say. That was the whole purpose for the conversation. Yet John’s dad took the reins and just started going for it. After 10 minutes of listening to his dad talk, he decided that he no longer wanted the lecture and ended the conversation.
Fathers, ask yourself, how often do you turn into Brian Regan’s “Me Monster” at the dinner table, in the family room, or on the phone with your kids? (If you don’t know what Brian Regan’s “Me Monster” is, then check out this video.
The Me Monster talks to his kid and steers the conversation the way he wants it to go. His children grow annoyed at him and tell him he just doesn’t understand. They stalk away and leave a slightly frustrated father in a cloud of confusion. What did he do wrong? The conversation was going so well. You were having a pleasant conversation about the things that you thought were important.
Sometimes the question doesn’t come down to “What did I say wrong?” More often the real question is “Dad, are you listening?”
Are you letting your son or daughter lead the conversation? Sometimes all they want is to spout off information for 15 minutes to an hour and you are just supposed to nod your head and say yes. Respond to questions when given but try not to interrupt as much as possible. If you’re nodding your head in agreement, but are trying to interrupt with a “Yeah, but,” stop. Take a moment to reflect on how often you want to put a “yeah, but” in your conversations with your kids when they want to talk.
You know it’s time to listen when they come to you to talk. When they initiate the conversation, turn up your ears, you are experiencing the wonderful opportunity to see who your child is becoming. Respond when appropriate and try to be sensitive in your approach.
Our CEO Christopher shared an experience recently that taught him how to give the right feedback to one of his sons. His blog was entitled “Teenagers and Advice.” His words hit home when I heard John walk in and declare that he didn’t want to talk to his dad anymore (meaning about that subject). Who knows what John wanted to say. All we know is that he didn’t get a chance to say it. Now that the opportunity has passed, his father may never know. Nor is he likely aware on what he missed out on.