Archive for January, 2014

“Mom, you know I can hear you.”

Recently, my husband and I were talking and enjoying some alone time before dinner.  He was updating me on the events of his day and I was briefing him about the highlights of my day at home.  In the midst of my rather uneventful summary, I mentioned the name of one of our kids along with something amusing he’d done earlier in the day.  Immediately, we both heard “Mom, you know I can hear you,” coming from the next room over.  Although he was supposedly listening to music in the study, he was still able to hear what I had said about him.

I am always amazed by this.  Why is it that when I want my kids to fully listen to what I have to say, they often seem to tune me out?  And when I am not speaking to them at all, but happen to mention their name, they hear every single word?

This frequent scenario has had me wonder what lies behind our teen’s ability to listen incredibly well at one moment and totally tune people out at other times.  I did a little googling to see if there are studies about this phenomenon.   While I could not find any hard research, I repeatedly came across the oft repeated quote below from Dale Carnegie’s book, How to Win Friends and Influence People.

Remember that a person’s name to that person is the sweetest and most important sound in any language.

Although I cannot prove or disprove whether these words are always true,  I do know that my own kids don’t always act like their name is a sweet sound to their ears. 

Our kids hear their names many times throughout the day.  Unfortunately, many of the phrases or sentences that contain their name are often filled with commands, criticism or even correction.  Over time they begin to distinguish and even predict the tone of voice that is linked to these types of statements or requests.   The slightest detection of that tone from mom or dad and they begin to enter tune out mode.  But, when that particular tone of voice is absent or replaced with delight, their brain suddenly tunes into the “sweetest” sound they’ve known since they were an infant.  Curious to know what is being said about them, they listen well.

As a mom I must admit I probably do the very same thing.  When my kids were younger, I heard “Mommy” so much throughout the day that I often chose to delay my response until the demand became so desperate or determined that I could no longer ignore it.  That word, “mommy” had been such sweet music to my ears the first time I heard it uttered.  Nonetheless, over the years I somehow learned to tune out the mommy melody as well.

I can also think of moments, however,  when my name was used by a child, a spouse or a dear friend in the midst of statements that contained heartfelt words of encouragement, blessing or affirmation.   In those moments, I fully tuned into the phrases attached to my name.  The words were filled with blessing and deeply touched my heart.  

The Lord is kind to bless us in this way as well.  Quite often, the Holy Spirit will whisper my name followed by a word of Scripture or words of encouragement that I longed to hear.   Whether these gentle words of endearment, encouragement or even admonition included my name, they often washed over me like a gently, flowing stream.

Teachers, parents, siblings, peers and many other people speak my child’s name on a daily basis.   I wonder, however, how often their name is followed by life giving words that are intentionally spoken toward their heart and soul.   No wonder they seemingly tune out their name when they hear it; especially, when they detect “the” tone.   Like you and me, they can predict what will follow by the way their name sounds.  Could it be that they are so used to hearing requests or reprimands after their name that they stop listening?

We must remember how many adolescents feel torn down instead of built up during this season of life.  If the words aren’t coming from those around them, they are often beating themselves up in their own head.  I am certain that many are eager and ready to hear their “favorite word” in phrases or sentences that include kind, gentle, affirming and life giving words that will fill them.

What would happen if you intentionally said the name of your teen in conjunction with words of encouragement, delight, positive observation or love at least two or three times per day?

Together, let’s commit to do this over the next week.  I encourage each of you reading to become more intentional about the phrases or sentences that include your child’s name.  Of course, you will need to continue to give them direction, instruction and even correction.  But intentionally increase the amount of words, sentences, phrases that include words that build them up when you say their name. These can be directed toward him or spoken in front of him.  Pray that the Lord will fill you up with His perspective of your child so that you can speak to their heart in a special way.  Ask Him to give you the actual phrase or insight into how your words should be composed so that your teen can hear them well.  Moreover, take time to tune into Him so that you can hear what words He has to say to you.

If you are willing to try this for at least seven days, I would love to hear from you.  Please share your thoughts, observations, struggles and triumphs in the comment section below.  May God bless you as you speak the name of your child in conjunction with words that bring life to their soul.

Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.    Proverbs 16:24

Resisting Resolutions and Seizing Today

For many parents of teenagers, the retrospection that characterizes this time of year does not seem as appealing as it did in years gone by.  Because parenting teenagers can often be chock full of trials, failures, emotional upheavals and turbulent transitions, I completely understand why many of us aren’t too interested in revisiting those moments all over again.  I also was planning on taking a pass on the tradition this year.  Oddly enough, something happened as I began to hear the resolutions of others and view the year end collages posted by friends on social media sites.  A mental flip-a-gram of sorts began to be fashioned in my mind- a myriad of memorable moments layered on top of personal perceptions and new found reflections.

belly busting laughter from spontaneous utterances
… flowing tears and fighting fears as the oldest leaves home

relentless rivalry between siblings
…regrouping as restlessness and angst begins to brew

kids inching higher and mouths open wider
…detecting personal growth while acknowledging room for more

sideline cheers as remarkable strides appear out of nowhere
…withdrawing, turning down the mental chatter to behold the whispers of my God

in town, out of town, running late, no time to waste
…desperately looking for another pause, to stop, breathe, behold

confrontations, attitudes and a home full of heightened hormones
…craving order yet allowing the mess to mold us

late night talks about everything under the sun
… overwhelmed by the gift of family

daily decisions, dilemmas and dark days
…recognizing my need for God, begging Him to move mightily in our midst

hand in hand, wearied gazes, spontaneous dates, quiet evenings with my love
…seeing them come, seeing them go

freedom increasing, resistance decreasing
…finding some peace, fanning the flame

basket loads of everyday moments
…struggling to absorb the extraordinary in the ordinary

After repeatedly replaying the extended version of this flip-a-gram, I realized that a mixed bag of sentiments was beginning to grow within me.  Sorrow, relief, gratitude, hope, joy, awe and a dozen other feelings were linked to each thought, image and longing that I recounted.  Not surprisingly, this heavy satchel of contradictory emotions did not compel me to make a list of resolutions.  Instead, the mayhem, marvels and “aha” moments that have come from raising my three teenagers over the last year coupled with the transitions and triumphs I have experienced as their parent reminded me of just one word.  The word is TODAY.  While resolutions can certainly lead to change, I believe this one word will move my attention to just the right place over the next year.

TODAY I will resolve to do what today requires of me.
TODAY is here now, full of possibilities, opportunities, and challenges.
TODAY’s moments are worth noting.
TODAY I can allow myself to be filled anew with God’s grace, mercy and love for me and for others.
TODAY is manageable, doable, bearable.
TODAY has great purpose.
TODAY offers me an invitation to shift my gaze from the horizon beyond me to the ground beneath me, the steps ahead of me.
TODAY, I get a chance to apply what I learned yesterday.
TODAY, I have just what I need to endure the unexpected challenges and to revel in the unearned graces.
TODAY, I can determine to love and encourage my family well.
TODAY, my teens are indeed, changing. TODAY, I am too.

Surely, 365 fully embraced TODAYS are certain to equal another year of layers on top of layers of instants and insights that God will again use to weave me, my husband and our house full of teenagers into people who will reflect Him, honor Him and love Him more and more as time goes by.

But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “TODAY,”
so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end.       Hebrews 3:13-14

 

 

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