We all love our kids. That’s a given. And we cherish every minute we spend with them, and every word they utter.
Because then there are these times: your child is telling you an intricately detailed, almost Dickensian tale about what happened when the tuck shop ran out of Icey Poles. This happens almost every day of your life. At some point in the one-sided conversation they accuse you, Mummm! You’re not even listening!
And they’re right – you are most definitely not listening. That’s a problem because your child knows you too well, and can detect when you’re fake listening.
But we’ve got your back. Next time, try out these tips to help you to your fake listening to the next level, so that your cherub feels heard and special, but your sanity is saved.
1. Fake eye contact.
One of the biggest give-aways that you could not possibly care less about the impassioned monologue your child is delivering about Minecraft is your eye contact.
Even if you’re driving.
But believe it or not, faking eye contact is possible. Simply look directly at your child between the eyes, or at their nose, every so often.
They’ll be so engrossed in their speech that there’s an excellent chance you can get away with that level of engagement without being accused of not looking at them, never listening, and not caring – as you dedicate your entire life to their needs.
2. Change your tone.
All parents know that non-committal “mmhms” often don’t cut it, but then neither does a monotone “Oh my God, that’s terrible!”
We suggest practising the same words of pretend interest – “Wow, that sounds great!” – but changing the tone. That is easily accomplished if you have a go-to thought:
Bad things: think of never being allowed to sleep past 6am for the rest of your life: “That is truly devastating!”
Good things: think of your greatest wish come true, such as pure silence for five minutes: “That is the best news ever!”
3. Change the topic.
All parents know that occasionally we need to actually listen to our kids, and engage in meaningful conversations about life; but if your child insists on endlesslly talking about Delilah’s amazing sticker collection, try changing the topic to something you’re both interested in.
This could be a new movie you want to see together, or having the Davidsons over for lunch on Sunday. So, you’re still engaged with them, but the topic is just a little less mind-numbing.
If that doesn’t work, go full rogue and tell them about your annoying colleague who eats cereal at his desk and then just licks his spoon clean, so that your child knows that you have real problems, too.
Sometimes in life you need to stand up for what’s important to you, make it clear what you need, and look after yourself: for many parents, that comes at the 10 minute mark of listening to their child’s debrief on what happened at recess.
At that point in time, it’s perfectly acceptable to offer them to watch TV or have some other screen-time, or eat a chocolate biscuit (the chewier, the more time you buy yourself) – anything they will prefer to do than speak to you.
And if you’re really desperate for some silence, add a cash bribe to sweeten the deal, and then pretend to forget about it later.
Hear us out on this one: even if you feel you can’t stand to hear another word, remind yourself that they won’t be coming to you with mundane details of their lives forever, and force yourself to listen to what they’re saying.
Just pour yourself a big mug of coffee – or gigantic glass of wine – and get prepared to by thrilled by the story of how Darth Vader is Luke Skywalker’s father – again.
Holly Wainwright defends shouty parents, on our family podcast. Post continues after…