Episode #4 – The Importance of Listening, Hearing, and Being Heard

In This Episode:

In this episode we look at the importance of helping our kids learn to listen and truly hear what people are saying. We also explore how to help them understand that we hear them and God hears them when they pray. 

Books Discussed

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Welcome to Books that Spark, a podcast for parents and caregivers where we review books that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and conversations leading to teachable moments with our kids. Thank you for joining me today.

I want to remind you that our giveaway is this Thursday, July 31st so, if you haven’t already, please comment so I can enter you in the giveaway. You need to download the free course Parental Guidance Requested and comment. [Simply comment on my blog on my website for the first episode of Books that Spark to be entered into the drawing] That’s it! Then, you’ll be entered in the drawing.

We’ll have two winners. First prize includes Praying the Scriptures for Your Children, The Jesus Storybook Bible, and The Jesus Storybook Bible Coloring Book. Second prize is The Bedtime Devotions with Jesus Bible. You can find more information on my blog or in the show notes below.

August on Books that Spark is going to be exciting! I have two interviews with two wonderful authors debuting new books. Deb Gruelle will be my guest on August 3rd and 10th. Jennifer Grant will be my guest on August 17th. You won’t want to miss hearing about their new books and the stories behind them. The last two weeks of August, my husband and I will share with you about which Bible translations and Bible story books we recommend.

Be sure to check out my website for freebies and items for purchase to bless your home and church. In addition, if you sign up for my mailing list, you’ll get two freebies that are only available to those on the mailing list. First is a choice of three different phoneme books you can print, and the second is a list I compiled of over 100 picture book and board books that are written from a Christian worldview or don’t contradict the Christian worldview. All are books that I’ve vetted. They are excellent in their story and illustrations. It’s a great resource for building your child’s library or for knowing great books for gifts.

My goal is to help equip parents, teachers, and caregivers with the ability to have materials and have resources that will help us as we’re discipling and teaching our children and as we’re helping them to grow in their understanding of God and His purpose for their lives. And in addition to that, I also try to speak into your life as a parent, as a teacher, and as a caregiver. Because we need to be discipled too. So that is what I try to do with my website, my podcast, and my blog is to encourage you and help equip you so that you can help equip your children.

Scripture says, “Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry” in James 1:19, NLT. Today I want to share some books about listening and being heard. Part of the reason I’m so passionate about reading books together that spark conversations and questions is because we need to be communicating and sharing together with our families. Our children need to know that we value our relationship with them and respect them as people. We want to hear what they have to say and what they are thinking. We want them to be heard, and we want to be heard. As a part of parenting, children need to understand the importance of hearing and of really listening to what we’re teaching them. It is part of being teachable and part of becoming life-long learners. If they do not learn how to listen, they are handicapping themselves. Through hearing each other, we show respect, we learn other perspectives, we learn how to reason and use critical thinking, and we aren’t puffed up by our own self-importance. Listening and truly hearing what someone is saying is a huge skill we need to help our children master. And they need to see us model it as well.

The first book I want to share is a fun, very cute book called Lacey Walker, Non-Stop Talker by Christianne C. Jones and illustrated by Richard Watson. Lacey Walker is an owl who loves to talk. The book says, “Lacey Walker was quite the little talker. She liked to talk and talk and talk.” Everyone throughout her day asks her to stop talking and do what she needs to do and to listen. But she just keeps talking. Then one day, horror of horrors, she wakes up with laryngitis, and she mopes through her day, but had time to finish breakfast, her homework, and realizes her friend is funny and she likes the same movie her brother does. When she gets her voice back, she can’t wait to tell her family what she learned. She still likes to talk a lot, but she also takes time to eat and listen to her family and friends. The book ends with “Lacey Walker still liked to talk and talk and talk, but she liked to listen once in a while too.”

I like this book because it is so cute, and it shows someone learning on her own by natural circumstances and consequences. I like it because it is also light-hearted about a subject that could be shaming if not handled well. So, it is just a very cute book, and I really recommend it for approaching this subject of someone who talks too much.

Another cute book is My Mouth Is A Volcano by Julia Cook and illustrated by Carrie Hartman. This one is funny and repetitive, which makes it fun to read aloud. It also puts the problem of blurting out whatever comes to mind into a concrete problem that can be understood easily. Plus, it helps children find a possible solution to the problem. I love that the main character Louis talks about his mouth erupting like a volcano instead of his talking interrupting. But you can tell by the way Cook wrote the text that it’s like a child misunderstood the word interrupting and started saying erupting and then started imagining that their mouth is a volcano. It’s really cute.

I like that Cook uses humor like in Lacey Walker to handle a touchy issue kids might feel frustration in dealing with. This story focuses mostly on interrupting people and tackles that issue specifically.

It says, “My name is Louis. People say I erupt a lot. I don’t think I do…I have a lot to say, and all of my words are very important to me.

“When other people talk, words just pop into my head. Then they slide down onto my tongue. My tummy starts to rumble. And then it starts to grumble. My words begin to wiggle, and then they do the jiggle. My tongue pushes all of my important words up against my teeth, and then…I erupt! Words just explode out of my mouth. My mouth is a volcano!!!”

After erupting all day, he’s so excited for show and tell at school. But as he’s sharing, a friend interrupts him with his story, and then when he starts sharing again, another friend erupts with her story. He’s so frustrated. Later, he interrupts his mom twice, and she gives him some advice on how to control himself better. He tries it, and he learns that he can control his words and that it is only appropriate to interrupt in an emergency. Part of his concern is that if he doesn’t say things right when they come to his mind, he’ll forget the words; he’ll forget about it. His mom showed him that if he just takes a breath and waits and minute and listens to what the other person is saying, those words are still there, and he can share them then. I think it’s a really cute way to help kids understand, that in an emergency yes, it’s okay to interrupt. But we can hang onto our words and still listen to someone else and be able to share when it’s our turn.

This book handles this topic very well and helps children learn they can control their words and learn to listen as well as appreciate when someone listens to them. I love that they brought that into it as well.

This next book is one of my favorites I found about listening. The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld is a wonderful book. Taylor is building a something special with his blocks. He’s so excited, but then some birds fly by and knock it down. Then each of his animal friends come by and have their suggestion of what he should do. One says he should get really angry. One tries to get him to forget it and rebuild and go on like it never happened. Another says he should go knock down someone else’s blocks. Then the rabbit comes up and sits next to Taylor and just listens as Taylor cried, gets angry, wants to knock down someone else’s blocks, and then decides to rebuild. He needed someone to listen and let him feel what he felt without telling him how to feel or what to do.

I love this book so much. It teaches something important that we aren’t often taught. We need to be heard. And we need to let people who are hurting talk and feel what they feel. It is terrible to tell a child or anyone how they can feel. We can help them learn how to deal with what they feel, but we feel what we feel. It’s just the way it is. And when someone doesn’t feel heard, it adds to the hurt and frustration. I think it even prolongs the pain. The power of feeling heard can make a person feel loved, valued, and respected. We can help children know they are heard by giving them our focused attention and by responding to what they’ve said with either a question or a restatement of what we heard to check for understanding, or just a nod or a hug to let them know we’ve heard them.

That brings me to another book: I Have a Little Problem, Said the Bear by Heinz Janisch and illustrated by Silke Leffler. In this book the bear goes through town and says, “I have a little problem.” Well, he tries to. Some interrupt him and finish his sentence for him. But each friend he encounters thinks they know what he needs.

It starts out with:

“I have a little problem,” said the bear, “You see, I…”

“Of course!” said the inventor. “I know exactly what you need. A heavy bear like you needs something to make him feel lighter. I have just the thing.”

He got a pair of wings from his workshop and fastened them to the bear’s shoulders.

“Hmmm,” said the bear. Then he shrugged and went along, looking worried.

“I have a little problem,” said the bear, “You see…”

“Indeed I do,” said the tailor. “Your wings are very handsome, but you need a scarf.” And he wound a long scarf around the bear’s neck.

“Hmmm,” said the bear. Then he shrugged and went along, looking worried.

Then, the story goes on until he goes back home. It says:

The bear unfastened his wings. He took off his hat and scarf. He took off his glasses and the pig on a chain. He kicked off his boots. He set his vitamins and honey on the ground. Then he sat down on the hill and sighed.

And just then a fly comes up, asks him what’s wrong, listens to his problem, and is able to help him with his problem.

I love that a little fly solves his problem. It shows that someone who listens, no matter how big, small, young, or old, they may be able to help; but they’ll never know if they don’t listen first. This book shows the importance of hearing what someone is saying. I think sometimes it is tempting as parents to think we know what a child needs instead of hearing them out finding out what’s really bothering him. It’s hard sometimes when our children are slow to explain what’s on their minds or don’t quite have the words to describe their feelings, so we try to help them out, and sometimes we jump to conclusions. If your child has trouble with explaining their feelings or thoughts, we can use a tool to help them. I shared it in one of the mini lessons in Parental Guidance Requested: The Incredible Five-Point Scale by Kari Dunn Buron and Mitzi Curtis and Buron also has a reusable 5-point scale poster we can have handy if a child is upset and having a hard time explaining what they are experiencing. So, these are some tools that you can use if your children if they do have trouble discussing their feelings and explaining what is going on.

But we need to have patience to listen, question, and respond rather than jump ahead or try to fix what we’re sure is their problem. We also need to realize that, as much as we want to, it is not always our job to solve or fix our children’s problems. Sometimes we just need to listen and be there. One of my goals has always been that our home would be their-my children’s-haven, the safe place they could always come back to, no matter what happened in their day. I’ve tried to help my kids know that I may not always agree with their decisions, but we are still their safe place where they can talk and ask questions. Our kids should feel that. They should feel like they can come to us and they are going to be heard, and we are not going to jump to conclusions and try to fix everything.

Another part of this is helping our children understand that not only do we hear them, but God hears them. The Bible says in Psalm 116, “I love the Lord because he hears my voice and my prayer for mercy. Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath!” and in Lamentations 3:56, You heard me when I cried, “Listen to my pleading! Hear my cry for help!”

Max Lucado has a cute book in the Hermie & Friends series called God Listens When I Pray. In the story, (he’s a caterpillar) Hermie’s ant friend has his foot stuck under a rock. Hermie tries to help him, but he can’t move the rock. He runs everywhere trying to find help, but everyone is too busy to listen. Then, God talks to Hermie, and Hermie prays asking for God’s help. He helps, and Hermie’s friend gets unstuck.

The story is really cute and shows how listening is important, but the main point is that God always listens, and God answers prayer. In the end all his friends apologize for not listening. I like that they apologize. I like that Hermie does what he can. Even though he can’t move the rock, he leads his friend to pray as well, and he gives his friend water to drink. It shows that he does what he can do to help. At the end, he gives glory to God, and everyone celebrates God. So, I love that too. But the main point is driven home that God always hears our prayers. Our kids really need to know that above all things that God hears their prayers and answers prayer.

One last book that is hard to find, but I like it because it lets children know they can ask God anything is called God, Can You Hear Me? by Justine Simmons and illustrated by Robert Papp. The only thing missing is the answer to the question. Throughout the book children pray and ask God questions on the left page, and on the right page, an answer is given to explain some things, but I wanted a last page that said, “No matter what you pray, God always hears your prayer.” It’s still a great book, and it does start out with saying that you can ask God anything. Some of the situations in the book deal with single parent families, stepfamilies, disabilities, loss, and feeling different from one’s friends. It’s a nice book that would be wonderful for opening up all kinds of conversations with children. It deals with some really difficult subjects. The illustrations are quite beautiful.

Several places in scripture God affirms that He hears us. I find that tremendously comforting. We need to definitely let our kids know that God hears them. I love what the writer David Augsburger said, “Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person, they are almost indistinguishable.” Isn’t that good? Being heard is like being loved. I’ve seen it driven home so many times in our ministry and over the years as we have worked with people. They don’t even have to see a change or someone do something. Just knowing that someone has heard them is so powerful. In our world today, it’s like we’ve lost this. It’s such a gift to someone, and we’re withholding that gift so many times because of political differences or religious differences. We don’t want to hear what someone else has to say. We want everyone to either agree with us or be quiet. I think if we can reason together and listen and be heard that it mends fences, it mends relationships and builds stronger relationships and is a powerful skill if we can teach our kids to do this. And especially when we are dealing with children dealing with ADHD or Autism, they have a hard time with listening and focusing on other people. They have a hard time even listening when they told us something and we’re responding back to what they’ve said, they don’t even always listen to that. But if we can teach them the skill to really hear people and to really care enough to listen, it’s a tremendously powerful thing. And I’ve seen it happen. So, I want to encourage you today to really focus on how you can help your children learn this essential and amazing skill.     

Thank you for joining us today for Books that Spark. I hope this discussion will spark meaningful conversations with the children in your life. Remember our drawing at the end of July. Enter before July 31st by downloading the 12 lessons and commenting on the first episode either here or on my blog. You can sign up for my mailing list to get weekly reminders of the podcast and my blog. My website is terriehellardbrown.com

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Terrie Hellard-Brown writes and speaks to help children and adults find God’s purpose and plan for their lives. She teaches workshops and writes devotional books, children’s stories, and Christian education materials. Her podcast, Books that Spark, reviews children’s books that spark imagination, emotion, and discussion. For more information, visit her website at terriehellardbrown.com

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