After spending a fun, chaotic week in Wisconsin with our extended family of 16, I am reminded of the energy it takes to “listen” and how important it is for our kids. As parents we are so intentional about “doing it right” and stimulating our children with the right toys, books, activities, and classes that we sometimes forget the importance of listening.

Recently I heard a dad telling about his five year-old daughter who loves to play house. He was recruited to play “the dad”, as usual. As she was chatting away, he would occasionally contribute as the pretend dad but he was trying to read the newspaper at the same time. Apparently he wasn’t responding enough and she finally came over and put her hand right down the center of his paper, looked him in the eye and said, “Daddy, you’re not listening to me.” To which he responded, “Yes, I am.” “No”, she said. “You’re not listening with your face!”

Don’t we all want others to listen to us with their face? Babies yell out to us and aren’t satisfied, until they see our face. That’s when they light up with a smile. A three year old asks us a question and wants our full attention, for his follow-up!

Researchers looked at babies when they were five months old and again when they were 13 months. Babies whose parents paused and then repeated their child’s sounds, were found to be stronger in vocabulary, attention span and pretend play than those children whose parents didn’t pause (listen) and quickly responded.

Often when our kids’ vocabulary is just starting to explode between one and a half and two years of age, if we wait another second or two before giving them what they are gesturing for, or answering them, they will give us more sounds, words and language. I have had parents tell me that encouraging them to pause is one of the most valuable things I have taught them.