Auto-listening is poor modeling. Our daughters don’t always listen to us, of course, and sometimes that’s because developmentally, they want to shut us out to build their own identity. You can’t do much about their developmental needs, but when you make a real effort to listen to your kids (with eye contact, 100% of your attention, and an open heart and mind), you’re setting the stage for them to listen more attentively to you and to others who will someday be at the center of their emotional lives.
If your daughter is troubled enough to come to you, this is when you need to be a great parent. If you’re truly involved in something that can’t be interrupted, even for 5 minutes, then at least stop momentarily, make eye contact, and say, “Sweetheart, I really want to hear this, and you deserve one hundred percent of my attention, but I can’t give you that right now. Can this wait until 8 o’clock?” (You can’t use this excuse very often—otherwise she’s going to think, “You never have time for me.”
When 8 o’clock arrives, don’t forget your promise. And don’t make her have to initiate the conversation again. Now it’s up to you to be the leader, go knock on her door, and ask, “Want to talk now?” The intensity of the emotion that initially brought your daughter to you initially may have passed, and you may have missed an opportunity to help. But by coming around as you said you would, you’re showing your daughter that you really do care. And chances are, she’ll give you other opportunities to focus on her.
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