April 17, 2018

The Death of the Monologue

“Mom, you’re monologuing.”

Said in love, I hear variations of this comment from time to time from either of my teen daughters. “Monologuing” is their term for when a person rambles on with commentary far beyond the scope of an original question or statement. I think monologuing is a sort of “occupational hazard” for parents…but it’s something we should work to avoid.

But why? Most of the time when I jump onto the monologuing bandwagon, I’m not upset. In fact, my daughters and I are usually involved in a meaningful, positive discussion when it happens, and I’m merely trying to contribute useful insight based on having lived more of life than they. But, even though they know my ultimate good intentions, monologuing inevitably comes across as “lecturing.” And lecturing shifts the dynamic of a mutually engaging, two-way conversation into interrogation-mode, which unintentionally stifles the growth of real relationship.

My pastors recently preached through the Book of James and spent significant time during one sermon on James 1.19, which says, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger.” To emphasize the importance of the verse, the pastor preaching that week said, “We have two ears and only one mouth for a reason. It means we should listen twice as much as we speak!”

If we want to truly connect with our kids, we’ll seek the development of authentic relationship with them. In order for that to happen, they need to believe they are truly “heard.” And in order for them to be heard, we need to truly listen. We can only do that when our own mouths are shut.

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t impart lessons we’ve learned from our own life experiences and also share wisdom from Scripture; a responsible parent will, indeed, do both. But in order to discern the most important insights to share at any given time, we must first purpose to actively and fully listen.

I have to regularly remind myself of this; monologuing comes all too naturally, while consciously choosing selective input takes work. But it’s worth the effort. I want my kids to be secure in the fact that they can talk with me – really talk, as opposed to being interrogated. Monologuing might make me feel competent and important – and it’s a great dramatic tool in Shakespearean plays. But it damages my kids’ security and my relationships with them. So real life calls for the death of the monologue, to be replaced by real, authentic dialogue.

Photo Credit: Steve James

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