You’re Not Listening (part 1)

[Image Description: An image of grey flowers and plants in the background, with black text over the top which reads: “ ‘My child never listens!’ When we teach children that the meaning of the word ‘listen’ is actually ‘obey’ they never learn the true meaning of the word. The act of ‘listening’ to someone else instantly evokes feelings of giving up one’s power.” The quote is by J. Milburn. End description.]

Once you start paying attention to how often adults say “listen” to euphemistically mean “obey”, it’s hard to get it out of your head.

I think many of the adults I know are trying very hard to be gentle and respectful with kids, and they would feel wildly uncomfortable saying the exact same sentences if they actually were saying, “You need to obey,” “You’re not obeying me right now,” “I need you to stop what you’re doing and obey” 500x a day. But semantically, it’s exactly the same concept that they’re expressing, just with a word that *sounds* softer. (At least right now it does. Kids who grow up hearing it like this may end up feeling the same feeling that I feel when I read all those sentences about obedience.)

The thing is, swapping it out with some other word also doesn’t solve this. It just replaces it with a new euphemism.

Sometimes you need to check in with a kid that they actually, physically heard you.
Sometimes you’re just hoping for a kid to do what you said.

These are two different things, and they require addressing in different ways, depending on different contexts.