Focus on the Family by Jim Daly

Being a Good Listener is Crucial to Parenting

Q: Looking back on my own teen years, I had a pretty rough time emotionally. Now my daughter is 12 years old. As her mom, what can I do to help her through what I expect to be a challenging season in her life?

Jim: Of course I'm a dad who raised two boys, but I understand -- so I asked our staff counselors for input on this question. They emphasized that a mother's importance to a teenage daughter can't be overstated. Mom is a role model, and usually the parent a teen girl will feel most comfortable going to for advice. But probably the most important thing you can do for your daughter is to be a good listener.

One of the first steps is to be available to her as much as possible. We all know that a teenager's emotions can be unpredictable. Your daughter may not always want to talk when it's most convenient for you. She may open up in the morning or maybe later at night. It's best to take advantage of her willingness to talk while she's in the mood. Most of the time, moms can take a few minutes from whatever they're doing, make eye contact and listen to their daughter.

Equally as important is letting her say what's on her mind without interruption. She may want to talk about a bad day at school or trouble with friends. Whatever it is, don't finish her sentences or try to talk her out of what she's feeling, even if it doesn't make sense to you. That'll make her shut down emotionally, and she might not be so quick to open up the next time she needs to talk.

Naturally, you'll probably want to offer your daughter some advice at times. That's good. But be sure to listen to her first. In most cases, even more than advice, she needs to be heard.

Q: My spouse and I have a fair amount of debt. We both know we need to work out a budget and pay off what we owe. But let's just say that we aren't on the same page about the urgency and benefit of becoming debt-free. What can we do?

Greg Smalley, Vice President, Family Ministries: Money is generally one of the biggest stressors in marriage. So financial expert Dave Ramsey emphasizes it's crucial that couples work together on their finances.

You'll be much more likely to stick with your budget if you both have the same goals in mind. If your spouse isn't there yet, Ramsey suggests that honest communication is essential. Let your spouse know that you're excited about getting out of debt. Ask your spouse to read one or two short articles on the benefits of living on a budget. If they're still not on board after that, Dave recommends that you write down some of the points that concern you, and why. Sharing your thoughts and feelings on paper can be an effective way of getting your spouse's attention.

Often, women are the ones who are eager to get out of debt, while their husbands drag their feet. If you're in this situation, Dave Ramsey has one hard-and-fast rule: Don't nag. It rarely works, and it could end up driving a deeper wedge between you and your spouse. Husbands, if your wife has resorted to nagging, please step up before it's too late. Getting out of debt and living on a budget is in both of your best interests, and you need to do your part to make it happen.

Like most things in marriage, getting on sound financial footing is a team effort. For more information to help your relationship thrive, go to

Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at or at


(This feature may not by reproduced or distributed electronically, in print or otherwise without written permission of Focus on the Family.)

(EDITORS: For editorial questions, please contact Hollie Westring at