Like so many parents, I am constantly pulled in a million directions. If there’s not a dish to wash or a toy to repair, there’s a lawn to mow. If there’s not a load of laundry to fold or a meal to make, there’s a playroom to clean. And then there are the emails and phone calls for work or activities. And even when there is downtime, I might be wrapped up in an e-book, checking Twitter, or watching something on television.

And while all of that is happening, I’m interacting with my young children.

That’s why a sermon from our pastor a few weeks ago resonated with me. He told the story of a mother busily preparing dinner and doing one chore after another in the kitchen as her young daughter struggled to get her attention.

At one point the mother told the child, “Yes, I’m listening.”

The child replied, “I want you to listen with your eyes.”

Wow. That hit me like a ton of bricks.

I don’t know about you, but I feel like my eyes are constantly diverted during the day to the myriad of tasks I need to get done to help our household stay organized and running smoothly. In that process, I often fail to listen with my eyes to my children and my wife. That’s not fair to any of them.

Why is this so important? I think there are four main reasons.

1. They Deserve My Attention

My wife and children are important to me. They matter. By listening with my eyes, I prove that to them. Let’s face it, smartphones and tablets have caused us to divert our attention in so many ways and at some point, it begins to harm our interpersonal relationships. There is an easy way to correct a small part of that – look up from your phone or stop what you’re doing – to answer or listen to whoever is talking to you.

2. It Teaches Them to Do the Same

Our children reflect our behavior. Do we want them to learn at an early age that it’s okay to talk to someone without looking at them – at least for a few seconds? Of course not. If we show them that it’s ok to listen without our eyes, there is a greater likelihood that they will do the same in their lives.

3. We All Want to Empower Our Children

We want them to be confident and in touch with their innermost thoughts and feelings. When we give them our attention, it shows them that their concerns, stories, or anything on their minds are important and worthy of our time and attention.

4. Whatever We’re Doing, Unless It’s a Life-Threatening Job, Can Be Put On Hold

Sure, you want to get that last dish washed so you can relax. But what I’ve found is that with small children, the work is never done. It just continues because there’s always something that can be done. Turn off the switch every once in a while and just enjoy your children. They are young and the sun rises and sets on you. They trust you and want to share each and every joy and concern with you. Take the time to listen – with your ears and your eyes. You’ll be glad that you did.