A few days ago I read this (I can’t remember where!) “We were given two ears but only one mouth, because listening is twice as hard and important as talking”. Well, it’s true! And then I thought about children and kids have lot to say… a lot! Sometimes adults don’t think that children have anything important to say or that they can’t learn from children. So often times they do all the talking, they lecture, preach or, worst of all, ignore them!
Listening to your children will help them grow up to be adults with increased self-esteem because you will make them feel like what they have to say is important. However, children are not always sure how to communicate their feelings, so they might be saying or acting out completely different from how they actually feel. Active listening can help you, help them figure it out. So here are some tips to REALLY listen to your child when they have something important (or not) to say:
1. Stop what you are doing– Don’t be distracted doing something else.
2. Look at your child-Sit at his/her level.
3. Pay attention to your child’s nonverbal language-Does the child look happy, sad, afraid?
4. Be silent. It might be hard, but it is important that they have time to express themselves. It will also give you time to understand the situation before reacting.
5. Use simple acknowledgement responses that show you are listening- For example, “I see”. “Oh”. “Uh-Huh”. Hmmm.”
6. Use door-openers; phrases that encourage further talking- “Tell me more”, “Go on”, “How do you feel about that?”, “I know what you mean”, “Then what?”
7. Listen for and name the feelings you think you hear from what your child is telling you-“That made you pretty mad, didn’t it?”, “You seem really happy about that!”
8. Use problem-solving phrases when needed- “What do you wish you could do?”, “What do you want to happen?”, “What do you think will happen if you do that?”
9. Don’t feel that you must advise or help your child come up with a solution all the time- The value of listening is in the listening itself.
10. Let them know you are available.
11. Don’t try to deny, discount, or distract the child from the feelings they are expressing.
Listening helps parents and children avoid the power struggle cycle. Instead of arguing, listen. Show your understanding while maintaining your position. Listening builds stronger relationships, shows respect and helps the child explore his/her own feelings and thoughts on a deeper level. It builds their sense of empathy.
Are you ready to listen to your child?