While most of us admit that listening to our kids is important, we fall short when the rubber meets the road and instead assume that our kids should be listening to US.
But if we want our kids to listen to us, then we must begin by listening to them. When children feel listened to or understood, they are more likely to listen and try to understand what you are saying.
If you struggle to be a good listener and find yourself wanting to interrupt, give your opinions, or correct your child when they are talking, work on these listening skills:
Learn to Wait.
Let your child finish speaking. Don’t interrupt them and don’t jump to conclusions. Allow them to fully explain. Get all the facts before drawing conclusions. Learning to wait also means that you have the ability to allow silence in the conversation. Silence allows time to process and think about each other’s words. Silence should not be scary.
Learn to be Attentive.
You may inwardly be moving way ahead of what your child is saying, already making plans or forming a response, but try being fully focused on what they are saying. How often do you catch yourself figuring out your reply before your child is done speaking? The human mind can think 4 times faster than a person can talk. It is very easy for your mind to wander as you listen to your child. This is not be attentive.
Pay attention to their words, body language, and tone of voice. And then give your feedback–through your body language and through your words. It can be as simple as an “uh huh” or “I understand” or “I hear you.”
Attentive feedback is a key ingredient of good listening. If you do not give it, your child may wonder if you are really listening.
Learn to Clarify.
It’s always good to clarify what you think you heard, especially if you think you heard something that you didn’t like. Clarification is for your benefit as a parent, making sure you understand what your child said.
Clarifying statements may sound like:
I think I hear you say…
If I’m hearing correctly, you are saying…
A good listener not only hears the words, but understands the intent behind those words.
Learn to Reflect.
Reflecting is similar to clarifying, but is for the child talking, whereas clarifying is for the parent who’s listening. Reflecting is the ability to paraphrase what you believe your child is saying. Your goal is to put what you heard into your own words and communicate back those same thoughts. This assures your child that you are really listening and understanding what they are saying.
Learn to Agree.
Agreeing is not giving in, but finding common ground. It’s important to agree with your child on the things that you can about a situation before attempting to solve the areas of disagreement.
Learning to listen to your child fully helps you to connect with your child, helps them develop their communication skills, and builds their self-esteem. Listening is an important piece of promoting healthy growth and development in your child, which helps them achieve success in academics, school, and extra-curricular activities.
My challenge to you is this: Practice each of these skills this week as you listen to your child. If you are already doing them, then it will be an easy assignment for you, but if not, you will gradually connect more deeply and consistently with your child than you had before.
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