Don’t just ‘hear them out,’ actively LISTEN to your children

Children go through a lot throughout their day. They encounter new experiences, emotions and expressions all of which they may or may not be able to control. Imagine being given a new gadget that you’ve never been seen before. Does it send an email? Yes. Does it allow you to pick up calls? Yes. Do you know how to use it? NO, even though all the tools are there, you still need to understand the know-how of operating it. The same concept applies to kids; they need to be guided to use their own tools to regulate their emotions, thoughts and feelings. Active listening is a crucial skill that all parents can use to empower their children as well as create a caring relationship.

‘Active listening builds a ‘safe place’ for children to be able to go back to during times of heightened emotions.’

What is active listening?

Listening can take shape in the form of ‘hearing’ words and sounds and trying to make sense of it, or ‘actively’ engaging in the content allowing the child to feel you are with them in ‘their corner’ rather than just hearing them. Active listening allows parents to succeed in creating two KEY qualities in their parent-child relationship:

  • Develop good patterns of communication

This allows the child to feel valued, understood and fulfills their inner goal of feeling significant. Children that are accustomed to ‘active listening’ grow to be much more open as teens and adults when it comes to understand and communicating their wants, feelings and needs.

  • Builds emotional security

Active listening builds a ‘safe place’ for children to be able to go back to during times of heightened emotions or thoughts. Having this secure relationship is key to guiding your child to become confident, resilient and caring being.

Conversation 1

06-52-of-the-worst-parenting-tips-parents-get_strict-rules_528291794_ridofranzSon: I don’t want to go to football practice today.

Mom: Why! You love football, its your favorite time of the day.

Son:  No, nobody likes it.  The coach asks us to run most of the time.

Mom: Well football is mostly about running; you have to suck it up.

Son: He keeps telling us to run laps when the best part about football is to kick the ball and shoot at the goal.

Mom: Well you better learn to like running or else you will never get to the kicking part

Son: I still don’t want to go to football!

Conversation 2

Son: I don’t want to go to football practice today.

Mom: You’re not happy at football practice. Is it because it’s boring or challenging for you?

Son:  Nobody likes it.  The coach asks us to run most of the time.

Mom: It bothers you that the coach asks a lot from you?

Son: He keeps telling us to run laps when the best part about football is to kick the ball and shoot at the goal.

Mom: You’re really angry that your coach isn’t letting you do enough of your favorite part of football; kicking and shooting.  You would expect the coach to know that you feel that.

Son: I want to let him know I enjoy kicking and shooting so we can do it more..

Notice how conversation 1 ended the same way it began- no progression in child’s thoughts, feelings or emotions. On the other hand, mom in conversation 2 was able to empower her son to make his own decision, understand his feelings and take initiative towards his needs, all through the guidance of active listening.

‘Ok so how can I , ‘actively listen’ to my child?’

Here’s 3 steps you can implement straight away:

  1. Keep your feelings separate: its not you, its about your childmom-at-childs-eye-level

Children’s emotions are easily heightened and more often that not, they find it hard to understand what it is they are feeling and can’t seem to relate that feeling to the rooting cause. By labeling the feelings they might be experiencing, parents allows for clarification of the child’s needs, values and expectations.

  1. Reflect back

The main purpose behind reflection it so confirm that we understand what our child wants to express. Key phrases like the following help to achieve this:

  • ‘What I am hearing you say is…’
  • ‘It sounds like you are saying..’
  • ‘So from what your saying you feel ___ is that right?’
  1. Non-verbal cues

maxresdefaultToo often we forget that communication is not only through words but also through non-verbal cues as body language and posture. Here are a few points to consider during your next conversation to demonstrate attentiveness in what they are saying:

  • Maintain eye-level with your child
  • Allow them to finish their sentence; listen all the way through
  • Express compassion by leaning forward to your child, put a hand on their shoulder or hug.

So don’t just ‘hear them out’ ACTIVELY listen to your children.

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