If you are a good listener, chances are your child will feel cared about and self-confident. That’s because listening shows your child you value what he thinks and feels. But beyond this, it will also help him become an expert at solving problems in his own life. Good listeners help you figure out what you can do about your problem without lectures or unwanted advice. They do this by making it safe to be open about problems and explore different solutions. All of this will help you enjoy a closer relationship with your child that will see you through even the roughest patches. There aren’t many other tools in our parenting tool-box that can boast such powerful results. Here are a few simple basics to get the communication flowing.
Mirror their feelings
When your child talks to you, try to figure out what they are feeling and paraphrase it in your own words, reflecting it back. There are so many different possible feelings a child can have, and when you label them, it’s like hitting the nail square on the head. It makes them feel that you really understand them. A good way to do this is to say something like: “It sounds like you feel ...”
“It sounds like you were really embarrassed when your teacher yelled at you in front of the whole class.”
“Yeah, everyone was looking at me and I could feel my face turning red.”
Don’t Give Advice
This is a tough one for parents, but when you are listening, it’s best to not tell your child what to do, even if you think you have the perfect solution. Usually, when we try to tell them what to do, they reply with an “Oh that won’t work.” Or a “You just don’t understand.” Rarely do they say, “Gee, thanks for solving this for me because I would never have been able to figure it out myself.” Actually, no one likes to be told what to do. The unspoken message you send is that you lack confidence in their ability to figure things out. It will be more effective and encouraging to ask good open-ended questions instead. “Hmmm, it sounds like you have a huge amount of homework and you’re feeling overwhelmed, how are you going to figure out what needs to be done first?”
- Listening takes time. Put down your newspaper and give your child your full attention.
- It’s O.K. to not talk at all. Nod your head, say things like “uh- huh”, have good eye contact and keep your body language relaxed and open.
- Use door openers like “If you feel like talking about it later, you know where to find me.”
- Be encouraging. “I’m really glad you told me about this.”