Actively Listening to Your Child

Communicating with children can be a difficult task at times. We feel like they’re not listening to us; they feel like we’re not listening to them. Good listening and communication skills are essential to successful parenting.

Your child’s feelings, views, and opinions have worth, and you should make sure you take the time to sit down and listen openly and discuss them honestly.

It seems to be a natural tendency to react rather than to respond. We pass judgment based on our own feelings and experiences. However, responding means being receptive to your child’s feelings and emotions and allowing them to express themselves openly and honestly without fear of repercussion from you.

By reacting, you can send to your child the message that their feelings and opinions are invalid. But by responding and asking questions about why the child feels that way, it opens a dialog that allows them to discuss their feelings further and allows you a better understanding of where they’re coming from.

Responding also gives you an opportunity to work out a solution or a plan of action with your child that perhaps they would not have come up with on their own. Your child will also appreciate the fact that maybe you do indeed understand how they feel.

It’s crucial in these situations to give your child your full and undivided attention. Put down your newspaper, stop doing dishes, or turn off the television so you can hear the full situation and make eye contact with your child. Keep calm, be inquisitive, and afterward offer potential solutions to the problem.

Don’t discourage your child from feeling upset, angry, or frustrated, but also don’t let your self be consumed by their feeling. Stand with them with a posture that you are there to help them but not to be controlled and get sucked in by their feelings.

Our initial instinct may be to say or do something to steer our child away from it, (example: offer snacks, toys, TV time, or change our initial decision about “not going to a playground now”), but this can be a detrimental tactic.

Again, listen to your child, ask questions to find out why they are feeling that way, and then offer potential solutions to alleviate the bad feeling. Sometimes all they need is to cuddle with you until they can calm themselves down. It is okay to be upset and cry. Be there for them.

Just as you do, your children have feelings and experience difficult situations. By actively listening and participating with our child as they talk about it, it demonstrates to them that we do care, we want to help, and we have similar experiences of our own that they can draw from.

Remember, respond - don’t react.

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