Listen Up: 6 Essential Steps to Really Listening to Your Child
Everybody loves to be listened to. Children feel a greater sense of attachment, trust and security when their parents listen to them. In fact, your child will listen to you often if she has the assurance that you will give her your ear when she has something to say. Caring and loving parents can make deliberate effort to really listen to what the little people in their lives are saying. In listening, you build a relationship that can withstand the challenges of raising children. Here are some tips on how you can start to really listen to your child:
1. Decide to Make Time
In a busy world, it is easy to dismiss your child when she wants to talk. But constantly discounting your child can have a negative impact on your relationship and on herself esteem. No matter how busy you are, decide that you will make time to listen. If your child seems desperate to talk, stop what you are doing and just listen. If you really have to postpone it, look your child in the eye and politely explain that, you cannot listen carefully at that moment. Make a date to talk and listen to her when you are less busy. It is important that you follow up with this date so you can listen to what your child wanted to talk about earlier.
2. Understand How Children Talk
Infants want you to listen to them too. They communicate through crying, cooing and bubbling. Show your baby that you are listening to him by attending to his needs, for example by lifting him up when he cries or cooing back when he coos.
Toddlers do not have sufficient vocabulary and grammar to express themselves. Do not be impatient with them. Instead, patiently listen to what they are saying without correcting their vocabulary and grammar mistakes.
School goers and preteens will often communicate vaguely by whining and grunting and will expect you to understand what they are saying. It is a good idea to ask them questions to clarify what they are saying and to show them that you are indeed listening.
Teenagers may use words that may sound inappropriate or slang words that may not make much sense to you. It is easy to tune out and fail to listen to your teenager. Nevertheless, listen actively by asking questions and asking them to clarify what they mean.
3. Just Shut Up
Active listening is about allowing your child to finish talking without interrupting him. Just allow your child to talk even when you do not agree with what he is saying. When he has finished talking, then you can talk. He will surely listen to you. Be sure to show interest when your child is talking to you. Avoid impatient cues such as tapping your feet or looking at your watch. You could affirm that you are listening by saying, “Aaah”, “I see…” “Wow!” “Really?”
4. Watch For Body Cues
Your child may not have the right words to express herself. However, her body language can help you determine what she might be feeling and what she might be trying to communicate to you. Instead of using body language to make assumptions, confirm with your child that this is what she is feeling or wanting to communicate. For example, his friends bully 4-year-old Toby at school playground. When he arrives home, he starts to tell you how he did not have a good day at school. He might be touching his head or fidgeting with his legs in an expression of pain. He may not have adequate words to say that he was bullied but his bodily expression of pain can give you a hint that someone might have hit him at school. As such, you might start to question him for more information and listening carefully to his account of things.
5. Repeat It
A great technique of listening and connecting with what your child is saying is repeating it. Wait for your child to finish talking and then in your own words, communicate back to him what you have heard and understood. For example, “You are saying that you do not want to go to school because the other boys pushed you around at the playground. Is that correct?” Allow your child to respond; he may agree with your statement or he may say, “No. I am saying that I want you to come to school with me and tell the teacher to tell the other boys to stop pushing me around at the playground.” Listening means seeking to be on the same page with your child.
6. Leave Your Stereotypes At The Door
You will not always hear what you want to hear from your children. Parents have their own expectations, beliefs and stereotypes, which can keep them from actively listening to their children, especially the older children. But do not let your stereotypes blind you from what your child is really saying. Seek to understand before judging. When you understand your child’s perspective, you will have a better response in case they need your help in solving something.