5 Ways and Tips to Be a Better Listener to Your Children
Everyday life for a modern parent is busy, sometimes even chaotic, and often revolves around balancing family commitments and challenges at work. With so much going on, it’s easy to forget that you and your Children need to share some quality time together too — time when you can relax, chat about what’s happening in your lives and, most importantly, listen to each other.
Children tend to be consumed by in their own experiences, so teaching them to feel empathy with other people is an important life lesson. In fact, the Stamford American International School prides itself on imparting essential life skills and equipping young people with the faculties that help them become adaptive, thoughtful and principled young adults. Good communication, compassion and strong listening skills are key to every child’s development.
To successfully promote empathy in young people as they are developing their personality, it helps if you demonstrate that you really listen to them when they share something with you. Once they understand that what they say and how they say it is important to you, by following your responses, they will be more likely to pay attention to what other people say to them.
Developing your listening skills
To be a good listener as a parent, you must focus on what children are communicating. You need to pay attention to the message and review which bits of information are most important. As a parent, you can advise your child on the best ways to listen and how to pick out the highlights of a conversation. You can also ask relevant questions and demonstrate to your children that an active listener is one who looks the speaker in the eye. A simple, but effective, method is to make sure you turn off the television or remove any other distraction so it is clear that you, as the listener, are not preoccupied with anything else.
Here are five tips to help you be a better listener to your children:
1. Encourage your children to talk.
Encourage your children to talk. Some children need positive intervention, such as being asked a question, as an invitation to start talking. With children who are inclined to be shy, you may need to ask them several questions before they are willing to engage. Remember that they are much more likely to share their feelings and ideas if it is clear to them that these are important to you.
2. Show Your Attention and Interest
With this in mind, make sure you are interested and attentive. Maintain eye contact so your children know you are concentrating on what they are saying. Children can tell by the way you reply, or don’t reply, and by your body language, whether they have your attention and interest. Ignore the telephone and any other distractions and focus exclusively on what they are saying.
3. Be a Patient Listener
Be a patient listener, and remember that we think faster than we speak. Often, children will take longer than adults to find the right words. Always listen as though you have plenty of time and are not in a hurry to do something else, so your child feels they can say as much as they want to say.
4. Hear Your Kids Out and Respect Their Opinions
In the spirit of being patient, make sure you hear children out and don’t cut them off prematurely before they have said what they need to say. It is easy to jump to conclusions and form an opinion before your child has finished speaking. You might also reject their views if you haven’t given them time to finish. Realize that sometimes it may be challenging or difficult to listen respectfully without automatically correcting their misconceptions. However, you should aim to respect your child’s right to have and express their own opinions.
5. Observe The Verbal Cues
Watch as well as listen when your children are talking to you. Many children communicate nonverbally, so you should pay attention to their facial expressions, their tone of voice and their posture. Check whether you think their level of energy and behavior patterns are sending out signals that affect what they are telling you. Frequently you can tell more from the way a child says something than from what they say. In particular, if a child is upset and refuses to say why, make sure you find a quiet place to talk sometime later, perhaps when they have calmed down.
Listening properly to your children is key to effectively communicating with them. A parent without the ability to listen effectively may misunderstand their children and, as a result, communication may well break down. This can be very frustrating for both you and your child, so practice good listening skills as often as you can.