The Art of Actively Listening

30
Aug
2012


Communicating with our 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 – it is a crazy cycle.

Good listening and communications 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.

I shared a bit about the importance of open communication and finding the times during our busy days to connect with our kids in my Back 2 School Survival Guide.  We often miss opportunities which are right in front of our eyes just because we think we don’t have the time to stop or that it doesn’t matter.  Be intentional when it comes to grabbing those moments when your child wants to share with you.  This is even more critical as your children enter the tween/teen years!

You can learn a lot about our kids when we take the time to just ‘be’ with them and truly hear them, we just need to keep a few things in mind.

Respond – Not React

It seems to be a natural tendency to react rather than to respond.  This seems to be automatically how we are wired – especially for those of us who struggle with being inpatient and with the inability to pause in the midst of conflict. We pass judgment based on our own feelings and experiences.  However, responding means being receptive to our child’s feelings and emotions and allowing them to express themselves openly and honestly without fear of repercussion from us. 

By reacting, we send our 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.

Attention

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 afterwards engage with your child to problem solve if that is appropriate.

Allow Feelings

Don’t discourage your child from feeling upset, angry, or frustrated.  Our initial instinct may be to say or do something to steer our child away from it, 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 or encourage them to remedy the situation.   By allowing them to come up with a solution rather than you just doing it for them teaches them how to navigate the tough situations they will find themselves in as they grow older.

Just as we do, our 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.

Learning to respond instead of reacting is tough!  This is one of the primary principles we cover in my Becoming a Calm, Cool and Confident Mom online coaching program.  If you find yourself struggling with remaining calm, yelling more than you would like and feeling guilty every night when you go to bed, why not go back to school yourself this fall and learn new patterns of behavior to make your family life better?  If you join us before August 31st, you will get access to the program until December 31, 2012 – which is an additional month longer of support!

How are your active listening skills?

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