The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them. – Ralph G. Nichols
Parenting is a challenging but rewarding job. As a parent, it’s important to understand the power of communication and the importance of active listening for parents. Building strong relationships with our children starts with effective listening. Listening to your children is an art form as well as an important skill, and yet many parents find themselves in a “one-way conversation” where they’re doing all the talking. The key to being an effective listener is to really focus, paying attention to the conversation and using active listening techniques.
I learned about the art of listening from my children and through my 22 years of service in public schools as both a teacher and administrator. Every thing I learned was in part because of what what I wasn’t doing. Don’t get me wrong, no one actually said, “you’re not listening to me.” Instead, I would only hear bits and pieces of the bigger story. I’d struggle to connect because I wasn’t fully engaged in the conversation.
I did learn a few things, and I want you to have these tools, too. Here are some tips for listening to your child:
• Make eye contact: Show your child that you’re paying attention by making eye contact when they are talking.
• Stay focused: It’s easy to become distracted by other things, like the TV or your phone, but it’s important to remain focused on what your child is saying.
• Listen without judgment: It’s important to avoid passing judgment when your child is talking. Even if you don’t agree with what they’re saying, try to resist the temptation to criticize or lecture.
• Ask questions: Show your child that you’re interested in their story and thoughts by asking questions. This will also help you understand the situation better.
• Repeat back what you heard: Once your child is finished talking, repeat back what you heard in your own words to make sure you understand the conversation.
So how do you know that your child is feeling heard in your family? Here are some of the behavior that your child may exhibit when they are feeling unheard. These behaviors are not alone mutually exclusive to effective listening. There are, of course, other contributing factors that can be looked at.
1. Withdrawing from family activities or becoming isolated
2. Appearing uninterested in conversations or activities
3. Frustration or outbursts of anger
4. Refusing to communicate or answer questions
5. Lack of confidence or low self-esteem
6. Incessant talking, inappropriate comments, or tantrums
7. Increased substance abuse or self-harming behaviors
Being an effective listener is a challenge, and it takes practice, but it’s essential if you want to foster an open and trusting relationship with your child. With mindful listening and an open heart, you can create meaningful conversations and build a strong bond with your children. As said by Karl A Menninger, “Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. The friends that really listen to us are the ones we move toward. When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand. ”
As parents, we must strive to be those friends that our children want to come to and open up to. We can show our children that we care and understand them by listening without judgment and being fully present in our conversations with them. This will make them feel heard, understood and appreciated, creating a closer bond between parent and child.
More About Amanda Irtz
Amanda Irtz is a leading parenting coach and expert who deeply believes in empowering parents with holistic methods and inner confidence so they thrive. Amanda creates parenting workshops, provides 1:1 coaching, and crafts simple parenting tools.