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.
Maybe you read this title and immediately cringed. Or perhaps this sent you into a dancing fit in the kitchen, baking a storm of cookies and cakes for whomever will eat them.
I used to be this person. There is nothing wrong with being here because co-parenting can feel like an endless
filled with hurt feelings
and misunderstood intentions
I get you because of my years of experience as a co-parent (8 and counting). What I have learned is that it is one of the most important relationships in my life. It is the one that requires an intense amount of work and nurture if you want anything good to come of it. I know … it sounds a bit like marriage.
Creating positive co-parenting partnerships can be challenging, but the rewards are worth the effort. When parents are able to work together and successfully raise their children it creates a stable foundation for the whole family. Plus, it helps the kids feel secure knowing that their parents are still connected. And it’s a win-win for the parents too – they can learn to communicate better and practice problem-solving together.
But co-parenting is more than just agreeing to take care of the kids together (but in separate homes). It means discussing important topics such as parenting styles, discipline, financial responsibility, and more. And it means staying connected so everyone is on the same page. So often, it’s about putting the children first and responding to their unique needs. Of course, many parents struggle with this because of the hurt left over from the marriage or partnership. This is normal because you are human – and you’re likely healing. During this time period, give yourself the grace to allow for an imperfect version of co-parenting. This may look like texting through a parenting app or meeting somewhere neutral for drop-offs. It may eventually move into texting from your phone and actually picking-up at the other parent’s home. Wherever you begin, know that co-parenting takes time and a lot of self-love.
Hot Tips for Healthy Co-Parenting
You may be looking for some of my top tips (and I have a few) for creating a healthy co-parenting partnership. Here you go:
1. Constantly work to improve the wellbeing of yourself and your child. When co-parents are able to set aside their differences and make their children the priority, it can lead to a healthier and more secure environment for the children.
2. Grow healthy communication skills. Working together to overcome obstacles can help to foster improved communication skills that can be beneficial to the parents in all areas of their lives.
3. Be solution-seekers. Co-parents can learn how to effectively solve conflicts together, benefiting both the couple and their children.
4. Nurture a positive home environment (at both homes). When co-parents are able to see the bigger picture and prioritize their children, it can lead to a more peaceful and positive home environment for the kids.
5. Build a strong support systems. Lean into your friends and family for support. Find groups of like-minded individuals that you find a spark of commonality with. This can lead to more stable long-term relationships and a healthier overall family dynamic for you (and ultimately your kids).
6. Remind each other (and yourself if your co-parent can’t hear you) that your decision should be grounded in what is best for your children. When you begin to remind yourself of this, begin your sentences with this in mind, then small shifts begin to occur in the co-parenting relationship.
The most important piece to remember is that all relationships require lots of positive attention and care. What you put into your co-parenting partnership is truly what you’ll get out of it. When you communicate with respect and grace, then you will also receive this (or a form of it). When you ignore the co-parent and make decisions in isolation, then you can likely expect the same in return.
For more holistic support in your co-parenting journey, please reach out to me. I’m here to support you in your journey – where ever you are and with all the feelings that come with it. If you find value in this article, please do all the things (like, share, comment).