Saturday, July 16, 2011

How to listen to your child

When I was a little girl, I wanted nothing more than to have my mom listen, really listen to me. I had wished that she were more like my friends mom, who did that.

I was reminded of this this week as I sat and really listened to someone who is hurting deeply. As I sat and listened, I asked questions such as "tell me more and how does that make you feel, why do you supposed that happened." Her big wish now is that her own mom would just listen to her, hear what she is saying and then respond in a loving and appropriate manner.

I myself then realized that I wasn't even doing that with my own daughter and I thought, how easy is it as parents to not really listen to our own children, to just tell them to behave, tell them to be quiet or they need to do this or that or to talk above them? How easy do we act in dominance over them that we can't see the struggles that our children our facing?

Here is some research on the subject that I've discovered that I wanted to share;

10 Ways to Improve Communication Skills for Parents and Children

From birth, listening is the most used activity of daily living. Listening is a learned skill, and through focused and directed efforts, parents can teach their children and themselves better listening and speaking habits.

There are reasons why children ranging from toddlers to teens don't appear to listen to their parents. Specifically, they are:

- Many children have poor attention spans.
- They complain that parents talk over their heads.
- They say that parents don't understand children's thoughts, feelings and views.
- They regard their parents' communication as critical, judgmental and nagging.
- They associate their parents with constantly being told what to do.
- They believe parents harp on things they don't want to hear.
- They expect to be bored.
- They assume they know what their parents will say, so they don't bother to listen.

There are several things you can do to improve your children's listening habits and get them to listen to you. Here are 10 suggestions:

1. Start teaching listening skills early. It's never too late to start teaching these skills, since there's always room for improvement. But try to begin as early as possible. As children grow older, have "listening times" when you block out distractions. Bedtime and evening snack time in the kitchen are ideal chances for this. Reading is an excellent way to promote good listening, and while you read and talk to young children, prompt them to ask questions and comment on what you say.

2. Listen to your children in the way you like to be listened to. Be a good role model by hearing things in their words and making them feel important while they are talking to you. Since they sense when you're not listening, they're much more apt to listen to you when you listen to them.

3. Let your child complete what he is saying. "It's a waste of time to talk to my parents," a teenager pointed out. "They stop me while I'm speaking to say 'don't talk like that' or they break in and change the subject to something on their minds."

4. Set a good example by establishing eye contact with your child. Children feel you're not listening when you're glancing out the window or peering across the room. Eye contact is of value from the earliest age, so teach your children to give and receive it by meeting them at their own eye level when you are saying something to them and when they are speaking to you.

5. Watch your tone of voice and facial expression. Too often your voice and expression speak as loudly as your words, and if you are bored while your children are talking, they're likely to react the same way to you while you are speaking to them.

6. Teach your children to indicate by their actions that they are listening. Along with showing by your expression that you're paying attention to them, guide your children into showing by their expressions that they are listening to you. The child who looks up from a coloring book with a blank expression may very well hear what you're saying and still not be listening. Actually when people say, "If only you would listen," they really mean "If only you'd listen and show that you're listening."

7. Talk to your child about common interests. To facilitate communication, talk to your child about areas of common interest.

8. See things from your children's viewpoint. A teenager who lives in a world of his own and refuses to listen to his parents may state he started tuning them out when they never listened to his ideas or respected what he wanted to do.

9. Know when to talk and when not to talk. There are times to keep quiet, so develop a sensitivity to both. Wait until a teenager demonstrates a readiness to talk before you expect him to listen to your well-intentioned words. When a child comes home after a bad day in school, don't get on his back immediately with something you want him to hear.

10. Reward your children occasionally when they display good listening habits. If children show they are good listeners, they should have an occasional reward. Giving them positive, specific feedback, attention and praise are very effective. In this way, if their attention span is short or they're easily distracted they see that if they listen and follow through on what you say, there may be an external reward at the end. Pretty soon, there is also an internal reward, as they learn that listening to you helps them to accomplish their goals.


Olsen Huff Child Development Center
Dr. Adrian Sandler - Medical Director
Mission Children's Hospital, Asheville, NC

How to Listen to Your Child
From your Parenting of K-6 Children Guide
The most valuable gift you can give your child is to listen to the little and big things in his life. Begin early so that the lines of communication will be open during the teenage years.
Difficulty Level: Easy    Time Required: 15 Minutes

Here's How:
  1. Stop what you are doing.
  2. Look at your child.
  3. Pay attention to your child's nonverbal language. Does the child look happy, sad, afraid?
  4. Be silent.
  5. Use simple acknowledgement responses that show you are listening. "I see. Oh. Uh-Huh. Hmmm."
  6. Use door-openers, phrases that encourage further talking. "Tell me more. Go on. How do you feel about that? I know what you mean. Then what?"
  7. Listen for and name the feelings you think you hear from what your child is telling you. "That made you pretty mad, didn't it? You seem really happy about that!"

  1. Don't feel that you must advise or help your child come up with a solution all the time. The value of listening is in the listening itself.
  2. Listening helps parents and children avoid the power struggle cycle. Instead of arguing, listen. Show your understanding while maintaining your position.

And here is a great link that is full of information;

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