Heather here from FamilyVolley.com, and in this weeks parenting segment we are talking about our ears. Yes, our ears and the need to use them a lot more when it comes to parenting. Being a good listener is arguably one of the most powerful ways to keep a strong relationship with our children. Notice we didn’t say talking?
There is a reason that we have two ears and one mouth, we should be listening twice as much as we talk.
Here are 5 tips to being a good listen for our children. When applied you will noticed a marked difference in your communication and in your relationship.
1. Be ALL in!
When listening to our children, we have to be there 100%, no distractions. No checking emails, responding to text message, or tending to other things. All in. If we can’t be all in because the baby is crying or we have to take a sibling to soccer practice. That’s okay, and real life. Explain to your child that you want to give them all your attention and can’t because of what is going on. Then set up a time when you can give them all of you, and be sure you show up. This could be in five minutes when the baby is fed, or later that evening after you pick kids up from practice. It builds trust when you keep the commitments you make to listen.
Suspending is all over in communication theory. It means to delay and put on hold. When we listen to our children is it important to suspend. Delay responding, delay reacting, delay solving, delay reprimanding. Delay it all. Put our words on hold and just listen more. If we can do that we will see that our children will be more open to talk, tell us more of the details, and when the time comes, be much more open to our advice. We can’t be so quick to talk or prove points or teach. Instead, pause and hold.
3. Mirror and Reflect.
Want your child to talk, start by inviting the facts of the situation. We do this by acknowledging feelings. “You seem frustrated, what’s up” “You seem so happy, what’s going on.” Then, when they talk, don’t judge, remember it is all about gaining information. All we need to do is mirror what they have said and they will keep telling us the story.
“You seem frustrated, what’s up”
“My friend is stupid, I can’t stand her.”
“So, you can’t stand your friend and she is stupid, tell me more.”
You see how no judgement is placed, no solving or teaching. Just inviting more info so you can get to the bottom of what is being felt.
4. Don’t force them to talk.
As parents, when we see our children are troubled, but don’t want to tell us what is going on, we try to “tell them” what has happened. This never benefits our relationship. Does this sound familiar? “Did you have a bad day at school?” “Did someone make fun of you at recess?” “Did you fail your math test?”
Instead of encouraging our children to open up, this actually just shows them all the areas that we feel they are deficit in. All the places where we feel they struggle and fall short.
Instead, if you child doesn’t want to talk, simply state that “it doesn’t sound like you feel like talking, I will be in the kitchen.” Don’t say when you are ready”, just let them know that you aren’t going far.
20 minutes later, come back to them, state what you see…” you look less frustrated, what’s up.” And invite again. If they still don’t want to talk, it’s okay to walk away. When they are ready, they will talk. Give them space and time.
5. Don’t offer advice until they ask. And they will.
Instead of trying to solve the problem, or teach through it right at the beginning, we need to suspend, and then mirror. As we continue to mirror what they say, they will actually spell out the whole situation for us. And eventually say “so what should I do?” When they invite, then it is time to lovingly offer your advice and suggestions.
This week as you are communicating with your children, regardless of age, work to listen more than you talk and suspend more than you defend. You will see such positive changes in your relationships and communication.
Is it hard for you to listen to your children?
See more Parenting Tips in our Parenting Tips Series by clicking on the image below:
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