Why should we listen to our kids?
All kids want is their parents’ full attention. When they experience mum and dad really listening it makes them feel important and loved. It’s a huge self-esteem boost for a child to feel that their opinions matter to a grown up, and when adults set aside their precious time to listen to them. And when we listen to our children it helps them become a better communicator and to express their feelings more clearly. Furthermore, we are our kids biggest role model and when we ‘show’ them how to listen they are more likely to listen to us (and others) and expected to.
Why is it sometimes hard to listen?
Being brutally honest sometimes we might feel that what they have to say is boring or wasting our time. But remember, there will often be occasions when we want your kids to listen to us and they will undoubtedly feel that what we are saying is boring, silly or not important. And yet we still expect THEM to listen! So let’s be great role models here and demonstrate this mutual respect in communication. When life gets busy and we are running at 100mph reminding ourselves to STOP and listen can be hard and will probably take some practice. Especially in those moments when we are rushing to get out the door, or get things done, as is so often the case. But actually when we take the time in the moment to listen to our kids we are more likely to get things done quicker and without battles, stress and disconnection in the long run.
How to listen actively and effectively:
- It takes patience and practice
- Listen to EVERYTHING if you don’t like what you hear, agree with it or find it silly or boring!
- Listening is NOT the same as agreeing!
When your child comes to you with something they want to tell you, i.e. friendship issues, something they don’t want to do (i.e. chores or homework), want to explain why they don’t want to come off their screens or want to ask for something – follow the below steps:
- STOP what you are doing
- STOP what you are about to say / want to say
- PAUSE and BREATHE
- Remain silent. And this is VERY hard to do at times! But resist the urge to immediately reply and/or offer advice or solutions – just listen. We can still show we care and are being attentive when we are silent. Remember, listening is not the same as agreeing!!
- The PAUSE gives you time to think, check in with yourself and remind yourself of why and how to listen. Get physical (this doesn’t always mean direct touch)
- get closer to your child when he speaks
- look at your child so he knows he is being heard and understood (don’t get distracted )
- light appropriate touch
- eye contact if your kids are ok with that
- Be mindfully there:
- Give your child your full attention: be present and Zone-Out of everything else (chores, worries etc. and turn off the phone or TV if need be) and Zone-In to your child and what he is saying.
- Allow your child to talk without interrupting – bite your tongue (remember you don’t like to be interrupted either)
- Avoid asking too many questions that break your child’s train of thoughts. Ask curious questions rather than interrogating.
- Focus on what your child is saying, rather than thinking about what you’ll say next.
- Show your child that you are interested by nodding or saying “hmm”, or “I see”, and maybe repeat back what he/she has just said.
- Come from a place of understanding: “I understand that you are angry / sad / frustrated…” etc.
Remember that listening, accepting, and showing empathy and understanding is NOT the same as agreeing. You don’t have to agree – you can still understand and respect your child’s point of view without agreeing with it.
Sometimes all it takes is just being heard.
Good luck from Mette Theilmann