An important way for parents to establish trust with their children is to listen to them. Not just listen, but actively listen. This means paying attention to tone and body language, not just content. Active listening also means not judging what your child is saying, not interrupting your child, and not thinking about what you are going to say next. Most people are used to passively listening, meaning they just listen for content and not for understanding. Passive listening does not require any effort. However, actively listening to your child means being fully present with her and genuinely trying to understand what she is saying.
One of the most disheartening things for a child is not being heard by a parent. There are so many distractions today which prevent parents from fully listening to their children: busy lifestyles, phones, TVs, and other electronics. It is all too easy to talk with your child, while at the same time fiddling with your phone. It is important that parents turn off these distractions when listening to their children.
When you actively listen to your child, you send the message to her that what she is saying is important and valuable. Children need to feel this respect from parents. Also, by listening to your child, she will be more likely to listen to you. How can we expect our children to listen to us, if we are not truly listening to them? Active listening involves repeating back to your child what you think your child is feeling and saying.
Examples of active listening:
1.) If your child comes home from school crying saying that he performed badly on a test. You can repeat back what you think he is feeling. You can say, “It seems like you’re upset over this low mark on the test.”
2.) Your child tells you that she never wants to see her friend, Rita, ever again. You could say to your child “It sounds like you are very upset with Rita. She must have been very mean to you. Is this right?”
Caution: When we actively listen to a child, we are not trying to fix the child’s problems. We are enabling the child to help themselves and find their own solutions.
Tips for Active Listening:
1.) Look directly at your child and show interest in what she is saying.
2.) It is a good idea to set some listening time aside every day, just you and your child.
3.) Give 100% of your attention to your child. Stop what you are doing when listening to your child.
4.) Be fully present with your child and try not to think of anything but what your child is saying
5.) Do not interrupt your child. Let her finish what she is saying