Any parent can tell you that there are few things more frustrating than dealing with a child who doesn’t listen. There are thousands of web pages and hundreds of books all dedicated to giving parents tips and tricks on how to improve their child’s listening skills. It goes without saying that children should listen to their parents, especially when they’re being provided with sound advice and guidance for life. However, it’s just as frustrating for a child when their parents may not actively listen to what they have to say.
Oftentimes as parents, we want to communicate with our children in a way that shows authority and dictates to them how to behave. Children tend to go along with this programming, but there may come a time when they push back against it, especially if they feel unheard or unable to express their feelings with their parents. That’s why it’s important for parents to acknowledge the needs of their children by simply listening to them talk about what’s on their minds.
Sometimes you might be busy with work or household chores and become too distracted to listen. It’s easy to dismiss a child when we think that they’re about to ask another WH question or ask for their 3rd snack, but it’s beneficial for your child to know that you’re willing to stop what you’re doing if there was ever a desire to have a serious conversation at any point in the day.
Research has shown that listening to your child can have immense benefits on your relationship with your child and on their social development. Here are just a few of the other added benefits:
1) Showcasing listening skills with your child strengthens your bond and encourages open communication.
It’s important to keep in mind that children remember how we make them feel. Once your child realizes that you’re actively listening to them speak, they’ll be sure to remember that making it more likely that they come to you with a problem. They’ll know that you’re there to listen and help them process what they’re going through at the moment. This causes them to see you as a confidant and a trusted source of advice.
2) Having a parent with active listening skills helps build a sense of self-esteem in children.
When children realize that they are being listened to, they’ll begin to feel prioritized by their parents. This feeling contributes to a healthy sense of self and boosts their self-esteem. Something as simple as setting aside time to listen to your child each day can speak volumes about how much they mean to you. You’ll raise happier and healthier children by demonstrating this skill.
3) Children can learn a lot about communication when they see their parents actively listen.
When a parent demonstrates active listening skills to their child, it helps teach them that it’s important to listen to gain understanding, rather than listening to respond. This in turn teaches them to communicate more effectively on their own and helps them to facilitate their understanding of different topics. It will also increase their ability to express themselves effectively and accurately label whatever emotion they might be feeling at the time.
It’s also recommended that you keep in mind some of the things that can help or hurt your effort to effectively communicate with your child. Here are the Dos and Don’ts of active listening:
Find a natural time to get together for a conversation.
Pinpoint a time where you and your child can have a daily debrief or check-in about their day. Some parents fit that time on the ride to or from school as a good point to communicate with their children and give them the floor to express their thoughts and feelings. Other parents use their child’s bedtime as an opportunity to hear from them since they’re winding down for the day. Whatever time you choose to check in with your child, make sure it’s a daily practice so that it ends up almost becoming second nature for your relationship.
Show that you’re ready to listen through your actions.
If your child approaches you in the middle of a task, stop what you’re doing, given that you’re able to, and turn in their direction. Putting down any of your devices that are in hand also demonstrates to your child that you are ready to engage with them with your full attention. Experts like psychotherapist Tina Payne, Ph.D. recommend sitting down in this instance to communicate to your child that you have time and their importance to you.
Use reflective words when speaking to your child.
As your child speaks to you, be sure to use reflective language, which is the use of tentative statements to articulate what you observe, as a way to show that you’re actively listening to them. This can be done by either repeating back what they’ve just said or by labeling the feelings that they’re describing. Statements like, “I can see how much this has upset you,” and “I know what it feels like to be bullied, you’re expressing yourself very well despite feeling intimidated.” This language helps your child develop skills of emotional labeling. Ask open-ended questions and let them know you’re working to understand their thoughts and feelings.
Be critical of what your child says.
Work on not being critical of your child when they come to you for help. Sometimes kids make mistakes and exhibit bad judgment, but when parents are critical at the outset of the conversation, it’ll cause your child to think twice before they come to you for help. It’s best to listen for the full story and then give your response once all the facts have been shared.
Lecture your child.
Lecturing a child can become a bit of a habit for some parents due to the natural impulse to inform children of where they went wrong or what they could do better in the future. Although lectures are sometimes useful, it’s also important to reserve this time for your child to communicate their thoughts first before they’re given a speech about what they’ve done wrong even though you may mean well by them.
Try to fix things for your child.
It’s also a natural instinct for parents to want to solve all of their child’s problems. If your child comes to you with an issue or concern, resist the temptation to take over and fix the problem. This will eventually lead to your child’s inability to problem solve on their own and become dependent on you for help. Instead, work as a team to come up with a solution and make an action plan that gives your child an opportunity to actively engage in fixing their problem.
Listening to your child is one of the best things you can do as a parent to help in their physical and mental development. There are plenty of negative effects that children can suffer from if their parents aren’t active listeners. Children are more likely to experience anxiety and depression due to feeling isolated and misunderstood. They tend to feel judged or criticized for their feelings which can cause them to lose confidence in themselves and fail to communicate.
The practice of active listening is a central component of our mission at maro parents. Many of our modules emphasize the importance of parents utilizing good listening skills with their children to better recognize signs of possible mood disorders and topics surrounding identity. Our platform is here to help parents navigate the difficult conversations around growing up and the best way to tackle those tough topics is to practice these listening skills to help ensure the most effective dialogue between parents and their children.
For more information about the importance of listening to your child, check out maro parents.
“Essentials for Parenting Toddlers and Preschoolers — Active Listening,” CDC. https://www.cdc.gov/parents/essentials/communication/activelistening.html