November 27, 2006

Be an Effective Listener to Your Children

Listening is Fundamental to Being an Effective Parent

One of the keys to being an effective parent, especially a parent of teens, lies in being an effective listener. Today, I would like to offer to you six words or phrases to use whenever you find yourself listening to your children. These “listening words” let your children know that you are listening, they let them know you heard what they said, but the key is that these words are non-evaluative in nature.

So here are the six "listening words and phrases":

“I didn’t know you felt like that!”
“Tell me more!”

If you will just insert these words into pauses or spaces in the talk of a child, it will let them know that you are listening. It let’s the child know that you heard them but because these words indicate nothing of what you think, they allow the child to continue. Many times what children are doing when they are talking with you is thinking out loud. By listening and occasionally letting them know you are hearing them it will draw them out and encourage them to speak to you some more.

The Ultimate Goal

If your ultimate goal is to raise children who are capable of making good decisions for themselves, good listening is so important. While your children are thinking out loud they are actually getting experience in making decisions before they are actually in the live situation. Listening to your children allows them to try out some ideas before they actually use them. I know that it will sometimes take all you have to just offer one of the listening words and keep quiet but it will usually result in your children coming to you repeatedly to try out ideas before they actually use the ideas. Many times the conversation with you will be all that a child needs to make a good decision.

The big advantage to you is that by creating the atmosphere in your family where you are viewed as being a good listener, you will have an opportunity to speak in due time, and you might then speak at a time when your child might be more open to listening to you.

A Critical Question

We have also found that many times it helps if you, the parent will ask one simple question when one of your children is beginning to speak to you. Ask them, “Are you seeking my advice or do you just want me to listen?” We found that most of the time the child will opt for “just listen!”

The next time that one of your children comes to you and starts talking to you, try using those listening words and phrases in any pause. Ask your child if he/she wants you to offer advice or wants you to just to listen. If they tell you they just want you to listen then honor that request.

A final step in being a good listener is just repeating back what you have just heard. Repeat what your child says in your own words. Your child will correct you if you get it wrong.

Become a good listener. Then, if your child views you as a good listener, they will often listen to you when you have something to say later on!

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