Have you ever been frustrated with your partner or friend because you felt that they were not really listening to you? They were looking in your general direction and making some noises but you could just tell that you did not have their full attention. How did this make you feel? Did it make you feel important?
Our children have the same needs we do. They need to feel important. They are small and haven’t been in this world for long, but they are 100% human with very human needs. One of the best ways to show our children that they are important is to actively listen. Of course, we cannot possibly absorb all the words that some children share with us ALL DAY LONG, but making a habit to slow down at some point in the day and truly listen to your child, if even for 10 minutes, is one of the most rewarding things we can do. Not only are we showing our children that we value what they have to say, we are giving ourselves the opportunity to see them as the interesting little person that they are. When we are curious about them, we give our children the clear message that they matter in this world.
When actively listening to our children there are a few things we can do:
- Practice reflective listening. This means to mirror back to the child what they said and then encourage more information. Ex.” You had fun at the playground today? Which part was fun? Did that make you laugh?” Also, just as important, “Oh no. You didn’t have fun on the playground today? What part wasn’t fun? How did that make you feel”.
- Make eye contact and communicate with your body language that you are listening. Maybe this means that we sit down on the floor with our child. Maybe this means we linger longer at the dinner table and don’t move on to the dishes or email. Maybe this means we turn off the radio in the car and nod our head at the right time.
- Follow your child’s lead. Occasionally, direct eye contact can make a child feel under pressure and a little squirmy. Sometimes, they just need to be in your presence quietly for a minute or have some physical activity before the conversation starts to flow. “Listening” to what is being communicated without words is the first step of a great listener.
- Refrain from correcting. Sometimes when our children tell us stories we feel the need to use it as a teaching moment of some kind. While asking clarification questions is a great way to show we are listening, it is important that our children know we are listening for understanding not correcting. There will be time later for the teachable moment. One thing I like to keep in my mind is “Connection before correction”.
No matter how old we are, when we are deeply listened to, it feels like love.
“When we take time to slow down and listen we notice that everything our children say is code for ‘Please love me’”. Dr. Laura Markham https://www.ahaparenting.com/