I recently wrote a post about getting our children to listen to us, without ending up shouting or nagging.
The main takeaway from it was to look at the way we’re communicating with our children, rather than focusing on the fact that they ‘never listen’. One thing I didn’t really mention though, was how we also need to look at our own listening skills when we talk to our children.
If we want our children to listen to us, then we need to make sure we also really listen to them.
Our children need to feel heard, to know that we care and that what they have to say is important. These tips on helping your child feel heard should help if you’re not sure where to start.
Let them talk
If your child wants to talk to you, let them talk.
Don’t interrupt them or try and ask questions until they’ve finished saying what they need to say. Keep quiet while they talk and don’t try and finish their sentences for them or hurry them along.
If you really don’t have time to hear about it at that moment in time, then tell them that kindly and calmly. Let them know that right now you need to focus on cooking dinner, but you would love to hear more about it later. Then make sure you actually give them a chance to tell you about it later.
Be genuinely interested in what they have to say
Ok, I know this is easier said than done when your child has been telling you about Minecraft for half an hour, but try your best to show genuine interest in what they’re telling you.
Rhys in particular can go on and on (and on) about computer games he loves and if I’m honest I don’t always manage to show as much interest as I should. It’s something I’m working on though, and there’s a quote that I often think of related to this:
“Listen earnestly to anything your children want to tell you, no matter what. If you don’t listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won’t tell you the big stuff when they are big, because to them all of it has always been big stuff.”
Let them know you care
There are a few things you can do while talking to your child to show them that you’re really listening and that you care about what they’re saying.
The first is to repeat back key things they’ve said to you, or clarify it with them by saying something like “it sounds like you’re saying…”.
You can then go on to ask some questions to get more information. It can be as simple as, ‘tell me more about that’ or ‘and then what happened?’
Sometimes just a little ‘oh’, or ‘I see’ with the right inflection will show your child that you’re listening and want to hear more.
Whatever your child is telling you about, acknowledge that it is important to them.
Don’t make light of it or belittle them for wanting to talk about it. If they want to talk to you about it it’s because it means something to them and they want to share it with you.
Now, in a perfect world we would all follow this advice and calmly and patiently listen to our children talk for as long as they need to, whenever they need to. But I’m not sure that’s realistic for most parents.
Our lives these days are really busy. We can feel rushed off our feet a lot of the time, and our minds are always full of the hundreds of things we need to keep on top of.
What we can do though is set aside time each day to talk to our children properly.
It might be in the car on the way home from school, over the dinner table or a chat at their bedside before they go to sleep. Whenever you chose to do it, make a point of following the advice in this post and really use that time to listen to your child.
My hope is that by listening to my children as best I can now, about the seemingly trivial things (like Minecraft) and the more important things like what’s happening in their friendship groups, they’ll keep talking to me openly and honestly as they get older.
This post is linked up with KCACOLS.