Listening, as it is, is a difficult thing. And to think of listening to your child seems a daunting task. Add to that the fact that when the child needs to be listened, and you may have another 1000 things running on your mind wanting you to just jump off your seat right now. However, research has it that listening to your kids makes it more likely that they listen to you (which most of us want). When a child feels listened, he is more likely to listen, and having been understood, he will understand your point of view as well. It helps parents and children form stronger bonds and relationships, and builds their self-esteem.
The Basics Of Listening To Your Child
Talking and listening to your child holds a lot of importance, as it helps your child build a bond with you and develop his trust. It improves the bonding in a relationship, and builds a child’s confidence. Not many parents have the skill to ‘listen’, but with a conscious effort, they can develop it. And slowly, with practice, you can better it as well.
When you are trying to talk or communicate with your child you should:
- encourage your child to open up with you by talking
- be patient and listen to your child while he puts his feelings and thoughts across
- respond in a sensitive way to everything that he says, good or bad
- focus on body language and actions, so as to understand the non-verbal forms of his communication
How Can I As A Parent Improve My Listening Skills?
Listening is not an easy task, as a parent you would be tempted to raise your voice and tell your child he is wrong. It takes a lot of patience to really hear out someone, let alone a child, as you may get to hear something that you are not happy about. Your child may say something that challenges your view or beliefs, or you may hear something that will make you want to change or it may disrupt what you think. And that is why, it is important to develop listening skills in yourself first, before getting your child to talk to you. And how do you do this?
- Practice active listening and focus on what the child is trying to say without forming or mouthing any opinions
- Place yourself in your child’s shoes, imagine how you would have reacted in a given situation that your child is in
- Be present physically and mentally. When you get your child to talk, be fully in the moment. The dishes can wait, so can your phone calls. Let your child know he has your undivided attention
- Notice your child’s body language and decode the non-verbal things your child is trying to say
- Show curiosity and have an open mind. You should not be judgmental when it comes to listening to anyone
What Are The Negative Effects Of Not Listening To Your Child?
Without you being even aware of it, your day to day behavior affects your child in many ways, shaping his or her future personality. As parents, you influence your child’s life intentionally and unintentionally both. From the tone of your voice to the words you choose, your child learns the skills necessary to interact from you – as parents are essentially a child’d first teacher. Children who are not heard, become the ones who never listen. They will always be under the impression that they are unworthy of your time and attention, and whatever they do, think or feel is negative. They lose confidence and self-esteem, which can be detrimental to their development as young adults. A child who is often judged or criticized loses interest in sharing and communicating, and ends up being bottled, alone and aloof.
Tips On Talking To Your Child And Listen To Him
Some kids are naturally expressive and they talk everything out, while some others may need a lot of encouragement to be able to talk to you. The first thing is to be open to listening and give your child your unfocused attention. Here are some tips on getting your child talk to you and be open to listening:
- Set aside a time when you both can talk to each other without any interference. If face to face talking seems difficult, go for a walk and talk when you are sideways to each other. Else, take your child on a drive and let him sit in the back seat when you talk
- Be receptive and open to all kinds of feelings, without getting angry or frustrated. This means that the talks will not just be of happy types, but also negative topics like anger, fear and anxiety
- Remember that children do have the same maturity as adults do. So think of the times when you were a child and how difficult it was to communicate when you have so much running in your mind but do not have enough words
- Do not be in a hurry to respond. Let your child finish talking and then respond sensitively. When your child is talking, do not jump in or interfere. Never try to put your words in your child’s mouth. Never ever yell
- Refrain from lecturing. Lecturing is a one way of putting your view across, while an engaging conversation fosters their own thinking process and conclusions
- Make the conversations inspiring for your child. Stories are a perfect way to inspire young kids. Always emphasize the positive
- Use language that your child will understand, avoid using words that he may find difficult to comprehend. Avoid using slangs or complicated words – talk in the same sense as your child does
- Let your child know that you are listening to him, repeat what he says and make eye contact
- Be curious and interested in the conversation. Being actively involved in the conversation is extremely important to let your child know that his views and opinions do matter
- Never judge, criticize, blame or get angry over something that your child has done or said. Work together as a team to solve your problems
When you listen to your child, you get to know what they are thinking, feeling and going through. Childhood is a difficult phase, and with limited vocabulary, children often find it difficult to communicate their feelings. It is imperative that children be heard, so that they do not bottle up their feelings. It also means that your children will listen to you more, because they have been heard. This opens up avenues for healthy conversations, which are fruitful and brings parents and children closer.