I often get asked “How do I get my children to talk to me?” Or “how do I talk to my kids so they will actually listen to me.” I’m not talking about how to get your kiddos to listen to put their shoes on after asking one time. I am talking about your children confiding in you and listening when you have some tough parenting advice. So what are the most effective communication skills you need to know as a parent? Keep reading to find out!
The Most Effective Communication Skills You Need To Know As A Parent.
Most people have basic communication skills. Although, those are important if you are looking to have a strong, open and trusting relationship with your child, I recommend this ONE skill.
Are you ready to find out the most effective communication skills?
LISTENING…more specifically Active listening.
Why Is It Important To Listen To Your Child
It is amazing how much we take listening for granted. In my experience, we think we are better listeners than we really are. Most individuals or families that come in my office need a refresher course or just don’t know what active listening is.
When someone doesn’t feel heard they often shut down, they stop talking. This is the same for children. When a child doesn’t feel heard they may feel they aren’t worth being heard. They may feel you don’t care about what they have to say. Children can internalize this, thus leading to other issues in the future.
In short, start truly listening to your children. Show them the importance of listening and how it feels when someone actually listens to them rather than interrupting, trying to solve things for them or jumping to conclusions. They are more likely to talk and listen to you, especially for the bigger issues that will come up as they get older.
Think about it? Don’t you want to feel heard by your significant other, family, friends, boss, etc? It has been shown when people don’t feel listened to, they feel less connected, it can lead to feeling insecure and overall they may have a lower sense of self.
I know, I know, you might think I am over reacting and going a little overboard here. I get it! My point is to detail just how important listening is. Not to mention it is such an important life skill.
Listening to our children also teaches them empathy, helps them feel worthwhile, self confident, teaches respect, and understanding. It will foster a healthy and open relationship with your children now and in the future. Even if you have older children it’s not too late to do these things! It’s never too late!
So, how do I listen to my children? Don’t worry, if you aren’t the greatest listener yourself, it’s not too late to learn!
Before I discuss the skills to be a good listener, let me say this. Don’t pressure your children to talk if they aren’t ready! This is so important! As parents, we think we know best and we want to rush in and help our kids, especially if we see them sad or upset. A simple acknowledgement is perfect. “You seem sad” or “You seem upset, everything ok?Let them have the opportunity to discuss it with you or not.
If they don’t want to engage in a conversation, let it go. You are showing your child you care by the acknowledgement of their emotions and letting them know you are ready to listen when they are. A simple, “I’m here if and when you want to talk.” Then, move on! You can revisit the issue later, if necessary.
Sometimes I give my boys some space and they come to me when they are ready. To be honest, I love when that happens! What a great feeling! Other times, I have let it go but have had a gut feeling to touch base with them later. It might even be a day or two before I do a quick check in. I might simply say, “hey, remember the other day when you came home from school and you were upset but didn’t want to talk. I noticed you seem much happier. Just checking in. Would you like to talk about it now?”
It might have been a minor issue that they resolved on their own. I try to praise them for figuring it out, as well as remind them their dad and I are here if they need us. There have been times when it is a bigger issue and they need to talk things through. Either way, this is when I put my listening skills to us! See below for 6 key listening skills.
6 Key Listening Skills To Being A Good Listener
Eye Contact: This shows them you care about what they are saying. You are showing them you are paying attention. Be at their level. If you have younger ones, squat down, sit in a chair or on the floor. Bottom line make sure you are NOT looking down at them. That is intimidating, especially to young children.
Avoid Distractions: This isn’t just about the obvious ones like phones, tablets or other external factors going on. This also includes your thoughts. Keep focused on what your children are saying. Don’t think about how you are going to respond, cut them off or try to finish their sentence. Let them talk and you listen.
Body language/Facial expressions: Kids can pick up on this. Your body language and facial expressions can show your children whether you are really listening to them or not. You want to convey that you present and hearing what they have to say. Face them, lean in, give a nod or a smile if appropriate.
Keep an open mind: Just listen and let them speak. It’s important NOT to interject with your opinion, a solution or criticism. Wait until your child has stopped talking or when there is a pause. Then you can ask a question if necessary.
Clarifying questions: Once there is a pause or they have stopped talking then ask questions to clarify something you didn’t understand or need them to elaborate on. Stay away from judgemental questions. These questions are for clarifying what they said to you.
Give feedback/summarize: This is when you can summarize what you heard them say (without your opinions!). This confirms you were listening. You can ask if they want your opinion or help. You can brainstorm ideas, solutions, etc. Otherwise, you are there to listen and support them. When they are young this is the time to help or teach them valuable lessons. When your kids are older, it’s about guiding them through this process. Either way, remember children learn so much more when they are involved in the learning process. Avoid telling them what to do, get them to be a part of the discussion.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Listening is something we do every day. Which means we have plenty of opportunities to practice! Remember, children are learning to become their own little/big selves. They want to be taken seriously and have their own feelings, ideas, interests, wants and needs. One of the best ways, as parents, to show empathy is by listening to our children. Show them we understand their desire to becoming their own person. As parents we often try to mold our children into what we want for them. Don’t get me wrong, we need to guide them in that journey but we have to find a balance to allow them to grow themselves.
Be conscious about it. Take the next day or two and note down how often you are truly listening to your children? You might be surprised. Practice some of these skills and start building a healthy relationship with your child.
Listening is important
Listening shows your child you care
Fosters healthy and open relationship now and in the future
Models/teaches your children how to be a good listener
Encourages empathy, self esteem, respect, confidence and overall positive sense of self
Read more to find out the Top 5 Reasons Why Listening is Important.