The child-parent relationship has a great impact on a child’s cognitive development, academic life and behaviour. The feeling of not being heard can hinder a child’s communication and social development, too. Along with the distance it might create between you and your child, it can also make them feel demotivated, react aggressively and lose confidence. Thankfully, active listening alone can solve most of these issues.
An ideal relationship with effective communication isn’t built overnight, it requires consistent efforts from both sides. But in a child-parent case, parents have to take the lead more frequently.
As Mortimer J. Adler writes in How to Speak, How to Listen,
“We all realize that the ability to read requires training…the same would appear to be true of speaking and listening … training is required … Likewise, skill in listening is either a native gift or it must be acquired by training.”
Being heard means being respected, appreciated, and loved. When the child believes that parents are interested in what they have to say, it boosts their self-esteem and trust. It decreases the number of arguments and creates a support system for them. It also helps to develop emotional intelligence.
Switching to active listening can make the environment at home conducive to growing as a person as well as a learner. Here’s a quick rundown of how to practice active listening.
1. Respond not React
You must treat your child with the same respect you would like to handle. Be sure to answer or respond thoughtfully to your child’s queries or whatever it is they are sharing, no matter how insignificant it seems to you.
2. Maintain Eye Contact
Meeting their eyes and repeating what they are saying to show that you understand what they are trying to say is one way to start. It’s also critical that you demonstrate good communication skills and behaviour to others, especially in the presence of your child. As children learn by imitating the behaviour of an adult they admire or spend their most time with, it’s important to set a good example.
3. Define the objective in a light-hearted conversation
To alleviate any tension and increase the likelihood of your child listening to you, throw a hint at them about what you’d like to discuss. For example, use phrases like “How are you liking your new online class? Is the homework fun or the same as school?”
4. Allow your child to express themselves
Children don’t always know how to express their feelings, and sometimes it reflects through their body language, different facial expressions or behaviour. They easily become agitated, nervous, embarrassed or frightened. Kids face the same complex emotions as adults but don’t know how to handle them in a thoughtful and constructive manner. Here, the role of parents becomes important in helping kids express, understand and manage these emotions in an apportioned way.
Here are some techniques you can practice to help your child express their feelings.
- Listen without interrupting- To let your child’s feelings flow, you should allow them to finish their dialogue before moving on to further questions or advice. This will help them express better.
- Proper Body Language- it is important that you maintain proper eye contact and physically show that you are all ears to them. Turn your body to face them as they speak and occasionally nod your head with appropriate facial expressions.
- Keep your electronic devices away- when your child is expressing their emotions, respect them by putting your mobiles and other electronic devices away for a while. This will let them know that you are interested in their discussion.
This way, your child has the assurance that there is someone they can reach out to no matter what. Be their moral support and use the power of active listening to be friends with your kid.
Make storytelling a two-way process when you’re reading to your kids. While reading a novel, take a break and ask your child to guess what will happen next. Before reading the ending to your child, you may also ask them what they liked the most about the story up to that point, what they would change if they had the opportunity, and how they think the story would end.
You can reread a story to them later and transform it into a game after they’ve become familiar with it. Tekie uses storytelling as a primary medium in our classes. Take a free demo class to see if your child can get hooked to learning with us.
6. Create a Robust Support
The best audience for children is an adult who cares about and is interested in them. Parents and teachers who show interest, focus, and empathy while listening to their children set a good example. Be approachable to your child, physically and mentally. Find different things to bond over and keep checking on their mental health from time to time.
7. Engage in Non-Confrontational Discussions
Practice active listening over dinner daily, non-confrontational discussions over the next week. Make use of I-Statements. Recap and explain what you’ve just said. Practising such affirmations over time will help you have healthy conversations with your kid.
8. Make Notes for Your Progress in Practicing Active Listening
Start keeping a journal or make small notes about your active listening achievements and shortcomings. After tracking your progress, writing down how you feel will help you become more self-aware. When you’re in the midst of a conversation, having a higher level of self-awareness can help you articulate yourself more effectively.
9. Teach your Kid how to be a Active Listener
Encourage the kids to engage in constructive listening. Tell them how you can practice this skill together. The more you practice consciously listening to one another, the more regular your interactions will sound and the better you will understand your child.
10. Ask Relevant Questions
After your child conveys what he wants to, ask relevant questions to make the conversation flow. Help them to think with clarity & focus and offer directions with your questions.
11. Show Empathy
When the discussion is over, even if they have made a mistake or are wrong about something, show empathy. Share your perspective and guide them in taking appropriate steps.
To sum it up, when it comes to improving your child’s active listening skills, the first and the most important thing to remember is that communicating with your child is a two-way street. When it comes to communication, treat your child with the same reverence, consideration, and understanding as you would any person your age. Investing in better communication and building a connection as early as you can with your child is the best way to ace parenting.