Communication is indispensable in any relationship, and good listening skills is an indispensible part of communicating. The good news is that you do not have to be a "born listener." You can develop these skills no matter how old you are. Active listening is a particularly important skill that will help parents and children feel connected. Parents who actively listen will be fully present (i.e. giving undivided attention to the speaker) and will not be dispensing advice as soon as the child takes a pause.
Benefits of Good Listening Skills
Good listening skills are basically the ability to listen carefully. This allows you to:
- better understand your child
- show your support, care and concern about your child's condition
- help resolve your child's problems
- answer your child's questions and
- uncover the causes and meanings of what your child is saying
Some Things to Avoid
When it comes to demonstrating good communication skills, knowing what not to do is as important as what to do. Here is a list of behaviors that are on the must not do list in many cognitive psychologists' books.
- Do not have a hidden agenda or internal dialog that will burst forth during a pause or break in your child's communication (then you are not really listening)
- Do not make judgmental statements (e.g. summation statements such as "You are a bad kid").
- Do not become defensive and personalize what your child is saying (consider instead what they might be feeling to say such a thing; don't be afraid to ask them either)
- Do not use all or nothing statements (e.g. "You always do this")
- Do not focus on the negatives (try to recognize your child's strengths and verbalize this too)
- Do not resort to blaming or shaming (these only serve to wound and will distance your child from you)
Good Listening Tips
Here are some tips to exercise good listening skills and demonstrate that you are paying attention:
- Face your child, maintain an eye contact, and lean toward the child
- Avoid folding your arms, because this gives the impression that you are already closed off (studies show that you will actually be more close minded too)
- Turn off the TV or radio, put down the book you're reading; listen to what your child or has to say; do not listen "between the lines"; give your full attention
- Be patient when listening (do not rush your child) because listening is all about understanding;
- Take interest in what your child has to say; active listening creates a caring environment and encourages your child to speak freely (this will be coupled to the belief that you will try to understand your child's situation)
- Never criticize your child for his or her feelings or emotions. Such criticism will remove the child's motivation to speak openly to you
- Do not say anything until your child has finished the story, you might miss something; equally allow a short pause before carefully responding
- You should also be attentive to what your child does not say. Be mindful of his or her facial expression so that you can ascertain what your child is trying to convey;
- Reassure your child (if there is any need), be a trustworthy parent and maintain the confidentiality between you and your child as the case may be
- Above all, let your children know that they are unconditionally loved even if you do not approve of or agree with their actions. In these circumstances, they will learn to view your remarks as constructive feedback rather than criticisms that tear them down.
Demonstrating good listening will help maintain harmonious family
relationships. It nurtures trust and confidence between you and your
child, which is essential to the growth and development of your child
and cordial family relationships.