Why Should You Listen to Your Child?
“A child seldom needs a good talking to as much as a good listening to.” ~ Robert Brault
In all the years I provided parent training for families, I would often ask kids, “If you had a magic wand and you could change one thing about your parents, what would it be?” or “If you had a magic wand and could make your parents do whatever you wanted, what would it be?”
Almost consistently, they have told me they would make their parents listen to them and hear them better.
Who is listening?
The majority of families I’ve worked with reported the same common problems: “The kids just don’t listen!” And the kids say, “My parents don’t understand me!” You may relate to this experience.
The problems that lead to parents and kids not feeling heard are multifold.
It begins by listening to the kids:
Kids need to be heard. Just like their parents, they need to feel that their perspectives are important; and they need to feel validated. Validating and hearing your children are NOT the same as agreeing with them.
Think about how you feel when you want to talk to a friend about something important, but you sense that your friend is doing something else. Then he says, “Oh, go on, I’m listening to you; just got to check these emails real quick. Now, what were you saying?”
Do you really want to continue that conversation? If you do go ahead and share what’s on your mind, do you feel heard and respected as much as you would if your friend respected you enough to put those other tasks on hold for a minute?
Often, your kid wants to talk to you, but you can’t stop whatever you’re doing. You want to pay attention, make eye contact, but it may not be possible at the time.
It’s really important, especially with younger kids, to get down to their level (squat or kneel down) to show they have your attention.
If you’re in the middle of a conversation, or driving or doing something else that you can’t stop, then when what your child wants to say can wait, try saying, “I want to hear what you have to say, but I need to (drive, finish this call, etc.) right now. So first let me finish this, please, then I promise I’ll listen to you.”
Be clear, concise and kind. Follow through with your promise because when you do, you can earn your child’s trust.
How to listen
When you’re listening to your children, remain quiet and listen! Let them finish their thoughts.
Children often don’t communicate in a linear, logical and easy to follow manner. Give them time. Let them share, not just “report.” This is a very important process, whether they are three or thirteen years old.
One of the most common things parents do is feel that they already know what their kids are going to say; so they quickly try to finish their kids’ thoughts for them. Too much knowledge can be a curse.
Parents who know too much, are ready to take over the conversation with their children, and that’s when their children get frustrated and don’t feel heard.
Respond in a way that allows the children to understand that you heard them.
I’m not necessarily talking about understanding or agreeing with the child; I’m talking about a statement that sends an important message that you’re the parent who cares and you’re listening!
That is the most important first step.
This is an excerpt from my book “Create Happy Kids” – If you would like to enjoy the entire book, you can purchase it by clicking here.