Listening actively to your child: 5 tips

Build a secure relationship with your child talk when you let him talk without interruptions. Here’s how.

Listening actively to your child: 5 tips

Just as you want your child to listen to you, you need to set the example by learning to listen actively to him. In this form of listening, you aren’t just trying to understand the complete message, you’re taking into consideration your child’s voice, body language and overall attitude.

As parents, active listening gives you the opportunity to better understand your child and show him that you care. In turn, this builds trust and strengthens your bond. Ultimately, junior should calm down more quickly, have a better handle on his moods, as well as have fewer negative emotions.

Educators Maya Thiagarajan and Sherrie Roch give tips on how you can master this skill.

1. Put away your digital devices (so that you can give your kids your full attention)

Giving your child your full attention lets you better connect with each other, and boosts your mutual understanding.

Recently, Thiagarajan said her 7-year-old daughter gave her the best piece of advice she had received in a long time. When the little girl approached mummy for a chat only to be told that she was busy, her daughter said, shaking her head, “Mama, I’m far more important to you than all the people you are following on Twitter. So, please shut down your laptop and listen to me instead of them.”

Thiagarajan did just that.

Giving your child your full attention lets you better connect with each other, and boosts your mutual understanding.

2. Master asking follow-up questions

As parents, you order, instruct, judge and advise your kids. While this is important, it’s just as important to know what’s going on in their lives, their thoughts and their feelings.

Your kids will tell you more about themselves if you ask questions frequently, especially follow-up ones. Examples of follow-up questions are: Why did you do that? Do you think you did the right thing? How did that make you feel? What did the other kids do? What did she say next? What were you thinking at the time?

Such questions not only help your kids open up and self-reflect, it shows them that you are interested in their lives, thoughts and feelings. Listening carefully as your child elaborates on a situation will also boost the bond between the both of you.

Thiagarajan points out, “If we build and strengthen close relationships with our kids when they are young, then perhaps they will trust and talk to us when they are older.”

Photo: INGimage

3. Judge less, empathise more

As parents, you tend to judge and evaluate everything your kids say because you want to help them do better. But in your desire to help, advise, teach and reform, you often forget to really grasp what your kids are saying and what they are feeling.

Roch notes, “Active listening builds the child’s confidence and promotes healthy ways of helping them to cope with daily life situations.”

So, the next time your child has something to report, don’t interrupt, criticise or pass judgment. Instead, listen carefully and try to process how your child feels, which also allows you to offer more suitable advice or solutions.

By summing up what your child has told you, you demonstrate to your child that you have taken the effort to process and understand what he has been saying.

4. Recognise and label your junior’s emotions

Describing your child’s emotions not only helps you have a better understanding of how your child truly feels, it’ll also help your child recognise and be aware of his emotions. On the parents’ part, a deeper appreciation of what their child is feeling will let them offer appropriate solutions or advice.

You can identify and name what junior is feeling when he tells you about an issue that is bothering him or if he is recounting something that happened to him in school. This will help him recognise such emotions, as well as learn ways to deal with if they recur. In turn, he’ll learn to have a better grip on his emotions, which will boost his emotional capabilities.

5. Summarise what you hear

By summing up what your child has told you, you demonstrate to your child that you have taken the effort to process and understand what he has been saying. It shows that you not only respect his feelings, but also empathise with what he is going through.

For example, start by saying, “Okay, mummy will now repeat what you said, correct me if I’m wrong. First, …”. This will show him that you really want to help. Also, if you miss out a part or have misheard, your child will get the chance to correct you.

Maya Thiagarajan wrote Beyond the Tiger Mom: East-West Parenting for the Global Age

Sherrie Roch is an educator at The Thinking Box @Tanglin

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