Listening is often difficult for parents. Below you will find strategies to help you become a better listener.
An obvious component to being a good listener is being available.
Most meaningful conversation occurs person to person. If you’re trying to connect simply by texting or talking on the phone, be assured that you’re missing opportunities for true communication. This is because so much of communication is nonverbal. In texting, you miss both the tone and the body language. In phone conversations, you hear the tone but still miss the body language. So step one is to make the effort to connect “eye to eye” with your kids. Try to be “on location” whenever possible.
You can’t force meaningful communication.
It is more likely to occur when you and your and child are casually spending time together. Both working and playing together provide wonderful opportunities for just such a conversation.
Let your child initiate the tough conversations.
Your responsibility is to respond, remembering that the goal is to continue the conversation, not begin a lecture. Saying nothing is often most appropriate. Be a listener and simply encourage your child to continue—be engaged (don’t multitask) and offer short encouragements to continue. When your child has come to the end of his or her sharing, you can repeat what you’ve heard and ask if you understand the situation correctly.
After that tough conversation, ask your child what he or she is thinking about doing to remedy the situation.
If you know of resources that can help your teenager or tween with a solution, share that information. The neutral source will provide you with someone else’s thoughts to discuss with your child. Quoting Hayley DiMarco in B4UD8, “an informed person making choices for themselves is much more likely to follow through on those choices than a person who is told what to do.”
Start today—hone your listening skills. After all, good communication is more than just talk.