Sometimes I feel the need to jump right in and solve whatever problem my child is having, whether it be about her friends, her sister or something at school.   I’ve learned that if I do this, I am not only stopping her from feeling what she is feeling (frustration, sadness, etc.), but I am also stopping her from figuring out a solution to the problem on her own.

Through my work in Human Resources, I know how important active listening is and how the results of it can work wonders to not only help figure out solutions, but also empower and encourage the child.

So, what is active listening?

Here is what it takes:

  1. Paying attention! This probably seems like an obvious one, but it’s important to check yourself to see if you are REALLY focused on what the child is saying.  Are there distractions from another child, the TV, the phone, computer, husband?  Make sure the child has your FULL attention and if not, it is ok to say, “I need 10 minutes and then you can have my full attention.”
  2. Showing that you are listening. Nod, smile, make verbal noises, “mmm hmm”, “ok”, etc.
  3. Providing feedback & getting clarification. “Parrot” it back.  “So, what I hear you saying is your friend hit you on the playground and it hurt your feelings, is that right?” or “When you say Jamie was rude; in what way?”  This is not the time to SOLVE the problem.
  4. Deferring judgment. (A hard one when it comes to our children!) , but do your best. The problem with us judging something is that it may hurt the communication that is taking place and cause the child to shut down.  For example if we say, “Jamie isn’t a very nice girl is she?”  The child may say, “But she’s my best friend!  You don’t understand!”  Instead say, “Wow, how do you feel about that?” or, “How do you think good friends should act?”  And allow her to come up with her own feelings based on her own judgments of the situation.
  5. Responding appropriately. After you have all of the information, and it is your turn to talk, you could say, “Well, how do you think you are going to handle this situation?”  This gets their mind working to come up with a solution.   If they say, “I don’t know!!”  (Insert whining). You could say, “Would you like some suggestions?”  Or offer up a personal example of when something similar happened to you and how you handled it.  (This shows that you aren’t just a parent, but a real person too!  J  )

Good communication with our children is the cornerstone for continued influence during the teen years.  And of course, as with all things parenting, can take time and energy and practice for both parties. J

I hope it helps and if you need more support becoming a better listener for your child, please reach out!