The Importance of Listening

     When I had my second child, I was in graduate school getting a doctorate in Social Science and Education. Naturally, I was reading quite a bit at the time and relying on research and highly educated experts to inform me of topics in my field.  I took this reliance on science based methods straight to my parenting style. By then my two year old had already taught me in multiple ways that I was no parenting expert, so I reached out for help among the parenting literature. What followed were several years of reading everything I could get my hands on related to how to raise pleasant, curious, marvelous and happy children. I certainly learned a lot during this time but putting in to practice what I actually read about was another thing altogether.  It is amazing how much information can fly straight out of our heads as parents when faced with defiance, disrespect or any other disregard for our authority and patience.  My own children ae experts at teaching me just how much I have to learn. 
     One of the most important things I have learned from research on parenting and through experience is that listening is key to a healthy and pleasant parent/chidl relationship.  Of course we all want our children to listen to us when we give them important information and directions.  We are so sure as parents and elders that we know more than our children and that they would benefit from our wisdom.  The problem is that our children are often not convinced of this fact.  What do we do, then, when our children won't listen? The first and most important strategy is to listen to them first.  Unfotunately, this is easier said than done. When children are trying to tell us something, we often interpret this as defiance or avoidance of work. We are also very frequently distracted by the demands of our adult lives and concentrating on our phones, emails or other work or life related activities that are demanding our attention.  We tend to prioritize whatever activity we are involved in that is actually providing us with the financial means necessary to support these challenging children.  However, this strategy is bound to backfire.
   I have found through research and personal experience that merely telling children to listen and be quiet does not work, and that they do not feel validated or understood when we do not focus our attention squarely on them at a time when they have something of importance to say.  The key is to recognize that what is important to the child may not seem very important to us or very relevant to whatever situation we are faced with.  Once we understand as parents and caretakers that our children need to be heard, acknowledged and responded to with patience and with love, we automatically increase our listening and become better listeners.  Some specific strategies to listen better to our kids and encourage them to listen more to us follow, along with resources to learn more about the importance of listening and videos showing experts in the field that share their knowledge and ideas. 

Parenting with Passion: Barbara Coloroso talks about the importance of listening to kids

How to Talk to Your Child: The Best Strategies for Effective Communication

Tips on Becoming Better Listeners

  • put away your technology and fully focus on your child
  • resist the urge to tell your children that you already know whatever they are saying or that what they are saying is trivial or ridiculous
  • make sure that your body language shows that you are listening and giving importance to what is being said
  • allow your child to not look directly at you when he or she is telling you something important, some children need to look away
  • seize the opportunithy to listen when your child wants to speak, you don't always have to set the schedule 
  • don't thnk about what you are going to reply while listening, really listen to what your child is saying first and then make sure you understood by restating what your child said
  • don't repeat back exactly what your child just said, use your own words to rephrase and ask your child if your interpretation is correct
  • show empathy and understanding for what is being communicated
  • refrain from criticizing what is being communicated or judging i
  • refrain from bringing up past issues and adding new concerns to the conversation
Resources to Become Better Listeners: free preview below