Opening a line of communication with our children is not always easy. They feel we are not listening to them the same way we feel they are not listening to us.
Good listening and communications skills are essential to successful parenting. What your child feels and think is worthy of your attention, and you should really make an effort to sit down and discuss what is important to them.
It is usually easier to react rather than respond. We pass judgment based on our own feelings and experiences. Responding merely means that we can allow the child to express feelings and thoughts freely, without being afraid of suffering consequences from us. When we react, we communicate that the child’s thoughts and/or feelings are not correct. But by responding and asking questions about why the child feels that way, it opens a dialog that allows them to discuss their feelings further, and allows you a better understanding of where they’re coming from. Responding also offers the benefit of putting your head together with your child and stimulate him to come up with a plan of action he might not have been able to come up with on his own. And your child will be happy that you are understanding how he feels.
In these situations, your child should have the benefit of your full attention. Stop whatever you are doing, no matter if you are doing dishes, reading the paper or watching the news, and make sure you make eye contact. Keep your cool, show that you are interested to listen, and afterwards offer some possible solutions to the problem.
Don’t discourage your child from feeling upset, angry, or frustrated. It can be almost instinctual to tell the child he shouldn’t feel a certain way, but it is best to let those feelings run. The best you can do is to listen, ask questions, and then try to help him come up with a variety of solutions.
Just as we do, our children have feelings and experience difficult situations. By actively listening, we can show our children that we care, and that we are willing to help even by sharing some of our own experiences. Don’t forget that you should always respond, rather than react.
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