This post is sponsored by Health Insurance Comparison.
My whole world seems to revolve around getting my kids to listen at the moment. Seriously, if anyone has the magic formula for that, PLEASE send it my way. I can’t tell you how many times I have repeat myself on a daily basis. It’s like banging my head against a brick wall.
After a particularly bad day, where I ended up totally losing my shit and shouting like a mad woman, I lay in bed tossing the situation round and round in my head. If I actually stopped and looked at my own listening skills, it’s no wonder my kids are so hopeless at it. My life is so busy that I am constantly multi-tasking, and that includes listening the kids. I’ll ask them about their day and school and listen while running a bath or cooking dinner. I’m also very guilty of listening to them and looking at my phone at the same time. Then I go and get all cranky when they don’t stop what they’re doing to listen to me. I felt like a true pot calling the kettle black.
Since then I’ve been making a real effort to improve how I listen to them, in the hope that it will return the favour.
8 great ways that WE as parents can improve how we listen to our kids.
- STOP WHAT YOU’RE DOING
Sounds obvious enough, but it’s amazing how often we listen to our kids while still doing ‘other things’. I am totally guilty of this, especially when they take forever to get to the point. No wonder they don’t turn around and look at us when we’re talking to them, they’re just doing what we do. It’s so important for kids to know that they have our full attention. They’re much more likely to open up if they know we’re listening to them.
- MAKE EYE CONTACT
It’s often said that your eyes are the windows to your soul. I think this is so true, and if we actually looked into our children’s eyes when they’re talking to us, we could see a whole load of emotions there, that they’re unable to verbalise. It’s a different kind of listening, but we could miss so much if we didn’t do it.
- ALLOW THE SILENCE
This is something that am so guilty of. I all too often rush them to the point of what they’re trying to say, especially when there is a long gap of silence. However, often out of the silence, so much more will emerge. A new point, a new question, something they’re afraid to say or maybe even some tears. Allowing the silence lets them know that you’re there and waiting to listen.
- DON’T JUST LISTEN WITH YOUR EARS
Kids love to see our facial expression when they’re telling a story. They want us to react and they look for it. A cheeky wink, or a laugh, or a wince of pain really lets them know that you are interested in what they’re saying. It’s also a good idea to use hand gestures, like a little pat on the back or a gentle squeeze especially when they’re telling you something emotional. It lets them know that you’re not only listening but you’ve got their back and you care.
- DON’T RUSH IN WITH ADVICE
Kids don’t always want our advice. Sometimes they just need a sounding board, so they can figure things out for themselves. By rushing in with advice the minute there is a pause in conversation, we are not really allowing them to develop this skill for themselves. It takes patience, and more often then not, the pause is just there while they’re thinking. Giving them space to do this will often open the flood gates and you will be able to learn a lot more about what they’re thinking. They will ask you for advice when they need it.
- FOLLOW UP
If they’ve told you something, then try and follow up the conversation a few days later. Simply ask, “So how did that speech go at school that you were worrying about the other day?” or “Did you sort out your misunderstanding with your friend?” It reminds them that you really were listening and they will trust you with so much more next time.
- TREASURE THE TIME
Our lives tend to be so busy (well mine is anyway), that days can fly by without any proper chats with our kids. They’re either at school or sports, or have their heads in an ipad, and we’re trying to run the house and work. That’s life really, so I think it’s so important to really treasure the time you have when your children are talking to you. If possible, make a regular time where you can check in with them and really give them your full attention.
- ASK QUESTIONS
Sometimes children don’t know how to express themselves properly and so an incident or an event can quite easily turn out to be bigger than it is when they’re telling you. Their emotions get all caught up in the explanation. Before jumping to conclusions, try to coax the truth out of the situation by asking subtle questions. For example “When you say that everyone in your class hates you, do you really mean everyone, or is it just one person. Why would they hate you?” Asking these types of question can defuse the situation and help your child see it for what it really is. It’s also so almost important to never disregard their feelings or make them feel silly. Instead of disagreeing with them, just reinforce what they’ve told you, for example “It’s sounds like you were treated really unfairly today or I understand how that must have made you feel angry or sad”.
I am by no means an expert listener and my kids are teaching me new things every day. ‘Really’ listening is a skill that I’m trying hard to work on at the moment and I hope that one day I can teach my kids to do the same (probably once they’ve left home and driven me crazy in the mean time).
How often do you listen to your kids?
Are you guilty of multi-taking while you’re listening too?