The Art of Listening To Children Takes At Least Three Ears

“We know that kids with quality early learning opportunities are more likely to graduate from high school, more likely to graduate from college, and more likely to earn higher income. And we know for every one dollar we invest in early education, we save seven dollars down the line in welfare, special education, and criminal justice costs. Our children deserve the chance for an early start on success.” – Bill Richardson


A major complaint family members make of one another is “No one really listens to me.” Being listened to and understood is a fundamental human need. At times we all seek someone to use as a sounding board to help us vent and get things off our chests. We need to talk out our problems, which makes the art of listening one of the most important skills a parent can develop.

When a parent is a good listener, they tend to have a closer parent-child relationship, which fosters self-esteem in the child. The result is the child feels important as well as free to release pent up emotions, all of which strengthens the child’s ability to solve his own problems.

While adults readily admit it’s important to listen to children, they also admit it is often difficult. Accustomed to the role of teach and disciplinarian, parents find it hard to keep quiet and just listen. We tend to think we know what the child is going to say and then we take over the conversation by evaluating, judging, lecturing, blaming, scolding, directing, offering solutions and relation personal experience. In short, we end up talking at children and not with them.

I found the following ten Do’s and Don’ts in a book called How to Influence Children by Charles E. Shaefer.

1.     Hold conversations in private.

2.     Encourage your children to talk. Ask open-ended questions that won’t put them on the defensive. Ask “What made you so upset?” instead of “Why are you upset?”

3.     Keep an open mind. Resist the urge to immediately evaluate.

4.     Listen with respect. Don’t interrupt or dominate.

5.     Maintain confidentiality. Demonstrate that you can keep their secrets.

6.     Keep it brief. Watch for signs that indicate it’s time to end the conversation.

7.     Make listening a priority. Set aside time to spend alone with your child when you can give them your undivided attention.

8.     Be available whenever support or comfort is needed. Devise a signal that everyone knows means “I need someone to listen to me now.” (Our family used a homemade royal sceptor.)

9.     Be accepting. No matter what, love your children.

10.  Show genuine interest. (take the How Well Do You Know Your Child? survey, the Child Whisperer’s next post, stay tuned!)

It is possible to listen with a third ear. This means adults should tune into messages the child is expressing non-verbally. What a child does not say is as important as what is said, such as when a child suddenly remains silent during a conversation. Read between the lines and ask yourself what is the child trying to tell me by his silence or body language. Lastly, everything will come together when empathy is applied. Some examples: “No wonder you were frightened.” “That must have come as a real shock.” “If it happened to me I would feel the same way.” “Gee, you must be worried.” “It must have hurt your feelings when _____.”

Parenting and influence children is a demanding occupation. Much of what we learn is by experience but there’s always room for improvement. It’s better to be prepared and proactive than looking back with regrets.


About Jodie Randisi

Independent publisher and author coaching for authors who need support in self publishing. I specialize in amazing true stories and coloring books for adults. Ghostwriting, author and media coaching, and much more. I love helping people and businesses preserve their legacies.
This entry was posted in Family, Ideas for Family Fun, Parenting, Student Success and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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