So, not listening to your children can have serious emotional and psychological effects. These effects will be visible in their childhood years and into adulthood. There is a long list of benefits for their development and the overall function of the family.
It is so tempting to go ahead and assume what our children are going to say, so we talk over them to “bottom line” it. Yes, I have done this. Listening to our children is one of the primary ways to show them we care and that they matter.
“I hate living here sometimes”, she says, as she slams my room door. Elizabeth, my daughter, was visibly upset with her dad about something he said. I said to her, “Liz do you want me to give you my advice, or do you want me to listen?” Of course, she said, “mom I just need you to listen right now.”
Parents universally have some difficulty in “really” listening to their children. This aspect of the parent-child relationship can be daunting, especially if parents or parent (single parent) feels fatigued, busy, or having a bad day.
Other challenges are about “the know-how” which could be a skill set that was not taught or seen as important or necessary. Communicating with children tends to be viewed as a “one-way” street.
Consequently, they are instructed, primarily, or told what to do, or told what is expected. This can be a challenge for developing healthy communication between parents and children.
When done intentionally and appropriately, talking, and listening to your children improves the parent-child relationship. It also teaches children how to develop healthy personalities, self-esteem, and healthy relationships which invariably helps them navigate various social contexts.
COMMUNICATING WITH CHILDREN &THE DILEMMAS PARENTS FACE
Children know how they feel and what they need. What their actions often tell is their need for support and a safe space. In this space, good healthy communication can happen. Per an article in the Healthy Families, British of Columbia, (https://bdpeds.com/critical-importance-of-listening-to-your-child/) the 4 tenets of good communication with children have the qualities of being basic, content-related, instrumental, and reflective. These four parts allow the following:
- Encourages them to talk to you—listening so they can tell you how they feel.
- Actively listen and respond in a sensitive way to different things (i.e. good news, bad news, negative and positive emotions)
- Being able to focus on non-verbal or their body language to interpret or understand what they are saying as well as their words.
- DID YOU KNOW KIDS NEED ENCOURAGEMENT AND UNCONDITIONAL ACCEPTANCE TO TALK?
Struggling To Listen?
That day when Liz asked me to “just listen” I was having a bad day—I am a hormonal mother in my forties and edgy. Honestly! This moment prompted me to write this article and share my struggles as a parent. As parents our dilemmas are real. This is not an exhaustive list, but below are the top dilemmas, backed by research, parents face in effective communication with their children.
- Parenting styles that are more authoritative vs. Unconditional (i.e., harsh, critical, rush to give advice, dismissive, etc.)
- Parents unable to regulate their needs or their own emotions (i.e., Putting their needs in front of their children’s needs)
“Did You Know Kids Who are Fare Well in School Are Able to Do So Largely to The Extent They’re (Listened to) and Their Needs Are Met at Home?”
How Not Listening to Your Child Can Cause Negative Impacts.
According to an article, “Parent Who Listens Can Help Kids Thrive Despite Trauma in USNEWS, of all the protective factors improving the lives of children, none rank as close to having a caring parent who listens. When parents do not take the time to listen to their children regarding their concerns, ideas, or things they care about one can expect to see deficits in the following areas:
- School performance decreases
- Ability to handle social situations
- Increases chances of substance abuse
Children are six times more likely to care about school and six times more likely to complete their homework assignments if they had a parent with whom they can talk about things that matter.
How to Improve Communication with your Child.
Listening is the key to communication across the board with any relationship, but especially with children. By now, we have learned, plus our personal experiences teach that active listening can be difficult. Improving this skill will tremendously help us help our children.
I admit time constraints and our children’s timing for sharing with us most times do not coincide. They just can’t wait to tell us! Beware, some of the content they share can cause parents to feel awkward or simply—challenged. So here are 3 keys to help you unlock your potential:
- Listen First (Don’t jump ahead)
-This one is a “doozy.” It can be tempting to rush ahead and assume what your child is about to say or finish saying. Kids sometimes have difficulty sharing their content— they probably had to build up a lot of courage to share their situation.
- Always Listen (Especially when you are tempted to rush ahead)
-Another tough one—Right! We can have so much going on—deadlines to meet, a board meeting to catch, and our self-care is worn out. However, we need to listen for “listening opportunities” and if need be, upend what we are doing to listen.
Remember, there is hardly a “right” time for your child to tell you or raise an important issue or disclose a sensitive situation such as feeling neglected or ignored by an older sibling, or not being able to have recess at school; so she got in trouble for tapping her pencil too many times on the desk because “I had too much energy today mommy” says Elizabeth.
- Create a Special Place or Time for Listening (This can be fun)
-So, this one is particularly my favourite! Liz and I have our time when I come in and unwind in my room. This is where I get “all the business!” This might not work for you—however, you may need to rearrange a time so that you can “really” listen since you are not superhuman.
Giving your undivided attention is required for active listening. Creating space and time can be something that you and your child develop together over time. The Key is to follow through!
Use of Active Listening (No faking it!)
Staying engaged is the focus here! Active listening is a sure-proof way of preventing boredom and stave off frustration. Here are the “nuts and bolts” below:
- Focus your attention (look your child right in the eye)
- Paraphrase or Reflect back on the thoughts and feelings you heard (Do not interpret)
- Allow your child to correct or affirm what you said. (Allow feedback)
Benefits of Listening
- Helps you learn what is going on in your child’s life and head
- Builds strong relationships
- Shows them respect
- It’s the first to problem-solving
- Helps you learn what their needs are so you can raise them effectively
- Teaches them how to listen to you
Final Thoughts On Why Parents Should Listen to Their Children.
Listening to our children can be downright hard! What you are dealing with is known universally known. You are not alone! Getting support on this can be a lifesaver for you. Maybe talking to other parents, a trusted friend, or your spouse (the other parent) to learn their approach.
Perhaps that is too close for you or you don’t have those options, getting professional support is available. Securing support through a therapist who specializes in parent education and/or family therapy can help make a difference in how you feel and help improve your skills.
****** Please leave a comment if you found any of this to be helpful*****
K. Henry (Copyright 2021)