Positive communication is a two-way street: not only do you have to talk, but you also have to listen. And even though it seems like listening to someone else talk is easy, effective listening actually requires a specific set of skills as well as practice. By learning effective listening skills, you’ll not only have better conversations with your kids, but you’ll also be teaching them valuable skills that they’ll be able to use in the future.
- Active listening lets your child know you’re paying attention. Ask good questions, paraphrase what your children say to make sure you understand, and show that you empathize with what they’re saying.
- There’s more to hearing than just listening to words—pay attention to non-verbal cues such as body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice, which may also reveal what your child is thinking or feeling. These are especially important with children, who may have difficulty articulating what they’re trying to say.
- When you need time to concentrate and can’t give your kids your full attention, tell them how long it will take and what you expect from them during that time. When you are finished, let them know that they can once again have your full attention.
- Your children can provide hints with what they are doing; if your child doesn’t usually hang around the kitchen while you’re making dinner, but asks to help tonight, he or she may want to talk about something.
- Even if you disagree with what your child is saying, don’t interrupt them to share your opinion. Wait until they’re finished with what they’re saying, and then state your reasons for disagreeing with them.
Being a good listener isn’t something that always comes naturally—it takes a concerted effort and a great deal of practice. Start making an effort to really listen to your kids today, and set a good example for them so that they become good listeners in the future.
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Strengths to Make It Through: How Families Can Grow Together Through Everyday Challenges . . . and Big Stuff, presented by Eugene C. Roehlkepartain, Ph.D., Vice President, Research and Development at Search Institute
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