How To Really Listen To Your Children
On a day to day basis how often are we tuning into ourselves? How often do we make time to be still, to bring awareness to our bodies, our physical state, our emotions, thoughts and feelings?
How often do we take a good thirty minutes or so just to be quiet? To journal, to tune out from the ‘busyness’ of the day. To switch off from social media, to turn off the television, switch the music off and just be fully present with ourselves?
I’m pretty sure most of us find this difficult (unless of course we are a ZEN masters) or practice mindfulness/meditation often.
It is however something people are becoming more self-aware of and I believe many would like to bring this type of presence into their lives.
The thing is if we find this difficult to do we are absolutely going to find listening and being present with our children quite difficult too. It actually is a skill to be an active listener and is something that doesn’t often come naturally to us (myself included).
Often to know how to do something we need to be taught or have a reference point to model and maybe we didn’t grow up with parents who were active listeners so we are just repeating generational patterns in poor communication passed down from our parents. Mix this into the equation with mobile devices, social media, tv and computer games then of course you’re going to be facing a lot of disconnect.
Ever felt unheard, unseen, unvalued?
Yep - Me too.
But we can’t receive what we aren’t giving so that’s why it’s down to us to us to learn the art of active listening so those in our company can really feel seen and heard.
How do you feel when you’re with a friend having a good conversation and they whip out their mobile phone to check their messages (and dare I say it maybe they are checking their facebook notifications?)
It instantly breaks rapport and it can become difficult to recalibrate.
Or how do you feel when you open up with your partner about something that is troubling you and they respond by telling you not to worry and that you’re just being a bit over sensitive?
You want to shut down and guard your deepest feelings which slowly leads you to a place where you don’t share your thoughts and feelings with them anymore.
And this is my biggest bug bear, how do you feel when you tell someone about some kind of suffering you went through, only for them to turn around and tell you about a time they experienced a similar or worser suffering?
Well, you just feel straight out unheard, like your experience is not important. Maybe you feel annoyed and like you can’t tell this person things in the future…
Now lets think of some interactions with our children and whether we are actively listening
“Mummy - I’m scared” - “No your not there’s nothing to be scared of. You’re fine.”
“Mummy - I’m hungry” - “You can’t be. You’ve just had dinner!”
“Mummy - I don’t want to wear that coat” - “You are wearing the coat whether you like it or not!”
“ Mummy - I want you to play with me” - “Not right now, I will later…” (continues tidying, washing up, cooking, cleaning… scrolling social media)
I’m recalling all of these scenarios from my own personal experiences (holds hands up guilty)
It is SO difficult to fully listen to our children as we are conditioned to dismiss what they are saying, after all they’re the children were the adults. Aren’t our thoughts, feelings, opinions more important than our kids?
Both children and adults should be deeply listened to. When our children tell us they are scared we shouldn’t be dismissing this. We should be exploring it. What are they scared of? Is scared the right word they have chosen? Is it something else? Is it there way of trying to get your focused attention?
When they tell you they are hungry after dinner - surely it’s possible to be hungry after a meal or am I the only one who still has hunger pans after a meal? Telling them they can’t be hungry when they are learning to communicate how they feel is only going to leave them feeling frustrated or maybe they will think it’s bad to still be hungry?
“Mummy I want to play with you” - is a child directly communicating a need, a want and a desire for connection. They couldn’t make it any more obvious. Us making the cleaning, tidying, scrolling social media more important then there bold request is going to leave them
Active listening is made up of 4 components:
Listen without judgment
Refrain from interrupting
Refrain from comparing
These components are crucial in active listening. Think about someone you know who is a great active listener. Maybe they are a great friend because of this because you feel heard, listened to, safe and understood. An active listener doesn’t jump in and interrupt, they don’t compare stories or judge. They are just deeply present and listen with intent allowing you to freely express.
Not only do active listeners make the greatest of friends but they also have great connections with their children. It really impacts the parent/child relationship when the child feels listened to without judging or interrupting.
Take a moment to think about what type of listener are you and find an opportunity in the next week to really actively listen and remember the 4 components of active listening.
Listen intently (with no interruptions, no phone in your hand, tv on etc),
Listen without judgement (don’t jump in and judge what you are hearing - “Sounds to me like…xyz” you’re not there to evaluate things)
Refrain from interruptions (the moment you’re thinking about what to say next is the moment you’ve stopped actively listening.
And lastly refrain from comparing (When someone tells you they’ve got the flu, don’t turn around and tell them all about your latest illness)
Active listening is covered in my new 10 Week Programme. If you want to become more attuned with your child and those around you and you want to create positive changes in your parent/child relationships then apply here to arrange a call with me.