One of the greatest — and hardest — parenting skills we can learn is to REALLY listen to our children. When I discuss the how’s of listening, or validation, most of my clients have the same reaction. They say “yeah, I’m already doing that, I don’t need to work on it.” When we role play with their child, however, we learn that the child doesn’t always feel heard.
Side note: you’ll get no judgment from me. My children say the same thing!
Reframing it to the parents using their own experiences can help them see their child’s perspective. Think about how you feel after talking with a friend who really listens to you versus one who jumps in to problem solve. We all have that friend who tells us “how it really is” or that they know “exactly how I feel” (even though their life is different). While our intentions are to be helpful, we come across as not listening.
The next time you listen to your child, try this:
- Be fully present. That means no cell phone, laptop, no distractions. Your child gets 100% of your undivided attention
- Listen to what they’re saying and respond to them in a way that lets them know you heard something about their experience. For example, you could say ‘I hear how upsetting that was for you to get cut from the play. I’m really sorry.”
- Refrain from problem solving or inserting anything about yourself. The goal is to put yourself in their shoes and get a feel for what they’re feeling like.
Remember that you don’t have to agree with them or their behaviors to connect with their feelings. This isn’t about our opinions. Kids want to feel heard and understood. Most of the time they don’t want our advice, especially teenagers.
Are you interested in learning more parenting skills? Maybe you have a specific area you’d like to discuss? Contact me today.