How to Listen to Your Kids

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Listening To Your Kids


After writing and thinking about the post titled Listening with Interest I thought of more to say on the topic:

I have spoken with some parent friends who worry that their child is not talking to them enough. Not telling them about their day, their friends, and most importantly if anything is troubling them. I think the important thing is to get them talking to you from the very youngest age and then keep them doing it.

I once saw a funny Woody Allen movie in which a psychiatrist is talking to him while he is lying on a sofa. The neurotic Woody is rattling on about relationships which are troubling him, and in the pauses of his drawn-out monologue the psychiatrist inserts a brief emotionless “uh ha” or “and how did that make you feel?”, or “and how did you respond to that?” or “and what did you think then?”

In the context of the movie it was funny of course and, although I don’t really know how a psychiatrist or therapist operates, there is certainly some value in that technique when it comes to listening to children. You don’t need to say very much at all, just demonstrate that you are listening, concentrating and thinking about what they are saying.

Often, very often, that will be all you need to do. Just listen and where appropriate add in a “tell me more” or a “wow, you had quite an eventful day”. But sometimes, you will need to offer direct guidance. You may need to try to explain the reason why a friend treated your child tersely. You may need to explain that there was no need for your child to get angry in the described situation. Or you may need to tell your child that he could seek guidance from a teacher next time something similar happens.

Always make sure you have got the story straight. That you understand clearly what happened and try not to pass judgement too quickly, but guide him towards the right answer so that he can feel that he has understood how the situation came about, the correct response to the situation and what could be done next time to steer it towards a better outcome.

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