Children love attention. They seek it out like it is a prize to be won. Parents talking on the telephone, trying to watch a movie, or trying to read without interruption are only a challenge in the child’s mission for attention. It is often tempting as parents to ignore a child’s quest for attention in order to teach them not to interrupt. However, active listening is a great way for parents to encourage healthy development and make children feel heard when they speak. As well, active listening can help resolve disputes between siblings.
Active listening can be easy for parents to practice. Instead of responding to your child’s accomplishments or conversation with a passing phrase such as, “Oh, that’s nice,” actually show your child that you are paying attention. Active listening can help children feel valued and heard.
Engaging in Imaginary Play
Your child might come to you and report that his or her toy snake bit her finger. Instead simply saying, “Ouch,” repeat what your child said. Say something along the lines of, “Your snake bit your finger? Does that hurt?” Engaging in pretend games by using active listening can help your child take charge and lead the game without direct adult interference.
Giving Feedback for Child Creations
Every macaroni necklace might not be a developmental milestone. In addition, some children will admit to rushing through creative projects to get praise. Encourage creativity by finding something to say other than, “WOW! This is GREAT!!!” Comment on different aspects of a painting or collage, such as what colors were used and what details you noticed in your child’s latest creation.
Settling Sibling Disputes
Use active listening techniques to act as a mediator instead of an authority during routine sibling arguments. Acknowledge feelings by stating them for both siblings. For example, you might give a short recap of the issue and how each child reported he or she felt. Do not be afraid to use words like “angry” or “mean.” Use the same language your children used in order to help them find a solution. As a mediator, you might have to move things along a little bit by offering several possible solutions and making sure each child had a chance to speak without being interrupted.
Your children might not come up with a solution as quickly as you could, so be patient. As an adult, you have had years of practice settling arguments over sharing and rules. Give your children a chance to resolve issues with appropriate mediation.
Showing Empathy and Caring With Active Listening
While it is almost impossible to cause irreparable emotional damage to a child by talking on the phone or reading a novel, you can show respect and empathy without sacrificing your life as an adult by practicing active listening.