Clinica Sierra Vista WIC

Fine Communicating

by Michael E. Kirk, PhD
Dr. Kirk is a local clinical psychologist, father and grandfather, who specializes in working with families, adolescents, and children.

Parents will often remark during parenting sessions that “my child never listens to me.”  That remark is often worse than it sounds. When a parent has reached a place where it seems that the child is no longer listening, the problem is serious. As a parent, you must decide what it is you want later on with your child and start planting the seed today. Think of the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you wish them to do to you.

The first trick is to be available for your children when the situation arises. Be careful to note when it is that your child is most likely to be talking about things such as school, peers, or activities and really listen. Listening means just that. You are not criticizing (You did that?), judging (That wasn’t the right way to do it.), or problem-solving (I would have done it differently.). You are LISTENING.

Begin the conversation with your child and say: Tell me the most horrible thing that happened today. Or: If this day could have been better, what might have happened? Then, allow yourself to really listen to your child. Magically two things will happen:

1. Your child will actually feel as if she is important to you.

2. Your child will keep talking.                                                                                     

It is important that you find time for a one-on-one activity with your child each week with no interruptions. Learn your child’s interests and express interest in that. You can begin conversations with your child by sharing what you have been thinking about rather than beginning a conversation with a question.  Young people despise that technique, like “What are YOU so mad about?” You might say instead, “I’ve been thinking that maybe I was a little too grumpy this morning.  Any thoughts on that?” Allowing your child to see what you think may be a good opener for her to comment. Then listen, don’t judge or deny, and answer with an “uh-huh” or “okay.” It is not important that you agree, just that you listen.  

It is imperative to let your children know you’re listening. So, when your child starts talking, stop what you are doing and LISTEN. Even if this is difficult material to listen to, you need to listen; because your child is living it, and your listening is supporting your child. Express interest in what she is saying without being intrusive. Allow your child to finish without interruption.  This technique will encourage her to keep talking to YOU. Briefly repeat back what you have heard your child say without the “you shouldn’t have said that” advice.  This allows your child to recognize that you have heard her correctly and makes her feel understood and respected. That is a good payoff for listening to her.

Then, be careful with your response, if any; because a child will tune you out, if you become angry or defensive. Express your opinion while acknowledging that her position is okay. Refrain from any type of argument about who is right (Don’t you think the teacher was right though?) and put the spotlight on what it seems your child’s feelings were about the situation. Realize that your child may test you by telling you a small part of what is bothering her. If you listen carefully to what she is saying and encourage her to talk with your “uh-huh” remark, she may share the rest of her story.

Listening is the key to a successful relationship with your child. Listening to your child will create a bond between you and her that will result in her learning to listen to you, too. She will listen to you, because you have listened to her without judgment or criticism. Just remember the Golden Rule, and you will be communicating just fine.

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Tags: Featured Story, Tweens & Teens

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