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Listening 101

By Linda Sorkin, LFMT and Teen Life Coach with Soul Empowered Coaching
If your kids don't listen, don't blame them. Blame their teachers. Because you are the one your kids learn from, if your child is not listening, perhaps it's time for you to brush up on your listening techniques. Tweens and teens are like sponges and quickly mimic your behavior. At this age, your kids are old enough to have intelligent discussions about listening and how they (and you) can do a better job at home and in the classroom.

Your kids know if you're really listening or just sort of listening. So really listen by putting aside any other distractions and giving your child your full attention. Get into the habit of regularly asking their ideas and opinions. If you show them you are truly interested in what they have to say, they'll quickly become comfortable expressing their thoughts to you.

Parenting tips to help kids become better listeners:

  • Encourage talking. Simply asking your child about his day can initiate a conversation. Avoid dead-end questions that just require a yes or no answer. Instead, ask questions that require your child to describe, explain, or share ideas.
  • Extend conversation. Pick up on what your child has to say and respond to his or her thoughts by using some of the same words and ideas. That helps them build confidence in their verbal skills and lets them know they are being listened to.
  • Listen patiently. Don't cut children off before they have finished speaking. Don't interrupt. Let them have and express their opinions and resist the urge to reject theirs by interjecting your own. Listen respectfully to them, and they will learn to listen respectfully to you.
  • Listen with your eyes. Your child's body language can often tell you more than what's being said. That goes for tone of voice, too.
  • Know when to end. Pick up on signals from your child that they've lost interest and it's time to end the conversation for the time being. If it's something that needs further discussion, schedule a time.
  • Reflect feelings. Empathy is one of the most important skills of good listeners. Mirror your child's feelings by repeating them. By repeating or rephrasing what your child says, you can help him become more aware of his emotions.