5 Ways to Be a Good Listener to Your Kids

When a sound wave travels through the ear canal, it vibrates the eardrum, which causes three tiny bones to quiver, which jiggles the inner ear fluid. Tiny hair cells then convert the wave into an electrical signal to the brain, which filters different sounds into recognizable patterns. It sounds pretty complicated, doesn’t it? Yet this is how humans hear.

But how do we listen? Well, listening then takes the recognized pattern, concentrates on its meaning, and asks follow up questions. It may even repeat what was said for clarification. Make no mistake about it. Hearing is a biological miracle, but listening is an acquired skill. Here are 5 ways to be a good listener to your kids.

1. Be interested and attentive.

Children can tell whether they have a parent’s interest and attention by the way the parent replies or does not reply. Forget about your phone and other distractions. Maintain eye contact to show that you really are with the child.

2. Encourage talking.

Some children need an invitation to start talking. Children are more likely to share their ideas and feelings when others think they’re important.

Listen to your kids as though you have plenty of time.

3. Listen patiently.

People think faster than they speak. Children often take longer than adults to find the right word. Listen to your kids as though you have plenty of time.

4. Hear children out.

Avoid cutting children off before they have finished speaking. It is easy to form an opinion or reject children’s views before they finish what they have to say. It may be difficult to listen respectfully and not correct misconceptions, but respect their right to have and express their opinions.

5. Listen to nonverbal messages.

Many messages children send are communicated nonverbally by their tone of voice, their facial expressions, their energy level, their posture, or changes in their behavior patterns. You can often tell more from the way a child says something than from what is said. When a child comes in obviously upset, be sure to find a quiet time then or sometime later.

Are you a good listener?

According to research on listening skills, being a good listener means focusing attention on the message and reviewing the important information. Parents can model good listening behavior for their children and advise them on ways to listen as an active learner, pick out highlights of a conversation, and ask relevant questions. Sometimes it helps to “show” children that an active listener is one who looks the speaker in the eye and is willing to turn the television off to make sure the listener is not distracted by outside interference.

Sound off: What do you think makes a person a better listener?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What makes a person a good listener? Why do you think it’s important?”