Listen With Your Heart

Written by Elizabeth Pantley

Parenting advice guru, Elizabeth Pantley says don't let your child's words fall on deaf ears. Real listening helps children trust and believe in their own feelings.

Listening is a skill. It's not just a matter of picking up sounds, active listening involves an array of behaviors that express your attention, empathy and respect. Listening to your children in this way will go far toward convincing them of your unconditional love. Keep these guidelines in mind when your child has something important to say.


Drop what you're doing and listen if your child has something important to say.
Bend down to kid size to make better eye contact if necessary.
Model good listening skills for your children and they will listen better to you and to their peers.
Offer your child the opportunity to solve his or her own problems. It builds confidence and self-esteem.  
1. Maintain as much eye contact as your child seems comfortable with. Make body contact, such as a hand to the shoulder, if that seems appropriate. Parents often say they are listening, but half of their attention is somewhere else. You can't con a child this way. Typically, a few minutes of sincere, attentive listening is worth more than an hour of letting your child talk while you carry on with another activity.


2. Don't rush to jump in with solutions, ideas or lectures. Sometimes children just need a sounding board while they figure out exactly what they want to do.


3. Demonstrate that you're listening by asking appropriate questions and making "listening" sounds such as: "Hmmm," "Oh," "Really?" "Darn!" "Wow!"


4. Validate your child's fears and feelings. When our children come to us with negative emotions, it's tempting to minimize them: "Oh, don't worry about it." "There's nothing to be afraid of." These comments do more harm than good. It's important for children to learn to trust their own feelings and to listen to them. By brushing them off, you're giving your child the message that his or her feelings are wrong or unimportant. Validate your child's feelings instead with such comments as, "That sounds embarrassing." "It can hurt to feel left out."


5.Help your child to focus on possible solutions, rather than getting mired in the problem. If the situation isn't one that can be solved,  if it's a condition rather than a problem, encourage your child to express his or her feelings fully, and then move on.


Excerpted with permission by New Harbinger Publications, Inc. (from Kid Cooperation, How to Stop Yelling, Nagging and Pleading and Get Kids to Cooperate by Elizabeth Pantley copyright 1996)


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