As parents it is our role to give advice, to solve problems to answer questions and to be a guiding light. But sometimes our kids just want us to listen. To open our minds and not talk back, answer, judge, condemn, condone or advise.
It’s pretty hard sometimes to just listen. I was reminded of this by my 10 year old when he said to me recently…”Mum can you just listen and say nothing?”.
Easier said than done when you feel you have all the answers! He did want me to say something eventually, but he wanted to make sure he was really heard first. He needed to know that I understood the situation from his perspective.
I started thinking back to when I was studying for my counselling degree and some of the techniques we were taught to help people share their inner most thoughts. Maybe I should be applying some of those to my kids to ensure they will come to me when they need an ear? As the years go on, and they have things they need to be heard, I want them to know that I will guide and support them through these times.
I want my kids to know that I can just listen. So….
To be a good listener you need to:
Give that person your full attention. Look them in the eye. Stop typing on your computer. Stop stirring the sauce. Stop turning the pages of the newspaper. Look at them and focus.
Let them know you understand what they are saying by putting it in your own words (when they have finished!) This way you make an attempt to see a situation from their perspective and to walk in their shoes. i.e. “so you are saying that….”
Clarify with the use of questions to be sure you are getting their meaning right. i.e. “so the reason you feel this way is because….?”
Ask them if they need advice. Look at all the options together and help them come to their own conclusions.
It sounds simple and probably much easier when you are counselling children to whom you are not biologically connected. But it is certainly a valuable tool for all parents to implement.
This is not to say that every time they talk we have to stop what we are doing and give them our full attention. It is not to say that there are not times when we need to speak over the top of them! And it is not to say that sometimes they must take our advice, our rules and our guidelines. But we must really listen for the times when they are asking to be heard.
“I remind myself every morning: Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening.”