Not hearing, listening: learning to listen to connect with our kids

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.”

— Larry King
Are you able to sit back and really listen to your kids?

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This Post Has 23 Comments

  1. Mez

    I absolutely love that quote by Larry King and this post is excellent. I just recently took my 3 year old daughter to a speech therapist as she’s been struggling with some of her sentences and it was a bit of a wake up call for me to stop and look at her and give her the time to say what she wants to. This is great advice. I think I will print it out and stick it on my fridge! Cheers, Mez

    1. Martine

      Thanks Mez, so glad you found it useful 🙂

  2. Lyndal

    oh i really like this – i think its the most important gift you can give to anyone, to really listen to them and really hear them. thankyou|!


    1. Martine

      It certainly is….we just get caught up in all the other ‘stuff’ sometimes and we can easily forget!

  3. I love this. I have so much trouble just stopping to spend time with my son sometimes. Although he’s still a bit young to really listen to and have a proper conversation (he’s 21 months) It’s definitely something to remember.

    1. Martine

      He may not be having a proper ‘conversation’ but he is certainly listening to you, so yes it is good to remember. Sometimes too at that age they spend a lot of time trying to make us listen in other ways when their language skills don’t let them tell us! Thanks Chrissie 🙂

  4. yvette

    I do have trouble stopping and listening to my daughter who I know thrives on my attention.. conversations with her are amazing. I must cherish them instead of dismissing them

    1. Martine

      Sometimes it is hard when we have so much going on to really listen…i guess it is about being aware and doing our best when we can 🙂

  5. Emily

    Great advice. No matter the age of your kids – my girl is only two, but I still need to remember to put down the tongs/phone/keys sometimes and just listen. x

    1. Martine

      Thanks Emily….yes putting down the phone is a good one! 🙂

  6. Mum of Adult Kids

    Great advice for communicating clearly in any relationship! Of course at the ages where it’s most important for parents to listen, kids generally stop talking. So good listening habits become all the more essentail, because opportunities are fleeting and tempermental teenagers don’t like to repeat themselves, or answer too many questions. 🙂

    1. Martine

      Absolutely…and yes definitely this applies to all ages. You are right also that as they hit those teenage years our listening must be even more in tune to catch them when we can! So again…best we set up these practises early 🙂

  7. Jess

    I get this. A lot of the time I am so busy doing stuff, I don’t take time to actually look at the kids, and then I realise it’s been days since I did.
    Definitely a timely reminder for me.

    1. Martine

      Thanks Jess, we can all use reminders every now and then 🙂

  8. Robyn (@slightly_deep)

    Great post! I think it is is so important to be the kind of parent that can listen and say nothing- especially when your child becomes a teenager!

  9. Tubbah

    Excellent post! Thankyou for sharing this. Sometimes we all need a little reminder. 🙂

  10. Lynch

    A good realization that everybody needs and deserves to be heard and listened to. 🙂 We have always thought that as parents, we are superior but sometimes, we just got to listen in order for the both parties to understand better and patch things up successfully. 🙂

  11. Alicia O'Brien

    Love the quote! Its going on my board. I love it to listen to my daughter, especially when she is excited about was she is saying.

  12. This is great advice. I find with teenagers you might be listening for a while, because it can take them a long time to say what they want to say. Also, occasionally, it can be useful to be turning a newspaper or driving in the car, as it takes the pressure off them to speak and they open up more. Listening is an art, as they say.

  13. Grace

    Another great post, Martine!
    Sometimes, when I’m singing a song with the twinlets, one (or both) of them will tell me to “Stop” And really, I think they just want me to listen to them sing.
    They’re only 2 and a half but they’re never too young for me to start listening to them. And I think I now is a great time to start working on the “eye contact” and asking them for advice.
    Again, you’ve made me think 🙂

  14. It is so incredibly difficult to just listen and a little selfish not to. We reply because we have an innate need to impart wisdom, but sometimes they just need to talk! There’s a post I’ve seen a few times about listening to your children when they’re young or they won’t try and talk to you when they’re older. Sounds pretty switched on to me 🙂

  15. mumspk

    I know it’s been while since you posted this, but I’m finally reading it and it’s great. I sometimes fall into the trap of thinking I know what my kids are going to say and getting it wrong. If we want our kids to listen to us we need to respect them enough to do the same for them. In fact I’ve just done a poster for kids all about using bodies to listen. You can check it out if you like on my FB page (perhaps I should have done one for myself as well!! 😉

    1. Martine

      Thanks, and loved the poster 🙂

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