How to Listen to Your Child (PBTR Part 7) – ETB #121

I’ve worked with kids from little ones to college kids for over 30 years. The number one complaint I hear from parents is: “My kids don’t talk to me!” On the other side, the number one complaint I hear from kids is: “My parents don’t listen to me!” You want our kids to talk to you, but do you know how to listen to your child?

How to Listen to Your Child (PBTR Part 7) - ETB #121

In this seventh episode in a series on Parenting Beyond the Rules, I am sharing steps to improve how you listen to your child. The focus is on you as the parent and how you can be a better listener for your child. Listening will show your child that you are trustworthy and available to them.

Be fully present. Nothing is worse than trying to talk to someone and they are trying to multitask. I know you can’t always drop everything to listen. In those cases, be honest about when you can be available and then follow through on that time. If you ask your child to wait five minutes, make sure you’re ready for them in five minutes. Set a timer on your phone if you have to. You are building trust when you follow through on your word.

Ask how much time is needed. When you ask your child if this is a quick thing that they want to share or whether this is a more in-depth conversation that you need to block out more time for in your schedule, it can show that you care and are interested in them.

Be an active listener. Even if you’re talking with your child over something like dinner prep, make sure they know you’re listening. Make eye contact. Ask questions.

Show interest in their friends and activities. When you show interest in their friends, your child will feel valued. They want to know that what matters to them also matters to you.

Use the routine questions to segue into the deeper topics. Ease into the deeper conversations. Meaningful conversations usually start with seemingly unimportant questions and segue into more important topics that are weighing on your child’s mind and heart.

Find the time. Listening requires time. You just have to find the time. If you’re always busy or preoccupied, your child will go to someone else. I don’t know about you, but I at least want to be on the list of the top 5 people (preferably higher!) that my child goes to for wisdom and counsel. That requires time.

Be slow to talk. Make sure that your child, especially an adult child, actually wants your advice before you start giving it. Don’t get offended if your child doesn’t want your advice. Some kids need a safe place to discuss what’s bouncing around in their heads. Some kids are external processors. Then they will go back and think. You can ask leading questions to help them process without giving them the answers or forcing them to come to a conclusion or plan right away.

Watch your reactions. Don’t overreact when your child comes to you, especially when they come with something shocking. Control your mouth and your body language. Ask the Lord to give you the wisdom to have this self-control and to know when it is ok to interject.

When your kids know that you’re available and that you believe in them, they will keep returning to you to talk. It’s a long process to build this trust and come to this kind of relationship with your child. We have two ears and one mouth; so, we should be doing twice as much listening as we do talking. When you treat your child with this kind of respect, you are modeling good listening to them so they can also become better listeners.

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How to Listen to Your Child (PBTR Part 7) - ETB #121