Listening skills are something that a lot of us could do with improving, whether it’s dealing with children or other people. But in this article I’m going to concentrate on improving your listening skills as a parent. The plus side of this is that it will improve your relationship with your children, which is one of the big reasons you had them in the first place.
Active listening is a skill that we need to learn.
If you’ve never come across the term before, it means putting your full attention on to what the other person is saying.
Which sounds simple but we almost never do it.
Most of us use the time when the other person is talking to run through what we’re going to say next.
Actively listening means using the time the other person is speaking – your child in this instance – to actually listen to what they’re saying.
If you’ve not done this before, try it. You’ll be amazed at how much information you hear when you do it.
Chances are that – even without reading between the lines of what’s being said – you’ll pick up all sorts of things that you’ve previously missed. Which, in turn, you can use to strengthen your relationship with your child.
In fact, even just concentrating on what’s being said will help, especially if your child has sometimes accused you of never listening to them.
It changes the dynamic.
Suddenly, they realise they’re being listened to and that you really do care about them. Which makes a big difference!
Spend quality time with your child
Too often, once children start to grow up, we spend less and less quality time with them.
After all, there are so many other things going on.
Maybe your life has got busier as work has changed.
Definitely your child’s life has got busier. It’s a juggling act to fit in everything they need to do – school work, after school activities, clubs, groups like Scouts and Guides, visiting grandparents, maybe swapping between parents if the two of you aren’t getting along too well nowadays, etc.
Set aside some time to spend some quality time with your child.
That doesn’t mean the time you spend driving them from A to B.
It doesn’t mean the “did you like the meal” ten second chat after sharing a meal together.
It means actual face to face time when neither of you urgently have something else to do.
So it probably won’t happen very often. And, left to its own devices, it will probably only happen a handful of times a year.
Sometimes it will happen spontaneously – you need to be very aware of this possibility and you should take advantage of this when it happens.
You probably won’t be able to diarise spending quality time with your child in the same way as you would other activities. And you don’t want quality time to seem like a chore for either of you.
But you need to work it into both your schedules. So maybe the first chat is scheduled and you both agree to actively look for an opportunity to have a few minutes of quality time with each other each week.