The most precious gift we can offer anyone is our attention.
~Thich Nhat Hanh
One of the ways we feel valued as human beings is when we feel truly heard by others. Now that doesn’t mean someone just hears what we say and agrees just to move on to the next thing. It’s when someone really listens and understands what we have to say. How often do you do that with your loved ones, especially your children? How often do you sit down, look in their eyes, and have an actually conversation with them? I know for me I spend a lot of time barking orders and if I do listen it’s about their day or how soccer practice went or how they did on a test. I’ve decided to develop a different approach and actually get to know my son as a person, who he is not what he does.
One thing I’m going to do is practice reflective listening. The main idea is to try to understand what the person is trying to communicate to you and then to “reflect” the idea back to the person to make sure it’s understood. This is a great way to communicate with children because you can make them feel heard and figure out what they are really trying to say instead of trying to mold their ideas into what you feel they should be.
First, sit still and listen. If you interrupt or fidget it will indicate you’re not really interested in what they have to say. Second, make eye contact and nod your head and say encouraging things to show you’re paying attention like “mmm,” “uh huh,” and “go on.” When there’s a break in their speaking, try to sum up what they’ve said in your own words-this is the reflective part and is very important. You will keep them opening up to you if you show you understand what they’re saying. Don’t push or dig for information, give them space to confide in you. Make sure you don’t criticize, that shows you’re judging not listening and understanding which will make them feel as if they can’t confide in you!
Reflective listening goes a long way in satisfying your child’s need to be listened to and understood. It will help you build a stronger bond with them and will teach them how to listen to others, including you! I’ve decided to set aside 15 minutes a day after school to look in my son's eyes reflectively listen to him. I can't think of anything more important on my to-do list than building a connection with my guy.
How much time will you set aside to try this with your kids? Do you think this is a valuable idea?