Updated: Jun 19, 2020
The first strategy to improve your listening skills is to ask “curiosity” questions. Asking curiosity questions is helping your child develop critical thinking skills by asking them questions such as, “What happened? What is your perception of why it happened? How do you feel about it? How could you use this information next time?” These questions replace telling your child the what, how, and why of a situation. Telling your child what, how, and why teaches them what to think, not how to think.
The second strategy to improve your listening skills is to practice reflective listening. Your job is to reflect back to your child what you hear as he describes a situation. When reflecting back to your child it is best to use words that are a little different from your child’s so you don’t sound like a parrot, but do stick closely to what your child is saying. Here is an example from the book, your child says, “I hate Karen.” You say, “You hate your best friend?” Your child says, “Yes because she talked about me behind my back.” You say, “She said something to others that she wouldn’t say to you?” Your child says, “Yes.” At this point, you could say, “I’m glad you told me how you feel. Would you like a hug?” This would be more effective than either trying to fix the situation or giving a lecture on how your child should try to be friends and forgive and forget. By not trying to fix the situation and practicing reflective listening you are allowing your child to be heard without judgment and to learn on his own.
The third strategy to improve your listening skills is to develop a feeling vocabulary. The first step in helping your child learn about feelings and develop emotional intelligence is to listen to your child’s feelings without trying to explain them away or fix them. If your child is acting out a feeling instead of stating the feeling, that is, having a temper tantrum instead of talking about what he is angry about, you can help your child identify the feeling by naming it. When helping your child identify the feeling she is feeling it is important to use feeling words. Feeling words are words such as happy, sad, mad, surprised, fearful, and disgusted. Here is an example from my life, The other day my son wanted to watch a tv show, but he wasn’t able to at that time. I told him that he could watch the show later. He yelled and threw the remote. I said, “Oh, are you mad that you don’t get to watch your show? Do you need to take a break?” He shook his head and started crying. Then he took a break in his room, calmed down, and started doing another activity.
The fourth strategy to improve your listening skills is to listen with your lips closed. When your child is talking to you, you can avoid lecturing or taking over the conversation by listening with your lips closed. Your child will talk more when you talk less, and instead sprinkle the conversation with expressions such as, “Hmm,” and “Uh-huh.”
The final strategy to improve your listening skills is to use “I Notice Statements.” Instead of asking set up questions, which are questions that you already know the answers to you can use “I notice” statements. Instead of asking, “Did you do your homework?” or “Did you brush your teeth?” You can say, “I noticed you didn’t do your homework. What is your plan for getting it done?” This way you are teaching your child to problem solve and finish the task without getting into a power struggle.
By asking curiosity questions, practicing reflective listening, developing a feeling vocabulary, listening with your lips closed, and using “I Notice” statements, you can improve your listening skills and increase your communication with your child, thus creating a deeper, more positive relationship.