It’s not always easy to listen to our kids. Sometimes they want to talk when we’re in the middle of doing something else. Or when we’re tired. Or when we’re rushing to go somewhere else. But if we want to know what’s going on in their heads and worlds and hearts, we have to listen when they’re willing to talk. And though I often forget, we have to try to keep our opinions to ourselves unless they are directly solicited. And even then, tread lightly.

Here are a few things I’ve learned. Or rather, a few things I am continuously learning, as I strive to be a better listener to my kids. As I strive to offer less input. As I strive to remember that they are them and I am me – each with our own needs, feelings, ideas and wants…

  • Take advantage of certain times of day when we know our children might be willing to share. Bedtime? Snack time?
  • When our children are talking about concerns, stop whatever we are doing and listen. Really stop. And turn our mind, body and spirit towards our child. If we give them half an ear, we will get half-hearted stories.
  • Express interest in what they are saying without being opinionated. This is a hard one especially if they are sharing something painful. We want to fix it. Make it better. But that’s not always what they want.
  • Listen to their point of view, even if it’s difficult to hear.
  • Let them complete their point before we respond. Even then, respond slowly. Check in with what they are really wanting. Ask if they want feedback or just an ear. And assume this will change from time to time.
  • Repeat what you heard them say to ensure that you understand them correctly.  Also, this way they know they are heard. Fully. Only then will we get the full story. If they feel dismissed in any way, they will dismiss us completely and instantly.
  • Talk to them about things going on in your world. By modeling this sharing, we can teach them how to share.

What tricks or tools of listening have you learned? As the parent of four, with the oldest now just shy of her teen years, I am seeking all the tools I can get.