What Is Active Listening?

By Richard Asa @RickAsa
July 07, 2016

Active listening is a communication method that establishes trust and your kids’ willingness to tell you their concerns and problems.

In a perfect word, your kids would always tell you what’s bothering them. But in our imperfect world, it takes parental skills and patience. 

The only way to know what’s bothering your kids is to actively listen, not just nod your head and act as though you’re hearing everything. What is active listening? It establishes trust and your kids’ willingness to communicate their concerns and problems. 


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To be a good listener, you have to know what you child is really saying. To do that, try a four-step process in which you restate the problem, ask if you correctly understand the problem, ask you child for her solution to the problem, and offer your own solution if there is one, says For Dummies

While you listen, you should always look your child in the eye, show genuine concern, and never treat the problem as insignificant. In your child’s world, her problem could be the most important issue she is facing. 

Other suggestions include waiting until bedtime to have a heart-to-heart chat. With the light dim and you sitting on the edge of the bed, your child is more likely to feel relaxed and will open up to what concerns him. 

Also, if you more than one child, consider making an appointment with each child sometime during the day. That communicates that you want to be available and will make sure that each child has your undivided attention for that period of time. Devoting time to you kids helps build relationships. 

Try being positive and uplifting. You are talking about a problem your child has, but it doesn’t have to be doom and gloom. 

Lighten up the atmosphere a little by seeing the humor in your everyday relationship with your kids. Practice smiling, which is uplifting for anyone in any situation. You may even want to consider what you’re going to say during your nightly appointment. 

“Remember that the length of time you meet with each child isn't the important part,” says For Dummies. “The quality of your time together and how well you listen is what really counts.” 

Listening definitely isn’t as easy as it sounds. You might find that your child disagrees with your point of view, or you simply might hear something you don’t want to hear. It could challenge your own belief system, or makes you question what you believe. You may even hear something that will make you want to change, says Family Education


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“Listening to your child's perspective will teach you a lot. Kids are smarter than most grown-ups think, and they generally know what they need,” Family Education says. “Listen to your kids, and they will teach you how to raise them.”

If you want your child to listen to you, listen to your child first. The true story could take a while to emerge – that’s where patience and some time come in. If you get frustrated, count to 10 in your mind but don’t ever pop your cork. You’re sending the wrong message that will create a hot-headed kid.

Practice listening by staying in the moment. You probably have 100 different things vying for your attention, but during that time with your child, be there completely. 

That’s a basic requirement because “until she learns how to listen to you; it's the same as telling your problems to the bathroom mirror — no matter how eloquently you express yourself, nobody will be hearing you but you,” says Family Education. “A child who is listened to learns how to listen in return.” 

If you have more than one child, remember that each is a distinct personality. You may have one who has no problem telling you about her day, so much so that you have to slow her down to separate the wheat from the chaff. On the other hand, you may also have the classic grunter whose reticence is a challenge, but not insurmountable. 

One aspect of two-way communication is a must. You have to be available at all times. Even while you’re trying to figure out how to listen to your budding socialite or caveman, you have to be there when they need you, grunts and all. 

“Be especially sensitive during times when your child searches you out to talk,” Ruth A Peters, PhD, tells the Today Show. “Even if your kids have the uncanny knack of uncorking their emotions in the middle of your important phone calls, take the time to listen. I know that it may be inconvenient to break from your thoughts or work in order to pay attention, but if you don’t take advantage of the moment, you may not have it again.”

Trust your kids to be involved in family decisions and respect what they have to say. No matter when they decide to open up, stop what you’re doing, listen to them, and take it seriously. 


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February 27, 2020

Reviewed By:  

Janet O’Dell, RN