Dr. V.S. Gayathri
Are You An Active Listener To Your Child?
Updated: Jul 1, 2022
Listening is often the only thing needed to help someone.
You might wonder whether just by listening, you will be able to help someone. Well, you can. Lending an ear to hear someone out often helps the person to resolve the situation or understand it in a different perspective. Parents ought to be good listeners to their children. During their years of growing up, young minds are clouded with many queries, information and emotions. And, parents are the most reliable source to whom they can turn to.
Let us take an example:
You pick up your daughter from preschool. She tells you that her friend took her favourite to which made her sad and she was crying. You show her that you are actively listening and tell her that you know why she is sad. She says that she thinks her friend will damage the toy. You respond by saying, “So you are scared that your friend might damage your toy?” This might calm her down a bit. Both of you continue to talk, and she knows that it is okay to be upset. She just started to learn how to label and cope with her feelings by talking to someone.
Active listening is one of the most important ways to build a close and loving relationship.
A study they published last month in the journal Psychological Science found that young 4-, 5- and 6-year-olds who engaged in more conversation at home had more brain activity while they were listening to a story and processing language. And, for a good conversation, listening is very important.
Let us understand why actively listening to your child is important.
a) Helps them to express freely: This is the time when they can be themselves and express their thoughts and emotions freely. They can talk about what they feel.
b) Creates trust and bond: Listening and conversing create a bond between the child and parent. This encourages then to open up to you. Most importantly, always model what you expect from your child.
c) Builds their self-esteem: Since they can express their thoughts, they feel that they are important to you. This helps to improve their self-confidence and build their self-esteem.
However, in reality, we often see a deviation from this like often parents do not actively listen to their child due to different reasons.
According to a study, around 62% kids say that their parents are distracted when they are trying to talk to them. This survey was to gain their insights on parental distractions, school, and extracurricular activities. When asked what distracts their parents, cell phones (28%) were the top response, followed by siblings (25%), work (16%), and TV (13%). Summing up, technology – phones, TV and laptops – accounted for 51% of the responses.
Here are some of the active learning skills that the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recommends:
1. Stop what you are doing and focus your attention exclusively on your child.
2. Engage in eye contact when speaking.
3. Get down to your child’s level physically. If your child is sitting down, sit down too.
4. Reflect or repeat back what you understand your child to be saying to make sure that you completely understand it.
5. Don’t worry about getting things wrong. It is more important that you are listening and trying to understand.
We will talk about method known as SOLER which gives some guidelines for improving your active listening skills. This method, devised by Gerard Egan is often used in counselling. It is a non-verbal listening process used in communication, and a key skill taught to counsellors as part of their training.
Let us see what it means.
S: Sit SQUARELY- Sit in a position where you can see the child completely and vice versa.
O: Maintain an OPEN posture at all times- Not crossing your arms or legs which can appear defensive. Your posture should be welcoming to the child.
L: LEAN slightly- This improves focus and the child understands that you are there to listen to them without any distraction.
E: Maintain EYE CONTACT- Avoid staring, rather give a comfortable look so that they feel secure and feel that you are not angry with them.
R: RELAX- This also helps your child to relax and gather his/her thoughts properly. This is very important for them to express freely.
So, take time from your busy schedule and engage in the SOLER method to listen to your child. This will always help you to create a better bond and understanding. This also leads to healthy relationships and better development for your child.