A 2005 nationwide sample of one thousand teens ages twelve to nineteen were asked to assign letter grades to adults in twenty-four categories. Focus groups of teens then met in Washington, Los Angeles, and Chicago to explain the grades. More than 35 percent of teens surveyed gave poor grades (D's or F's) to adults for failing to listen and understand teens. How would your child grade your listening ability?
"You seem unhappy." This simple act helps your child know you are giving her your full attention, really trying to understand her, and interested in what she has to say.
Step Four: Provide Reassurance. End your talk with a response that conveys your support or appreciation: "I hope things work out." "That was really interesting." "I'm so sorry." "I'm here if you need me." "I enjoyed that." Wait to see if your child needs anything else: advice, a hug, reassurance. He'll be more likely to want to share his ideas and feelings with you because he knows you care and are giving him your full presence.
The best way I learned to listen attentively was not from a book but from my son Adam. He taught it to me when he was just two. Whenever we would talk, he had a habit of taking my chin in his hand and pulling my face toward him so that my eyes were directly in front of his face. His actions were crystal clear: Adam wanted my complete attention. The way he knew I was listening was by seeing my eyes exclusively on his eyes. That's what our kids want most—to know we're really listening and interested in what they have to say. Using active listening with our kids conveys that message to them.
To make sure you really master each lesson part, I recommend that you practice one or two—but no more—pieces per week. For instance: During the first week, tackle only the first part: Focus Fully. During the second week, continue practicing Focus Fully but also add the next piece, Offer Encouragement and Repeat Key Ideas. Then continue adding a new piece each week until by the end of the month you will not only have learned the whole lesson but also be more likely to use it in your daily family life.
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