Listen to more than your child's words
Earn your child's trust by developing open, effective communications with your child. Communicating with your child is a two-way street. As the parent, you must be able to talk, but you must also be a great listener. Hear both the description of events that your child is communicating but also tune into and acknowledge the emotions your child is feeling. You create the security and trust needed for effective, open parent-child communication when you allow your child to express herself fully, focus completely on your child, listen, and respond by addressing both the content (“this is what happened”) and the emotions (“this is how it made me feel”) of what your child is telling you.
Start listening to and communicating with your child early on. This will serve you both well during your child's teens years, when communication may become more difficult – your child will know she can come to you with anything and you will listen and help her solve the problem effectively.
When communicating with your child…
- Focus and listen to your child. Effective listening is not a passive activity but a very active one. Being a good parent means being a great listener.
- Respect your child as the authority in his or her life experience.
- Listen to and understand your child's perception and understanding of situations and people.
- By understanding your child's experiences, perspective and temperament, you can better know your child and better help your child make the right decisions, interact well with others and build self-esteem.
- Understand both the content (“this is what happened”) and the emotions (“this is how it made me feel”) your child is communicating.
- Respond to both the content and the emotions your child is expressing.
- Acknowledge your child's emotional reaction by saying things like “That sounds frustrating” or “I bet that hurt your feelings.”
- Identify and reflect the feeling back to your child.
- Know that anger is a default reaction for children and teens—your child may not be angry, but hurt or sad and expressing it through anger.
- Talk to your child about what is going on and identifying your child's true emotion.
- Help your child work through the situation and control that anger by recognizing how he or she is truly feeling.