Listening to Your Child

Son whispering into father's earConnecting with and creating a stronger relationship with your children starts with listening to them. There are specific skills that a parent can master that can help to show your children that you care. Instead of arguments, listen and show your understanding while maintaining your position. By attending to them and inviting them to talk, you can take steps toward better communication and a great relationship.

Make Sure You Are Paying Attention

Carve time out of your day specifically to communicate with your youngsters, or set aside what you are working on for a few minutes. Make eye contact, turn toward your children, and get as close to their level as both of you are comfortable with. No need to stare.

Be aware that you are talking to another person. How does your body communicate that you are listening? Are your arms crossed, are you pulled away from them, or are you standing over them imposingly? Watch what their body language is saying to you. Use a natural vocal style; your voice often communicates your emotions.

Let Your Kids Start the Conversation

Inviting your children to talk to you is more than just vaguely asking them about their day, feelings, or what happened at school. Give your kids a chance to start the conversation by asking them what they would like to talk about today.

Listen to what they have to say, and remember silence is golden. When you say nothing, it allows them to fill up the space in the conversation with what they want to say and encourages them to keep talking. Give encouragement as they are talking and being open with you.

Remember that you want to be having discussions with your children regularly, not just when they are in trouble. If your children are comfortable talking with you, then even when they are in trouble they should still be comfortable talking with you about their problems. Use simple acknowledgement responses that show you are listening. “I see. Oh. Uh-Huh. Hmmm.”

Identify and Summarize Your Childrens’ Emotions

Listen for and name the feelings you think you hear from what your children are telling you. Respond to the emotions being expressed, and not the content of what is being said when you want to connect emotionally with your kids. How are they saying things? What is their body language? Identify the emotion: “Wow, you are really mad,” or “You are showing me how sad you are.”

When children share their sentiments, they are showing you trust. That trust helps to create a greater sense of connectedness that you and your children can share. Throughout your chat with your children, summarize and paraphrase what you have heard. Do not be a parrot and repeat what you have heard verbatim—just a quick sum of the ideas they are expressing. Providing a rundown of what you heard lets your children know you have been focused on their thoughts and emotions.

By modeling good listening behavior, you can teach your child to pay attention and stay focused during a talk with other people or at school. Remember that you can follow each of these ideas and reinforce the connection that you have with your children.

  • Be interested and attentive
  • Encourage talking
  • Listen patiently
  • Listen to nonverbal messages
  • Avoid dead-end questions
  • Observe signs
  • Reflect feelings
  • Summarize

© Copyright 2011 by Jeffrey Gallup. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Sandra

    May 2nd, 2011 at 7:22 PM

    Most parents I see have a routine something to talk to their kids-about school,food and a few other things.When I hear this I feel bad for the kids because they come home from school and when they do meet their parents they need to answer the same questions everyday.I believe this even hampers their creativity because they are not given a chance to speak about or explain about their day,about their feelings and everything. I just hope I can be a good parent a few years down the line.

  • Steve

    May 3rd, 2011 at 4:27 AM

    Taking a time out from your own day to listen to what your children have to say is such an important part of parenting. That teaches them very early on the value of communicating with one another and teaches them that parents are always there for them. Isn’t that what we all want?


    May 3rd, 2011 at 6:20 AM

    …And listening to your child will not only help them psychologically but will also make them a confident person who can stand up and put across his ideas and will improve their speech skills,if I’m not wrong :)

  • Jeffrey S Gallup LPC

    May 3rd, 2011 at 8:29 AM

    A good point is made, in asking your child a multitude of different questions. Being knowledgeable about all facets of their life is very important to them.

  • RE

    May 3rd, 2011 at 7:17 PM

    Although i knew that nonverbal communication is an important aspect of a conversation, I did not realize that it is equally important whole conversing with your little one too. FO they really have the ability to read body language like adults? Maybe realize whether you are really interested in the conversation or not?

  • Penny

    May 3rd, 2011 at 11:42 PM

    Yes I noticed that children have the abilitu to read body language and facial expression really early in thier lives. I suggests that some times parents also need the time out to relax. The best communications happen planned a good time of the day that children are nt tired or hangry. Active listening really helps your child get his point across

  • Hal

    May 8th, 2011 at 8:31 PM

    It’s amazing how many parents just refuse to listen to their kids and wonder why they grow up having problems. Lend them your ears, moms and dads!

  • Jacqueline

    May 10th, 2011 at 8:30 PM

    @Hal. I know what you mean! I find that the most common rifts in friendship and in families mostly boil down to a giant lack of communication. Not listening to them is just as bad as not talking to them if not worse.

  • Temperance

    May 11th, 2011 at 11:29 AM

    My mother was very, very guilty of interrupting me all the time. I would be halfway through a sentence and she would form an opinion and cut me off in the middle of it. I don’t think she even knew she was doing it half the time.

  • Roxie

    May 11th, 2011 at 8:02 PM

    This is where behavior problems start with children. It comes from the parents. If you’re rude to your kids, they will be rude to others. Children learn from their parents. This rudeness is in turn a poor reflection on you as neighbors will think you can’t raise your children to be civil.

  • Frances W.

    May 12th, 2011 at 7:33 PM

    If I’m chatting to a friend and they start saying “I see. Oh. Uh-Huh. Hmmm…” to me, I’m thinking “You’re only pretending to listen to me.” It’s the same for children as it is for adults. Better to ask questions to show that you’re listening to them and also understanding what they are saying.

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