Listening is almost a lost skill these days. People are living such busy, frenetic lives that families barely have time to touch base with each other, let alone have meaningful heart-to-heart conversations.
While parents are trying to juggle work, home and children as best as they can, the kids too are shutting themselves off in the virtual world of internet and electronic gadgets instead of engaging with their family, siblings and friends.
A bridge of communication has to be built, and parents have to be more proactive about interacting with their children in holistic, therapeutic ways.
To get the most out of any conversation you have with your kids, the first thing to do is consciously practice listening in a heart-love connected way. A child has to feel your non-judgemental, loving and supportive participation in a conversation before they feel motivated to open up and share their innermost thoughts, feelings, worries and emotions with you.
Good listening skills are advantageous in many ways to you as a parent as well:
1) Listening helps you build a strong parent-child relationship.
2) Listening reveals the child’s true perspective.
3) Listening is the first step towards problem-solving.
4) Listening proves you respect your child’s individuality.
5) Listening gives you a nuanced understanding of who your child really is.
6) Listening helps kids teach you how to raise them in the most unexpected ways.
To assist you in this journey towards better listening, we have put together a primer of listening tips that will be a great resource to any parent who is interested in using heart-love as a communication tool to listen, advise, guide and inspire their children towards self-awareness, self-appreciation and self-regulation:
# 1: Linger In Your Listening
• No matter if it is a positive or a negative event, linger in your listening, so children also take the time to pause and fully experience the feelings that accompany the event.
Understanding how they feel is the first big step towards processing and resolving issues with heart-brain intelligence on their own.
Using our emotional labeling practice with the Heart-Love Pillow is a very effective way to help them recognize a variety of good-feeling and bad-feeling emotions
# 2: Listen Without Interruption
• Don’t stop their thought flow by interjecting with questions, admonishments or advice. If you want to ask something, wait until after they have finished saying their piece. If you stop them mid-flow, a lot of things that need to come up, won’t.
# 3: Watch Your Body Language
• Even if you are not interrupting, you could be communicating a lot through facial expressions and body language. Work to maintain an interested but non-judgemental mien when children are pouring their heart out to you. This will further encourage them to talk more, share more.
# 4: Maintain Eye Contact
• Eye contact is a strong communication device. It encourages confidence because the other person is feeling your full attention on him/her. Even in social situations, people instinctively `like’ the person who maintains good eye contact. It creates an invisible bond and a feeling of camaraderie, and you should practice it more often with your children.
# 5: Don’t Complete Their Sentences
• Give them the freedom to say things in their own way. It is tempting to move the conversation along by completing their sentences, but by doing that, you’re unconsciously compromising their confidence and sense of individuality.
# 6: Listen Without Condescension
• The matter at hand might be a childish, inconsequential thing by adult reckoning. But to children, it probably feels like a nuclear bomb has just dropped into their lives. Don’t pooh-pooh such concerns or tell them to stop being silly and grow up. This will only make them think twice before bringing their problems to you in the future.
# 7: Listen With Humor
• Always use humor when possible. It helps children to lighten up and take a top-down view of a problem instead of over-personalizing and over-emotionalizing it. Humor is a very useful device – for both kids and adults – to keep life’s problems in proportion.
# 8: Don’t Multitask As You Listen
• Sure, there is a lot of work waiting to be done around the house, but listening to your children with full attention is also one of them. Don’t be dusting, cleaning or cooking while having meaningful conversations with the kids.
# 9: Do A Calming Activity Together During Conversations
• Going for a walk together or doing a craft project that the child enjoys – such calming activities help children drop their guard and be more open to sharing confidences.
# 10: Watch Your `Whys’
• A question that is prefixed with a why is often construed as a challenge. “Why did you…” immediately puts the child in self-defense mode. Try rephrasing the question in such a way that it sounds less confrontational. Even a “why do you think you….” is better than a “Why?” because the focus then shifts to an opinion and not an action that has be fearfully defended.
# 11: Don’t Correct Grammatical Mistakes
• This is not a good time to listen for language errors. Listen to your child’s heart instead.
# 12: Resolution Should Be A Joint Endeavor
• It is a natural instinct in parents to tell their kids what to do. But in this kind of heart-love listening exercise you have to keep your protective, parental opinions on hold, and encourage your child to work step-by-step towards a holistic resolution. Assist in that journey by all means, but refrain from jumping ahead with your full and final opinion.
# 13: Listen With Love
• No matter what the child is saying, make sure they feel your love and support at all times. No matter what mistakes they have made, it is your job as a parent to always be in their corner. Fix the problem together, with love, heart-brain awareness and a genuine desire to rectify the situation without blame or name-calling. Chances are, it will not happen again if the child is not ordered but inspired to change the things that need changing.
# 14: Finish A Difficult Conversation With The `I AM’ Practice
• At the end of every deep conversation, while the children are still in heart-love mode and feeling connected within themselves, practice the I AM affirmations with them. The practice has been described here.