By Michelle Rodriguez, Groove Contributor
Listening is listening, right? Well, not exactly. Listening has two subcategories: Passive Listening and Active Listening.
Active Listening is crucial to foster healthy relationships, including child-parent relationships.
Passive Listening is that moment when you're in a conversation and you don't pay attention to what the other person says. You might politely smile and nod your head to seem interested, but you don't ask questions or thoughtfully consider what the other person is saying. Active Listening, on the other hand, is listening done with intent and interest. When you actively listen, you only focus on what the other person has to say, not what you want to say. You ask questions and try to understand the situation entrusted to you. Active Listening is crucial to foster healthy relationships, including child-parent relationships, and healthy child development.
From ages birth to five, children experience rapid physical and emotional development. In just a few short years, children go from their only form of communication, cooing, and crying, to physical speaking. This period is valuable time for them to navigate how they will communicate their emotions and feelings. How parents perceive this communication plays a significant role in a child's emotional and physical development.
Here are a few ways you can practice active listening with your children to aid healthy development:
1. Look at your child: When your child speaks to you, look at them and let them know you are present. Show them there is no need to exhaust themselves and fight for your attention.
2. Observe your child's feelings: Try to understand what your child feels in that moment. Take note of his or her body language. Are they fidgeting a lot? Are they tense? Get an idea of what they may feel and ask about it. Try to use disarming language like, "Honey, you seem nervous. It's not wrong if you are. Can you explain what you are feeling?"
3. Use open-ended questions: Close-ended questions require a yes/no answer. Open-ended questions are inviting and allow your child to explain something in their own words.
4. Don't interrupt: If your child is telling you something, let them finish what they have to say. Resist the urge to jump in mid-sentence to correct them, give a fast-acting solution, etc. Show that you respect your child and allow them to be expressive. Furthermore, when you don't interrupt your child, you set a standard for them not to interrupt you or others.
5. Consider what they say: Your child may say something that does not make sense to you. Don't brush it off. Instead, participate in the conversation and ask them to clarify. Communication is both the act of actively listening and responding.
Actively listen to your child to improve communication between you two and to foster healthy expectations of how they should communicate with others.
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