Learn to Listen

In the 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families, Stephen R. Covey said, “One of the most effective ways to learn how to listen empathically is to simply change the way you see your role—to see yourself as a faithful translator. ”

Children today are very lonely. They have to fight for attention by doing outrageous things in order for their parents to listen to them. Teen suicide, drugs and school shootings are ways that children are calling out for help.

When parents don’t listen to their children they alienate them, and when children feel they are not being heard they won’t listen to what their parents have to say. Parents have to make time for their children in order for their relationships to grow stronger as their children get older.

Most children will tell you personal things if you let them. In most conversations with children, parents tend to ask questions about their own interests and fail to allow their children to talk about theirs. Active listening, or Rogerian technique (named after psychologist Carl Rogers), is a great listening tool for parents to use with their children. When parents repeat in their own words what their children have just said to them, they are letting their children know that they are being heard. When your children speak to you, give them your undivided attention. Remember that almost 80% of communication is non-verbal. It is very important to listen with your eyes and body, and to stay focused on what your children are saying to you.

Regardless of the age of your children, make family time a priority. Have one day a week when the family spends time alone—rent movies, barbecue or work on a project together. Let your children be a part of your life. The more time parents spend with their children, the more opportunity children have to talk. Teenagers especially need to talk about what is going on in their lives, but parents have to establish a connection with their children when they are younger.

In order to be happy in life, we have to care about others. All relationships are based on understanding and commitment. We need to learn how to identify and understand the feelings, the situations and the motives of others. We all need empathy— loads of it. The next time a friend or a loved one wants you to listen, don’t talk. Squelch your impulse to interrupt when they are confiding in you. Most people don’t want answers or advice; they just need to be heard.

By Maria Luisa Salcines is a freelance writer, and certified parent educator with The International Network for Children and Families in Redirecting Children’s Behavior and Redirecting for a Cooperative Classroom. Follow her on Twitter @PowerOfFamily or contact her at her Web site at www. redirectingchildrenrgv. org.