Communication: How to Listen to Your Child

Most of us are taught that feelings of anger, fear and disappointment are wrong or inapprorpriate, and should not be expressed.  It is because of this that many parents or teachers do not know how to handle these feelings when the child expresses them.  What happens is that the situation can become awkward when the parent takes on a specific role such as:

The Know-it-all:  Parents / Teachers don’t give the child any credibility, because they feel that the child does not have the life experience to make rational decisions.  When you try to show the child that you’ve been traveling down the road of life far more than he/she has, and thus have all the answers, it sends a message to the child that his opinion is not valued, and he feels demeaned.  Children see things differently, and sometimes have a wider understanding of things than we give them credit for.   Don’t think you have all the answers.  If you disagree, respectfully disagree.  You might say, “honey, I see your point, but for your consideration what do you think of this idea……”

The Critic:  This is the type of parent who likes to be right, and relies on ridicule, sarcasm and jokes to put the child down and validate himself/herself.

The Consoler:  This type of parent wants to excuse himself from involvement by treating the child’s feelings lightly.  This type of parent may console by offering a pat on the back and the pretense that there is nothing really wrong which doesn’t address the child’s anxieties.

Knowing that parents who play these roles do not do so out of maliciousness, but with the best of intentions, it’s time to re-evaluate your strategy if you find yourself falling into one of these roles.

The type of communication you are aiming for is based upon mutual respect, which means that children and parents allow each other to express their beliefs and feelings honestly without fear of rejection or ridicule.  Even if you don’t agree with your child, you can demonstrate that you accept their feelings if you show acceptance through your tone, the kind words you use and a posture that says, “I’m listening.”

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