If you find that communication with your child is either full of conflict or nearly impossible, you are not alone. Many parents struggle to communicate with their child, especially older children. Adolescents and teenagers, in particular, seem to block attempts to communicate or the conversation is full of conflict. Fortunately, there are ways to improve the communication relationship between you and your child using active listening techniques.
Why Active Listening?
Active listening can work for any relationship that requires communication because it encourages people to listen and then talk. The best way to have a conversation is to actively listen to what the other party is saying. When you listen and fully concentrate on what another party is saying, you fully understand them, can remember what they say, and respond accordingly.
It would seem that in most situations, poor listening skills is the cause for many failed communications. When one party fails to listen to the other party, it means no one understands what is being said. If no one understands the conversation in full, it can lead to unnecessary arguments and conflict. As a parent, you should understand exactly what it is your child has on his or her mind and listen to what is being said. Communication with your child is the key to a strong relationship.
Techniques to Try
Understanding the importance of listening techniques is half the battle. You need to know what techniques there are, how they work, and when to use them.
- Encouraging – An encouraging tone shows the person you are speaking to that you are interested in what they are saying and you would like them to keep talking. If you wish to use an encouraging tone, maintain neutral words and do not argue or disagree. An example of encouragement would be, “Could you explain more?”
- Clarifying – Use this method to clarify that you heard and understand what the other person said to you. When you are in this situation, ask the speaker questions or ask that they elaborate on what was said to further explain. You want to get as much detail as possible. For clarification, you could ask, “What happened to cause that?”
- Restating – Restating is another way you show the speaker you are actively listening. You use restating as a way of showing that you understand what the other person is saying, how they feel, or to make sure that you are understanding what they are saying in the correct manner. To restate, you can say something like, “So, you want this to happen because…, is that correct?”
- Reflecting – When you reflect, you are showing the speaker that you understand how they feel and you and why they feel that way. Reflecting gives you the opportunity to help the speaker evaluate his or her own feelings, too. Restate major points of what the person communicated, such as ideas, thoughts, and feelings. You could say something like, “So you are upset because…”
- Summarizing – Summarizing shows that you listened fully to the conversation, During the summarization, you are able to put everything together that you heard so the speaker knows that you actively listened for the duration of their part of the conversation. Summarizing also allows you to establish that you would like to further discuss everything. Restate major points and say something like, “From what I gathered, this seems to be what you expressed to me…, and I’d like to talk about that with you.”
- Validating – When you validate, you show the other person that their words and feelings have worth. You should make sure you acknowledge what the person said, how they feel, and the issues they are currently having. Show your appreciation, too. “I appreciate that you have done x to try to resolve y.”
When you practice active listening techniques, your child is better able to open up and communicate with you. You will find that by listening, your child is less likely to approach communication with conflict.
If you find that communication with your child is still an issue, get in touch with a therapist that can help. A therapist can assist you in finding different ways for the two of you to communicate more effectively with one another.
Monica Ramunda is a cognitive behavioral therapist with offices located in Louisville and Denver, Colorado for in-office visits. With a Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology and more than 16 years’ experience in therapy and counseling, Monica works as both a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and Registered Play Therapist (RPT) with adults and children respectively. Much of Monica’s success is based on her eclectic orientation and drawing on a wide range of different approaches and techniques all while remaining strongly grounded in the principles of Cognitive Behavioral Techniques (CBT).