What kind of response do you get when you ask your child about their day?
Or when you try to find out if something’s bothering them?
Or get the inside scoop on what happened at the party?
Do their words come spilling out, or do they shut you down, look out the window, or change the subject?
You’re eager to learn your child’s innermost thoughts. You want to know what’s going on in their world. You especially want to be the first to find out if something’s not right.
And you should.
Your child should think of you as their confidant—the safe space where they can share whatever’s on their minds and in their hearts.
You don’t want them to be confiding in someone else who might not have the kind of influence you deem appropriate.
So just how do you get your child to WANT to open up? It starts with getting the timing right.
I will tell you a secret.
The best time to find out things about your child’s life is when you’re talking to them at night.
Why? Because they want you to stay!
They want your company.
Here’s another secret:
If you listen, they will talk. And you can find out some very important things about your children and their lives.
This may go completely counter to what you’ve thought until now. I know it did for me.
When I used to tuck in my daughter Britney at night and she would tell me a story, very often I would interrupt her and give her my take on things or impart some words of wisdom.
Then I read something about the importance of listening, and I realized that I was missing a key opportunity to connect with my child.
By talking too much, I was pre-empting Britney’s desire to talk! I wasn’t giving her space to form her thoughts and share them.
When I realized that my talking was getting in the way of Britney’s talking, I immediately tried a different tactic.
I started to really listen, and what happened fascinated me.
Britney would tell me something, and then she would stop. This time, instead of rushing in with my view or advice, I wouldn’t say anything. Or I’d just say “hmm” or “wow.”
To my delightful surprise, she would start talking again, and she would tell me more. The more I listened, the more she talked.
As soon as I jumped in, bam! That was it. She clamped up.
There was big payoff whenever I kept my mouth shut, including finding out things that she probably wouldn’t have told me if I had interrupted—like the time she came home from a party and told me one of her friend’s moms smoked a pipe with the kids.
Here again, instead of jumping in with my racing thoughts, I contained myself and just said, “Really?”
This gave me an opportunity to have a conversation where she told me how she felt about what had happened.
I tell you, it all came from me being quiet.
Often, listening will solve seemingly unresolvable difficulties with your child.
One of my clients, Joan, had a daughter who started refusing to go to school. She would say:
“I don’t want to go to school! Why do I have to go to school? What is the big deal if I stay home today?”
What would you do if your child was doing this?
You would not be alone if you started trying to reason with her and tell her she absolutely must go to school.
That’s what Joan would normally do, too. She would have cut her off and argued, and it would become about forcing her to go to school.
But after working with me, Joan decided to just listen.
The more she listened, the more her child ranted. At some point, she just blurted out that the teacher was really mean to her and pushed her.
So Joan found out why her daughter didn’t want to go to school. She was then able to empower her daughter and help her do something about it.
Listening to your child—really listening—can do so much more than talking.
And listening when it’s hard to listen can do wonders.
For instance, what would you do if your child said, “I hate you?”
Would you feel the urge to correct him or talk him out of his feelings? The problem is that when you resist feelings and tell people they don’t feel what they feel, it makes them feel it even more!
In Module 5 of my audio program Parenting That Empowers, I’ll teach you my favorite communication tool for dealing with difficult moments like this. You will be stunned when you see how quickly angry feelings disappear, and how your child immediately feels more connected to you. (You can actually use this tool with everyone in your life—I do.)
When a child feels heard, seen, and validated, they grow up believing that they matter. They do not become adults who keep quiet for fear of being shut down. And they do not enter unequal relationships that cause them pain.
Practicing effective listening with your child not only gives you the critical information you need and deepens the bond you share, but it sets your kid up to succeed in life.Let Them Learn To Have A Voice
You can have a rich, wonderful relationship with your child, and you don’t have to say much at all. When you listen, they really do talk.
P.S. Are you feeling sad that perhaps your parents didn’t listen to you or allow you to feel heard as a child? Maybe they still don’t.
If so, your parents likely did not have the tools in Parenting That Empowers. Many of our parents did not. But it doesn’t have to be this way for your children:Give Your Kids The Childhood You Missed