How to talk so your kids really listen

Family engaging with kids over a meal

How can we talk so our kids will really listen? The short answer (based on the famous book by the same name as well as years of personal experience) is as simple as it is surprising:


Really listen when they talk.


Of course, as parents, we have a lot to say and teach our kids along the way, but when they speak up, are we listening, really listening? We live in an age of unprecedented information and communication—technology has multiplied our ability to speak, but ironically perhaps, it has not increased our ability to really listen.


Mostly, we don’t listen with the intent to understand, we listen with the intent to reply. We hear the first few words of the other person, assume we know what they are trying to say, then start to get ready with what we want to say while we impatiently wait for them to stop talking – perhaps we even speed them up by trying to complete their sentences. This is especially true for most busy, harried, parents… who are usually trying to multi-task and get through a hundred other things while we also endure a long and winding story from one of our kids!


But waiting our turn to say something is not the same thing as listening.


So why is learning to really listen so important?


Because real listening is contagious
Stephen Covey wrote, “If I were to summarize in one sentence the single most important principle I have learned in all relationships, it would be this: Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” When we seek to listen, we spark a chain reaction in which each person who is genuinely listened to feels naturally inspired to listen to our point of view, or to someone else’s.


Because only through real listening, can we achieve a “win-win”
“To answer before listening—that is folly and shame.” (Proverbs 18:13) Successful mediators and negotiators listen far more than they talk. They understand that the best way to change someone’s mind is to first really understand what that person’s mind is. In this sense, real listening is risky—we are opening ourselves up to be influenced; becoming vulnerable. It’s a paradox—in order to have influence, we have to be willing to be influenced. Mark Kopta, a professor of psychology, says to parents: “My golden rule is when you have trouble with a child, listen to them first and then empathize with them before you say anything.”


Because real listening connects us to each other
Listening is kindness made audible, or perhaps, the quietest form of kindness. Though we are not saying anything while we listen, we are actually saying so much: it is the best way to communicate that a person really matters to us. This is why listening is at the heart of connection. It builds trust. It shows we care. We all long to be heard—in fact, being understood may be our most basic need. Listening is the key that opens the door to deeper relationships. Especially in friendships and family
relationships.


As South Africa’s first Christian streaming service, Truthtv.com is not only trying to entertain families, but connect them to one another too. Through our hand-picked content, we aim to spark deeper conversations that really count.


So here’s to more great chats, and to us all feeling heard – both parents and
children!

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