As parents, we all hope that our children will talk to us when they have a problem or a concern. So assuming that your child does open up to you with a problem, are you LISTENING to what they are saying but more importantly are you HEARING what they are saying? Equally importantly, does your child know that?
Listening carefully and letting the other person know that you are listening and understanding what they are saying is a communication skill is called ‘Reflective Listening” and is key to good communication in all relationships.
One of the most important qualities in any relationship is to ensure that the other party is confident that you are listening to, understanding and checking with them that you have interpreted what they are saying correctly. This will encourage further communication and the other person will express more detail about their feelings. Listening badly, or not listening at all, has the affect of annoying and possibly closing down further communication.
One of the best ways to engage in reflective listening is to reflect or paraphrase the content back to them. The reflection should be short, simple and easily understood. If you reflect for too long, you may irritate the other party or cause them to loose their train of thought.
It is important also, when using reflective listening skills, that you do not simply repeat or ‘parrot’ back what the person has said. Use the following type of phrases to begin your answers:
5 year old girl returns from playing screaming that she is fed up Mary as she keeps leaving her out of the game.
|Girl||I hate Mary! She leaves me out all the time|
|Parent||You seem very upset? Is Mary upsetting you?|
|Girl||She is so mean to me, she never picks me!|
|Parent||So you are saying that when it comes to Mary picking someone for her team, she never picks you?|
|Girl||Yes (possible willing to take a hug at this stage!). I hate when she does that|
|Parent||You poor thing – you seem really upset. Why do you cuddle up here and tell me what happened….|
14 year old girl is obviously upset when she gets home from school. She throws her bag down in the hallway and storms up the stairs. The mother pauses and thinks about what to do. She makes a cup of tea and pops up to her daughter’s room.
|Mum||Hey – I brought you a cup of tea. You okay?|
|Girl||Thanks. I’m fine!|
|Mum||Okay. You just seem a bit upset? Can I help?|
|Girl||I am upset but there is nothing you can do. It’s that stupid French teacher, she is on my case all the time!|
|Mum||So it seems like the French teacher has really upset you today?|
|Girl||Yes, she picks on everything I do. Nothing is enough!|
|Mum||That’s a pain! So what you are saying is that you feel that she doesn’t see the effort that you are making? Did something in particular happen?|
|Girl||Exactly! I turned in a brilliant essay yesterday……|