- Ireland's Online Resource for Parents & Teachers

Parenting & Education in Ireland - Ireland's Online Resource for Parents & Teachers

Parenting & Education

× Home Parents Associations Contact Us
Log in Register Forgot password? ×

Reflective Listening

Do You Listen, Hear And Understand What Your Child Is Saying?

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:

    • So it sounds like…..
    • In other words….
    • It seems like……
    • So you are saying……

So while this is all good sound advice, how do you bring this into relationships with your child? By way of example, we have illustrated this listening skill in a couple of age groups below. Read these and see how you can adapt reflective listening to your relationship with your children and to any other relationships that you wish. Let us know your comments and experiences so that we can help all parents to adapt this skill to suit the age and situations being dealt with.

Scene 1:

5 year old girl returns from playing screaming that she is fed up Mary as she keeps leaving her out of the game.

GirlI hate Mary! She leaves me out all the time
ParentYou seem very upset? Is Mary upsetting you?
GirlShe is so mean to me, she never picks me!
ParentSo you are saying that when it comes to Mary picking someone for her team, she never picks you?
GirlYes (possible willing to take a hug at this stage!). I hate when she does that
ParentYou poor thing – you seem really upset. Why do you cuddle up here and tell me what happened….

As you can see from the above, by showing that they heard and empathised with the little girl’s feelings, she is encouraged to talk it out. By showing that her feelings are also being heard, she is supported and secure and can take comfort from her parent.

Scene 2:

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.

MumHey – I brought you a cup of tea. You okay?
GirlThanks. I’m fine!
MumOkay. You just seem a bit upset? Can I help?
GirlI am upset but there is nothing you can do. It’s that stupid French teacher, she is on my case all the time!
MumSo it seems like the French teacher has really upset you today?
GirlYes, she picks on everything I do. Nothing is enough!
MumThat’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?
GirlExactly! I turned in a brilliant essay yesterday……

Again, this Mum showed her daughter that she had listened to her feeling, that is, “you seem upset”. She then used reflective listening techniques to help her and her daughter be sure that they were communicating correctly. Eventually, the daughter opens up to discuss the issue further.

These are just some examples but as parents, we know that you will have many more. Try this skill in the next few days or weeks with your children – with a little practice, you will find it easy. It is invaluable in helping your child to trust that you are listening, hearing and understanding what they are trying to say. This will encourage your child or teenager to talk issues through with you and to feel supported and understood while they do so.

Article Provided by Help Me To Parent Ltd who are taking bookings for courses on Parenting Teenagers, Parenting After Separation or Divorce & much more. All courses are 1 full day (Sat or Sun) from 9.30am to 4.30pm. View more information on their website.