by Adam Kronberger / Superintendent
The beginning of a new school year often brings the beginning of new routines. One of the best routines is choosing to be a part of daily conversations with your children. It’s one of the best ways to cultivate trust and be used by God to disciple our children. As parents, we often know what is best for our kids, therefore the temptation is to talk at them instead of listening to them. One of the best tools for increasing the effectiveness of your conversations is active listening. Our ability to actively listen to our children may be the biggest influence on our relationship with them. It will build trust, foster an environment of honesty, and build empathy with their situation, emotions, and feelings.
Here are some tips on how to be an active listener:
1. Give them your full attention:
Silence your smartphone, stop looking at your computer, and try to focus on what they are saying, instead of what you want to say next.
2. Choose your body language intentionally:
93% of communication is nonverbal. Lean forward slightly, do not cross your arms, make eye contact with them, nod, remove physical barriers between the two of you, and make facial expressions that reflect the emotions of what they are sharing.
3. Do not immediately judge or evaluate:
Lecturing can often prematurely end a conversation. Attempting to understand what they are saying is not the same as agreeing. Your willingness to suspend your judgment will allow the conversation to continue. Do your best to take a deep breath and remain calm. You want your child to see you as safe. An extreme reaction will communicate the opposite.
4. Cultivate Awareness:
It might feel like just an ordinary conversation about recess or the soccer game, but if you model listening to the mundane well, your child will be more prone to come to you about deeper topics.
5. Paraphrase back what you heard:
Choose non-judgmental language to reassure them you heard exactly what they were trying to communicate, such as, “So what I hear you saying is that you feel frustrated about our boundaries with smartphones,” as opposed to, “So what I hear you saying is that you want no accountability with your smartphone.”
6. Ask open-ended questions:
Instead of asking closed-ended questions that require a mere yes-or-no answer, ask questions that demand a meaningful answer like, “What was the best part of your day?” or “How did you feel when she said that about your hair?”
7. Define Expectations:
Try to avoid immediately reassuring, explaining, suggesting, or sharing about your own experiences. Communicate respect by asking something like, “Would it be most helpful for me to just listen right now, or are you looking for help or advice?”
*Adapted from AXIS, a discipleship resource for parents.
– Adam Kronberger / Superintendent