COMMUNICATION SKILLS – Active Listening
When children get angry, parents often jump in to stop the anger, usually because they don’t want to hear it or don’t know how to deal with it. However, being able to listen to your children’s feelings without judging or criticizing allows them to feel heard and gives them a healthy way of voicing their emotions.
What is Active Listening?
involves paying full attention to the person speaking.
sends a message of awareness and acceptance for your child’s experience, feelings, struggles, or point of view.
helps your put words to feelings.
When children feel that they have been heard, their anger often dissipates. As you listen, your children may provide you with a greater understanding of why they are feeling the way they are.
What Active Listen Sounds Like
Hear an example of a mother using active listening with her child at a birthday party:
How to Active Listen
You can active listen in a number of different ways:
By using your body language
Show your children that you are attentive through your facial expressions, nodding, leaning forward, establishing eye contact, and stopping whatever else you are doing so it is clear you are not distracted.
By mirroring back what you hear them saying
“You wish you could blow out the candles on the cake.”
By providing your children with a safe place to unload or vent their strong feeling and helping them to identify the feeling
“You are really angry; you are so furious.”
By helping them to understand the underlying issues that may be bothering them
“It can be hard to go to a party and have all of the attention on the birthday child and not on you.”
Use Sentence Starters
You can use the following sentence starters to help you when active listening and you can teach them to your children:
“It sounds like…”
“That makes you feel…”
“You didn’t expect…”
“It seems unfair that…”
When children are upset, usually there a need that is not being met or a feeling that is not being heard or expressed. You can ask yourself: “What does my child need?” or “How might he be feeling?” This might guide you to a greater understanding of what your child is experiencing.
When your children have strong emotions, stick with listening to them, giving them an opportunity to get it out and then move on from their anger. At another time, you can help them explore solutions, give them advice, or discipline them – just not when they are operating from the emotional rather than logical part of their brain.
You don’t always have to solve or fix your children’s problems, concerns, or frustrations. In fact, expressing the belief that they have the ability to handle their own emotions and think about solutions to problems on their own builds their belief that they can handle life’s challenges.
When life is difficult, it can be reassuring for your children to know that at least one person is there to listen. By offering support and comfort, you can be the person your children turn to during the tough times in their lives.
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