Most parents have a great relationship with their child but there are always ways to strengthen and deepen that connection. Putting in a little extra effort now can also help you keep that connection during the teenage years when adolescents naturally start to form deeper attachment with their friends and engage in more risky behaviours.
Reflective listening helps to strengthen your emotional bond with your child by helping them feel deeply understood and accepted.Reflective listening also helps minimise conflicts as children won’t have to keep pushing with ‘negative’ behaviour when they don’t feel understood by their parents.
The key points of reflective listening are:
1. Concentrate on your child
2. Give them eye contact
3. Minimise distractions like phones, turn off the TV etc.
4. Listen to your child and then summarise what you’ve heard them say.
Child: “Mum, I hate school. I never want to go back. You can’t make me.”
Parent: (Forgetting about that fact that quitting school isn’t an option and just concentrating on understanding) “It sounds like you really don’t want to go to school”.
Child: “Yeah, hate it.”
Parent: “Ah, you really don’t like it. That’s a change, did something happen?”
Child: “Yeah, Max keeps saying he likes me and everyone is teasing me saying he’s going to try and kiss me and we’re going to have babies together”.
Parent: “It’s really upsetting you that you’re getting teased”
Child: “Yeah, I don’t even like Max!”
Parent: “You don’t like Max but everyone still keeps teasing.”
Child: “Well, not everyone, Charlotte and Sienna tell them off for teasing me”.
Parent: “So just some people are teasing you but your friends are standing up for you”
Child: “Yeah” (smiles). I guess I can just tell the others to shut up and play with Charlotte and Sienna.”
…and the conversation continues.
Reflective listening can help avoid conflict. Of course this is a simple example, and many child problems aren’t solved this easily, but you may be surprised how many are! Instead of the parent telling this child she has no choice, she has to go to school, the child now feels understood. Often the child will solve their own problem whey they feel listened to. Why not give it a try?