Are you your child's most ardent audience? Here's how to make sure your child is heard and the lines of communication are open.
Listening to children means focusing on them completely. If only for a few moments, try and give them your full attention.
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Consider putting aside some task for two minutes to hear about the angel dream Leah had, or the tale of nighttime monsters from Ben. You don't need to "fix" the nightmare, just be a safe listener. Remain genuine and supportive, and your listening will be effective.
One 4-year-old became frustrated with his busy mother and proclaimed, "Will you listen to me with the front of your face?"
It isn't always possible to stop our lives at the exact moment your child requests attention. But can you establish listening time every day, or every other day, when you make yourself available ("I can't stop now or I'll be late for work, but I'd love to listen tonight when we have our walk." )
Designate "listening places:" a cozy chair, in bed after stories, sitting on the front steps. And establish specific times your child can count on being listened to: Saturday-morning walks, bath time, waiting for the school bus.
Many families find the quiet time before children fall asleep to be special listening time. You can call it pillow talk. Lights are out, things are quiet, and the parent is available.
This routine gives the child the assurance that he can always talk to Mom or Dad "tonight at pillow talk." It helps if the parent bites his tongue and waits for whatever the child wishes to discuss instead of opening with "So, how was school today?"
Listen to your child as if he is a national hero, a spiritual prophet or your boss. Listen as if she came down from Mars. Listen as if he holds the future of the world stored in his mind.
Try for one minute giving her the attention you would give the people mentioned above. Listen with respect and he will be comfortable expressing his thoughts, both good and bad. Through this listening will come conversation. Through conversation will come questions. Through questions will come understanding, philosophy, belief in and trust of spirit.
Excerpted with permission by Harper Perennial, a division of HarperCollins Publishers, from 10 Principles for Spiritual Parenting, Mimi Doe with Marsha Walch, Ph.D., copyright 1998