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How Can Parents Model
Good Listening Skills?

by Carl Smith

Find out if your teen is at-risk and needs your help and intervention


  1. Interrupting.

  2. Not looking at the person speaking.

  3. Rushing the speaker.

  4. Showing interest in something other than the conversation.

  5. Getting ahead of the speaker and finishing his or her thoughts.

  6. Not responding to the speaker's requests.

  7. Saying, "Yes, but . . ."

  8. Topping the speaker's story with "That reminds me. . ." or "That's nothing, let me tell you about. . ."

  9. Forgetting what was talked about previously.

  10. Asking too many questions about details.

From Listen Up! by Larry Barker.



Active Listening: A Communication Tool ~ This document defines active listening skills and demonstrates how to use these skills to strengthen communications between you and your adolescent.


Anger in Our Teens and in Ourselves ~ The forms and underlying reasons of angry behavior, identifying and managing anger, and what parents can do.


Effective Family Communication ~ Even though it isn't guaranteed, your chances of solving problems and increasing your family's well-being are much higher when there is effective family communication.


Emotional Health ~ People with good emotional health

are in control of their thoughts, feelings

and behaviors.


Family Communication and Family Meetings ~ One of the best methods for promoting positive family communication is to hold family meetings.


Family Councils: The Key is Communication


The Great Gift of the Listening Heart


Guidelines for Good Communication with Children


How to Listen to Your Teens ~ When you are using active listening effectively, you’ll learn more about your children and help them learn to solve their own problems.


Listening and Empathy Responding ~ We all know what it means to listen, to really listen.  It is more than hearing the words, it is truly understanding and accepting the other person's message and also his/her situation and feelings.


Listening is important because... ~ Information from the International Listening Association.


Listening: A Lost Art


Listening Well ~ True listening is listening for understanding.


Listening Skills Self-Evaluation


Messages We Give Our Children ~ We send some of our "loudest" messages with no words at all.


Moms! Help Your Overweight Daughter ~ Dr. Susan Bartell offers TEN GREAT TIPS that will guide you in helping your daughter become healthier while you develop a closer relationship with her.


Parenting Teens ~ Resources, information, and articles on parenting, emotionally healthy  families, and building positive family relationships.


Put Yourself in Someone Else's Shoes ~ Listening only to obtain information and form opinions means missing much of what the speaker is saying -- the emotions and intensity that make up real communication.


Red Flags ~ When teens need help, they have ways of letting us know. Unfortunately, they often don't ask for help with words, but with dangerous or self-destructive behavior.


Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood ~ Principles of empathic communication.


Three Resolutions ~ Stephen Covey tells us we need reinforcing relationships, people, and programs to help us be accountable and responsible.

Do Listening Skills Affect Learning?


Listening is not a school subject like reading and writing.  Many of us seem to feel it comes naturally and that as long as we can listen to directions on how to find the restroom, nothing more needs to be said.  The latest studies reveal that listening is a very large part of school learning and is one of our primary means of interacting with other people on a personal basis.  It is estimated that between 50 and 75 percent of students' classroom time is spent listening to the teacher, to other students, or to audio media.



Can Parents Guide Their Children To Better Listening?


According to research on listening skills, being a good listener means focusing attention on the message and reviewing the important information.  Parents can model good listening behavior for their children and advise them on ways to listen as an active learner, pick out highlights of a conversation, and ask relevant questions.  Sometimes it helps to "show" children that an active listener is one who looks the speaker in the eye and is willing to turn the television off to make sure that the listener is not distracted by outside interference.



Guidelines For Modeling Good Listening Skills

  • Be interested and attentive.  Children can tell whether they have a parent's interest and attention by the way the parent replies or does not reply.  Forget about the telephone and other distractions.  Maintain eye contact to show that you really are with the child.

  • Encourage talking.  Some children need an invitation to start talking.  Children are more likely to share their ideas and feelings when others think them important.

  • Listen patiently.  People think faster than they speak.  Children often take longer than adults to find the right word.  Listen as though you have plenty of time.

  • Hear children out.  Avoid cutting children off before they have finished speaking.  It is easy to form an opinion or reject children's views before they finish what they have to say.  It may be difficult to listen respectfully and not correct misconceptions, but respect their right to have and express their opinions.

  • Listen to nonverbal messages.  Many messages children send are communicated nonverbally by their tone of voice, their facial expressions, their energy level, their posture, or changes in their behavior patterns.  You can often tell more from the way a child says something than from what is said.  When a child comes in obviously upset, be sure to find a quiet time then or sometime later.


Suggestions For Improving Communication With Children

  • Avoid dead-end questions.  Ask children the kinds of questions that will extend interaction rather than cut it off.  Questions that require a yes or no or right answer lead a conversation to a dead end.  Questions that ask children to describe, explain, or share ideas extend the conversation.

  • Extend conversation.  Try to pick up a piece of your child's conversation.  Respond to his or her statements by asking a question that restates or uses some of the same words your child used.  When you use children's own phrasing or terms, you strengthen their confidence in their conversational and verbal skills and reassure them that their ideas are being listened to and valued.

  • Share your thoughts.  Share what you are thinking with your child.  For instance, if you are puzzling over how to rearrange your furniture, get your child involved with questions such as, "I'm not sure where to put this shelf.  Where do you think would be a good place?"

  • Observe signs.  Watch the child for signs that it is time to end a conversation.  When a child begins to stare into space, give silly responses, or ask you to repeat several of your comments, it is probably time to stop the exchange.

  • Reflect feelings.  One of the most important skills good listeners have is the ability to put themselves in the shoes of others or empathize with the speaker by attempting to understand his or her thoughts and feelings.  As a parent, try to mirror your children's feelings by repeating them.  You might reflect a child's feelings by commenting, "It sounds as if you're angry at your math teacher."  Restating or rephrasing what children have said is useful when they are experiencing powerful emotions that they may not be fully aware of.

  • Help clarify and relate experiences.  As you listen, try to make your child's feelings clear by stating them in your own words.  Your wider vocabulary can help children express themselves as accurately and clearly as possible and give them a deeper understanding of words and inner thoughts.


Why Are Parents Important In Building Children's Communication Skills?


Parents play an essential role in building children's communication skills because children spend more time with their parents than with any other adult.  Children also have a deeper involvement with their parents than with any other adult, and the family as a unit has lifelong contact with its members.  Parents control many of the contacts a child has with society as well as society's contacts with the child.


Adults, parents, and teachers set a powerful example of good or poor communication.  Communication skills are influenced by the examples children see and hear.  Parents and teachers who listen to their children with interest, attention, and patience set a good example.


The greatest audience children can have is an adult who is important to them and interested in them.

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