Four of the most piercing words my daughter has ever said occurred yesterday: “Mama, you’re not listening.” She was trying to tell me her side of a story that I thought I already knew. I was trying to be “SuperMama” and wow her with my quick and mighty problem-solving powers. Silly, superhero. My daughter didn’t want or even need to be saved—she just hoped to be heard.

 

In my rush to “make it all better,” I neglected two of the most important gifts a parent can offer a child: the opportunity to be listened to and the chance to feel understood. What follows are this superhero’s “quick tips” for slowing down and becoming a better listener:

 

1. Be Quiet

It may sound obvious, but all of your best listening will be accomplished when you are not busy talking! I had forgotten that.

 

2. Be Focused

When your brain is racing through possible responses, words of advice, or dinner plans (!) you aren’t genuinely focusing on what your child is saying. Give the gift of your full attention.

 

3. Be Attuned

Look into your child’s eyes, nod at the right moments, lean forward, offer a hand, smile, or give a hug. Use your body language to communicate interest.

 

4. Be Empathic

Remember how intensely you felt peer, sibling, academic, and social issues when you were a kid? Take a brief walk in your child’s shoes and view the world from his perspective. It’s often an amazing view when we take the time to consider life from a perspective different than our own.

 

5. Be Open

Listen to all of what your child has to say before giving advice, handing out consequences, or assuring that, “I know just how they feel.” Don’t allow pre-conceived notions to influence how you process what he says.

 

6. Be Inquisitive

If your child uses a jargon-y phrase or says something that you don’t understand, ask him about it. Well-timed, genuine questions show that you are truly listening and have a real desire to understand.

 

7. Be Committed

When you commit to making your child feel truly heard and genuinely understood, you can overcome most obstacles to effective listening.

 

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