Conscious Listening – The key to understanding your child’s needs!
Conscious listening means to actually hear your child and hold space for them to express themselves. Sometimes in our busy lives with minimal support to raise our children we can get flustered and so do our children. Learn how to hold space for them in moments were big emotions take hold.
Why won’t my child listen, do as I ask, understand what I am saying or stop whining?
Most likely the answer will be because they can’t. They are mentally not ready to process and understand things as well as most adults do. It’s just as simple as that. The part of your child’s brain that is responsible for things like reasoning and logic is called the prefrontal cortex. That part of the brain increasingly develops over their first years but doesn’t fully developed until your early twenties.
If for example your little one wants to wear their favourite jumper but it’s in the wash. They break down in tears and that situation although not understandable for us might be reason for an emotional break down for them. It’s all about perspective. Your child may not have the ability to process those big emotions and think logically. This is where you become their guidance. It is these moments that are vital for your child to learn how to process big emotions.
Here comes the tricky bit though. Sometimes it’s not as easy to figure out what it is your little one is upset about and how you can help them.
Here are some tips on what might help you gain a bit more of an understanding when at a loss with your little ones needs.
10 tips on how to make communication with your little one easier and more respectful:
- When talking to your child go down to their level. It makes you look less threatening and they will open up easier. It will make your child feel more respected if you talk to them looking into their face rather than down on them.
- Talking will almost never teach you anything. If you want to know what’s going on with your child you’ll need to listen closely.
- Take a few deep breaths. If it’s all too much to talk right at that moment, take a few deep breaths with your little one to recenter your and their attention.
- Prompt your little one. If your little one isn’t talking much yet it might help if you can prompt them with some questions such as: “What happened in xyz situation?” or “What did it make you feel like when xyz happened?” Asking about their feelings and emotions is also a great way to teach emotional intelligence.
- Hear your child out and really try and understand what’s upsetting them. Now that they have opened up to you it will be of no help to explain things to them by reasoning. As I have mentioned earlier they are mentally not ready to comprehend such complexity. Your little one will feel much more respected and understood if you are acknowledging their feelings for what they are. Rather than making them feel like their big emotions are unreasonable.
- Don’t be afraid of emotions. Sitting down and talking to your child is giving them a safe space to express themselves. This may be the first chance for them to fully let go and release the tension of their upset. Let them cry and be with them. It’s ok to be sad or frustrated. We all are sometimes. Once we have let go of those emotions we all feel much better.
- Mirror what your little one has just opened up to you about. Reflect their emotions without judgment but in a welcoming and open way. For example: “You are very frustrated that you can’t wear your favourite jumper today.” Or “It made you sad that your jumper is in the wash, as you really wanted to wear it today.”
- Give hope. Tell your child that whatever is upsetting them right now won’t always be like that. Like the jumper will be ready to be worn again tomorrow etc. Make sure they know their sad or angry feelings have been heard, understood and acceptable but they won’t last forever.
- Move on and redirect. Once all the emotions have been released children are generally ready to move on but if they are not there is no problem with helping them to move onto something else. For example: “Let’s put this jumper on now and then we can go to the park.” This is especially important when your child is hurting someone in their anger. You can say: “ I won’t let you hit xyz but you can go to your bed and hit a pillow to let go of that anger.”
- Reflect. It’s a good idea to reflect at the end of the day before you go to bed. Spend some quality time with your little one and have a chat about things that made you feel happy, sad, frustrated or special that day. This is a good way to check if feelings have been acknowledged enough or if there are still some more emotions that need releasing.
I hope this gives you some guidance and support in communicating with you child.