Often enough, when your child is acting problematically and having emotional outbursts, the issue is that they don’t feel understood. Even if you do understand them, the problem can lie in the manner in which you listen to them. Are you making it clear through verbal and non-verbal communication that you understand them, or are you looking at your smartphone and nodding your head? The difference is key.
Listening with your full attention can work like magic when handling your child, so here’s a 5-step practice for mindful listening that will help you be fully present with your son or daughter.
Step one: What are some ways to be fully present? Put the phone and other distractions away so that you are not tempted to check them.
Step two: After putting away intrusions, focus your body language toward your child. Turn your body in their direction and shift your gaze towards their eyes. If your child is sharing something uncomfortable, they may not want to make eye contact, and that’s OK. Sit side by side.
Step three: Use your mindfulness skills to notice when your mind is wandering into the past or into the future, is judging or is planning a response. Instead, practice to simply be still and listen to what your child is saying. What does your child want? What happened? What is she feeling?
Step four: Simply listening attentively, with your mind and body focused on your child, will forge a stronger connection. Give it a try and find out how helpful you can be without even uttering a word!
Step five: Taking a week or so to focus on less speaking and more listening will shift things for your relationship. You’ll find yourself interrupting the old habit of solving everything and instead being more observant and curious. Best of all, your child will be able to feel the difference.