What does it take to be a good listener?

1. Silence is golden. Mom didn’t dominate, leaving the door open for Brian to say what he wanted to say. Her silence told Brian (a) “I want to listen to you; you’re important to me”: (b) “your feelings are okay; I accept them even though I may not agree with them”: (c) problems are a normal part of life; everybody has them: (d) “I’m not going to take over your problem, but I will help you find a solution.” These motivated Brian to be responsible for his own problem, rather than depending on his mom.

2. Show children you’re interested and paying attention. Simple cues like nodding your head, or saying “Uh-huh,” and “I see,” are all it takes. You can also invite children to say more with a lead like, “Do you want to say more about that?”

3. Mom only replayed what Brian said. She kept to his agenda and resisted the temptation to interject her own messages. A good listener is a mirror for children to understand themselves more clearly.

4. Mom accurately interpreted Brian’s feelings. It’s not always easy to do this. We can never be 100 percent sure what children are feeling inside. For this reason we leave it up to them to tell us whether we’re right or wrong.

5. Actions speak louder than words. Brian’s mom paid attention to what Brian was doing, as well as saying. Children are more likely to send their feeling messages through body language and tone of voice than words.