The Key to any communication is the ability to listen, but not any old listening. Active Listening, Reflective Listening are some of the common terms used to describe the listening I refer to. It is also one of the most important skills to have in your parenting toolbox

So Here’s some DO’s and DONT’s

Don’t be judgemental or evaluating what is being said. Acceptance is the key, (which is not the same as agreeing) e.g. don’t make everything right or wrong, or labelling people as good or bad.

Accept the feelings and perceptions of your child. They are real for him, even if you do not agree with them.

Don’t be too busy to listen, or if you are, state a time when you will have time

There may be times you are unsure how your child is feeling. Take a guess even if you are unsure. e.g. “It sounds/looks like something is bothering you”

Don’t ask questions (questions put the parent in a leading position), and don’t answer questions with questions

Do give non verbal messages/acknowledgements that you are listening, e.g. nod and smile

Accept the feelings and perceptions of your child.
Be objective and keep your feelings separate from your child’s.
Allow your child to be responsible for his own feelings.
Have the necessary time.
Recognise that feelings are often transitory.
Let the exchange go only as far as your child wants it to.
Allow your child to draw his own conclusions.
Do not have some specific result in mind.

Daughter: (sounding glum) I don’t want to go to school today. It’s boring.
Mother: (said roughly) Of course you want to go to school today. You have Physical Education today and you always love that.
No, I don’t. Besides we’re playing basketball and I hate that.
Mother: Well, you better learn to like it, and to like school too. You don’t have a choice, you know. You have to go to school. Everyone has to do things they don’t want to do and you are no different.
Daughter: (Slinks away, dejected with shoulders and head hanging down, whimpering). I hate school and I hate gym.
This parent seemed annoyed, angry, and impatient, and didn’t want to hear that the child hated school. The child felt that her mother wasn’t listening to her and would eventually learn not to turn to this mother for support.

Daughter: (sounding glum) I don’t want to go to school today. It’s boring.
Mother: You’re not happy at school because it isn’t interesting to you.
Yeah. Nobody likes it. And the kids don’t listen to the teacher when she tells them to do something.
Mother: It bothers you that the other kids don’t behave.
Daughter: They are mean to me and some other kids – when the teacher isn’t looking, they throw rolled up pieces of paper at me. I hate that. And Mrs. Tanner doesn’t even know what’s going on. She is so lame.
You’re really angry at the kids and feel so let down that your teacher doesn’t even do anything about it. You would expect the teacher to know what is happening in the room.
Daughter: Yeah. I want to let her know what the other kids are doing.
This mother did not get angry and she didn’t jump in with solutions. Here’s what she did that helped her daughter deal with the situation:
She listened without judging.
She tuned in to what the daughter was saying and feeling.
She kept herself separate from the situation her daughter was describing.

To understand more about Active Listening/Reflective Listening download the attachments below

• When your child needs information, not someone to listen to him.
(e.g. your child wants to know what time he needs to be home for dinner)
• When your child is more in need of reassurance, praise or discipline.
• When you feel resistance and your child does not want to talk.
• When you have some investment in the outcome of the situation or any decision your child makes.
• When you have strong feelings on the subject so you cannot remain objective and separate.
• When you are too needy yourself or feel too drained to give the time
and energy needed to focus on your child.


To be able to communicate effectively the trick is to be able to articulate our observations without being judgemental or being evaluative – simply say what people are doing that we like or don’t like. Next we state how we feel when we observe this action: are we hurt, scared, joyful, amused, irritated? And thirdly, we say what needs of ours are connected to the feelings we have identified.
A mother might express these three pieces to her teenage son by saying, “Felix, when I see two balls of soiled socks under the coffee table and another three next to the TV, I feel irritated because I am needing more order in the rooms that we share in common.” She would follow immediately with the fourth component—a very specific request: “Would you be willing to put your socks in your room or in the washing machine?” (Note that offering the choice gives them the power, although you are controlling the choice)
Warning: Do not confuse observations with evaluations (One is specific, the other non specific)
Example of evaluation: You seldom do what I want
Example of observation: The last three times I initiated an activity, you said you didn’t want to do it.