Active Listening is not a simple technique that parents pull out of their “tool kit” whenever their children have problems. It is a method for putting to work a set of basic attitudes. Without these attitudes, the method seldom will be effective; it will sound false, empty, mechanical, insincere. Here are some basic attitudes that must be present when a parent is using Active Listening. Whenever these attitudes are not present, a parent cannot be an effective active listener.
1. You must want to hear what the child has to say. This means you are willing to take the time to listen. If you don’t have time, you need only say so.
2. You must genuinely want to be helpful to him with his particular problem at that time. If you don’t want to, wait until you do.
3. You must genuinely be able to accept his feelings, whatever they may be or however different they may be from your own feelings or from the feelings you think a child “should” feel. This attitude takes time to develop.
4. You must have a deep feeling of trust in the child’s capacity to handle his feelings, to work through them, and to find solutions to his problems. You’ll acquire this trust by watching your child solve his own problems.
5. You must appreciate the feelings are transitory, not permanent. Feelings change-hate can turn into love, discouragement may quickly be replaced by hope. Consequently, you need not be afraid of feelings getting expressed; they will not become forever fixed inside the child. Active Listening will demonstrate this to you.
6. You must be able to see your child as someone separate from you-a unique person no longer joined to you, a separate individual having been given by you his own life and his own identity. This “separateness” will enable you to “permit” the child to have his own feelings, his own way of perceiving things. Only by feeling “separateness” will you be able to be a helping agent for the child. You must be “with” him as he experiences his problems, but not joined to him.
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