Using Active Listening When Your Child is Upset

(excerpted from the P.E.T. workbook)

In P.E.T., we use a conceptual Behavior Window to view behaviors of others = what we see them do, what we hear them say. When you see your child is upset (crying, slamming a door, saying their scared, etc.), in that moment, your child owns a problem. (That doesn’t mean that problem might not move in the window and become yours, too, but for right now, it’s theirs.) So what can you do? When your child “Owns a Problem” or is experiencing strong feelings and Basic Listening is not enough, then the Skill of “Active Listening” is needed.

When Do I Listen?

To successfully use your Active Listening tool when another person has a problem, a decision to make or strong feelings about something, you must:

1. Have time and be willing to listen

2. Want to understand and help the other

3. Be able to focus your attention on the other, not on yourself

4. Trust the child or other person to come up with solutions that are best for him

Why Do I Listen?

1. Relieves “emotional flooding”. When your child is experiencing a problem, feeling can overwhelm thoughts. A child can become emotionally flooded when feeling crowds out thoughts. Active Listening relieves emotional flooding and frees the intellect to get back to work.

2. Helps the other person (your child) to identify her real problem. When your child tells you about a problem, it is easy to immediately begin thinking about how you can help him/her resolve that situation. But what the child first tells you is not the real or complete problem. Most problems are like onions; they have a number of layers. By Active Listening to the child, you can help her peel back the layers of the problem and identify the central issue.

Presented Problem: “I hate doing this stupid homework!”

Second Layer: “I am so bored and tired of staying at home.”

Third layer: “It’s so weird, sitting at this computer to ‘go to school’, all by myself.”

Real problem: “I wish I could think of something to make it more interesting or something!”

3. Assists the child in solving her own problem. Once the “real problem” has been identified, most children as well as adults, have within themselves the solution that is best for them. Solving their own problems increases creativity, self-confidence and problem-solving abilities.


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