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How to talk so kids will listen

How to talk so kids will listen

Communicating well is a skill we can learn and here are some tips to help you understand.

The first act of communication is to listen.

Seek first to understand – They to be Understood

Often we do not offer focused attention to the speaker through making eye contact and really listening with intent to understand.

Diagnose before you prescribe.

The listener has been asked to listen, so why do we rush into fix, rescue, to judge and to advise. Because few of us have been trained to listen, yet if we wish to influence and guide, we first need to understand. So often we do not listen and our focus is on:

Reloading our response

‘I know just how you feel; wait till you hear what happened to me!

Often we say ‘I don’t know why she won’t listen to me’; perhaps because you have not listened to her.


Less than 10% of communication is the words we use

30% is our sounds

60% is body language

Active Listening

Active Listening (Empathic listening) is a skill that can be learned. It is not sympathy, which is a judgement.  It is standing in the other person’s shoes and you see the world the way they see the world; and you understand how they feel.

Listen for the feeling that is behind the words.

When we practice active listening, we give the other person psychological air, which is next in importance to physical survival. It is our need to feel understood, validated, affirmed and appreciated. We will only be effective if we come from a sincere desire to understand.

We need to be fully present and offering focused attention to the speaker through eye contact.


This is where we summarise what the speaker has said ‘Are you telling me/ Are you saying/What I’ m hearing is’

Emotion Labelling

This is where we Name Their Feeling: ‘You sound frustrated/ You seem annoyed/ I am guessing you feel hurt/ I imagine you’re angry’. It is not a problem if we get the emotion wrong, they will say ‘no, it’s more that I feel xxx’

The one exception is where you are attacked by the speaker, then use an ‘I’ message. ‘I feel threatened and I need you’ to step back’


‘I Hate school!’

‘You hate school?’

Open Ended Questions    

Use questions like ‘How, When, What, Where’ that they cannot give a Yes/No reply to.         

How is it you hate school?

When did you start to feel like that?’

What happened?’


When we provide active listening, the speaker has a sense of feeling heard and a sense of feeling understood. This creates a ‘safe space’ to ‘spill the beans’. ‘I could not get a friend in the yard today’.

Standing in their shoes and trying to imaging what that must be like helps us to connect to how they must feel. ‘I’m guessing you felt sad’. This allows the tears to fall and the child can process the experience and move on from it. If we are emotionally dismissive ‘Sure, you’ll get a friend tomorrow!’ they simply learn to supress how they feel and not talk to you.

Accept how they child feels and allow them to express their feelings.

Hold them where they are at and accompany them; and they quickly process their feeling and move on.

When the speaker is talking, ask yourself ‘what is the feeling behind the words? Naming their feeling ‘