What you (not school) should teach your children (episode 3.)

Zip it and listen!!!!

The title of this post may sound controversial as we hear a lot of talks today about encouraging children to express their needs assertively and openly and not ignoring their voices. The intention of the post is not to silence children but to remind all of us (parents included) that good conversation requires a balance between speaking and listening. Here are my top three rules for being a good listener.

Rule No. 1: If your mouths are open, you’re not learning

This rule, attributed to Buddha, could, in fact, end up all this reasoning about the importance of listening. When we speak, we only repeat what we already know and through listening, we can learn something new. If you want to learn anything about your children’s world, listen to them. Listening gives us a chance to see the world through a child’s eyes, to partake in his experiences, and to get a fresh perspective, unaffected by the socio-cultural mental programming we have in our adult minds.

Listening with engagement creates an atmosphere of trust and safety – a fundamental thing from the primal brain perspective. So instead of having the agenda for the conversation, or a standard set of advice (or worse yet, teachings and preachings), just be curious. Ask open-ended questions e.g. How did you feel then? What is your thought on this situation? Be authentically interested in answers and truly listen to what your child has to share.

 Rule No. 2: Listen with the intention to understand, not to reply

This rule comes from Stephen R. Covey (‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’). Hard to argue with the Author saying: ‘Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply. They’re either speaking or preparing to speak.’

Have this quote in mind anytime you’re having a conversation with someone, not only your offspring. Try to decode emotions behind the words, as this is a key to understanding the essence of the message. Being interested in another person’s story means you care, and everybody wants to be surrounded by people who care. Plus, talking about ourselves activate the pleasure and reward system in the brain, the same one that is activated by yummy food (it is proven with fMRI images). We all feel great when we talk about ourselves. Listen to your kids and let them speak – that’s really the best way to show that you care about them and their lives.

Rule No. 3: Don’t be half in the conversation and half out of it.

Be present. Never multitask while participating in the conversation. No matter what HR experts would tell you, from the brain perspective, there’s no such thing as multitasking! Our brain can focus on one thought at the same time. While multitasking, the brain in fact switches the attention from one task to another (this process is called ‘fractioning attention’ and it cost your brain a lot of energy). When your focus is on some other activity, you’re not able to be authentically engaged in the conversation.

Scrolling social media feed, responding to email, or texting while your child is talking to you sends a clear signal: you do not deserve my attention. Don’t do this. Be fully engage in listening, and do your best to remember what this human being standing in front of you is saying. These are these minor, seemingly not many significant situations that will decide on the quality of your relationship – now and in the future.


Written by: Dr Anna Kaminska

Ketut Subiyanto

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