10 Tips to Promote Active Listening in Your Children

Active listening involves attitudes and skills that sometimes arise and develop very naturally. Other times, it's necessary to practice them in order to master them. Learn how to help your children learn this skill here.
10 Tips to Promote Active Listening in Your Children

Written by Edith Sánchez

Last update: 21 September, 2022

Active listening is a technique, but also an attitude in your children. As a technique, it implies the ability to pay attention to what another person says without trying to judge them. As an attitude, it involves the ability to understand what the other person is saying from the point of view of the speaker.

Good communication patterns in the family and beyond include teaching active listening to children. When parents practice it, it makes them feel recognized, understood, and valued. It’s fundamental to maintaining an open, honest, and respectful channel of communication.

If active listening instilled from the time children are young, it prevents many conflicts and misunderstandings when they reach adolescence.

Active listening in children and its importance

Active listening is one of the most important elements to favor the psychosocial development of children. Applying this attitude during parenting strengthens children’s self-esteem and also increases their well-being. It constitutes a firm basis for mental health.

This form of listening implies a high level of empathy and allows for a deep connection with the other person. At the same time, it’s a fundamental factor in conflict resolution through dialogue.

Active listening to children is a skill that develops as it is practiced. It’s important that parents keep it in mind in their parenting style. If they transmit good listening skills, their children will be more tolerant, open to other ways of thinking and will have more tools to solve difficulties.

The best tips to promote active listening in your children

Active listening is taught by example. This is the best way to encourage it in your children. There are a series of communication guidelines that should be applied and others that are best avoided. Let’s take a look at them.

a teenager arguing with her parents
Adolescence and teenage years can be affected if children didn’t learn to practice active listening as children.

1. Have the correct psychological disposition

Parents must have the genuine intention to practice active listening with their children. They shouldn’t do this just because they feel like it’s their duty.

Psychological readiness is key to authentic listening. It’s best to avoid any relevant conversation if the mood is not conducive to it.

2. Use body language

Body language is very important in active listening. It’s through body language that messages are sent. Some aspects to take into account are the following:

  • Put yourself at the child’s level: Everything flows much better if you adopt a position in which the child and parents can see each other face to face.
  • Establish eye contact: Look into the eyes of the person who is speaking.
  • Establish physical contact: Holding the child’s hand or touching his or her shoulder sends a message of affection and trust.
  • Be attentive to the child’s body language: She or he also communicates with her or his expressions and gestures.

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3. Ask open-ended questions

Open-ended questions help to clarify communication, both for the speaker and the listener. Closed questions, on the other hand, limit and narrow the conversation. It’s better to ask the child, “what do you mean by…?” rather than “what you mean is that...”

4. Paraphrasing and summarizing

Paraphrasing means quoting the other person in words similar to what he or she used. It’s a way of showing that you’re paying attention to what is being said.

Similarly, summarizing what has been said is a good way to steer the dialogue toward more effective communication. Both tools are very useful in active listening with your children.

Like this article? You may also like to read: The Thinking Chair: Is This Method Useful for Teaching Children?

5. Smile and nod

Children are very sensitive to the facial expressions of their parents and any authority figure. Showing a smile and nodding is a way of acknowledging and accepting what he is saying. Such tacit approval is a necessary foundation for a child to express honestly and confidently what she or he is thinking and feeling.

6. Avoid interruptions and distractions

Active listening cannot take place in a context where there are interruptions or distractions. The telephone and other devices are not invited into a conversation.

7. Don’t judge or minimize experiences

The basis of active listening is the renunciation of value judgments.

The point is to see reality from the other person’s point of view. Don ‘t label anyone as either good or bad. Nor should you downplay the importance of what they feel or think.

8. Don’t reproach or interrupt

Giving lectures or telling the child what we don’t like about him/her is the perfect way to break communication and alienate him/her. Active listening is the opposite.

Many parents, for the supposed “good “of their children, initiate a conversation with them, but really just lecture them. This is not appropriate, nor is interrupting them while they’re talking.

9. Don’t counter-argue

If the child says something the parent disagrees with, the way out is not to controvert him or her, but to try to understand his or her point of view. Starting an argument takes the dialogue elsewhere.

Instead of promoting active listening, what’s achieved by arguing is a deepening of your differences. Perhaps it even makes them unbridgeable.

active listening
Active listening dialogue doesn’t judge or interrupt. There’s a space of sincerity and full attention to the present moment.

10. Avoid “expert syndrome”

“Expert syndrome” occurs when a parent adopts the attitude of offering solutions to their children even before understanding the problem they have. Also, it occurs when they try to act as psychologists, explaining the causes of their behaviors to the children and telling them how they should understand them and what they should do.

Active listening is a matter of practice and disposition

Parents are a mirror for their children. Beyond what they say, children will take into account what their parents do. Therefore, to foster active listening in children, the first thing to do is to internalize its principles and apply them yourself.

Active listening isn’t an isolated act, but a process. In families where there’s already good communication, this technique is strengthened and deepened. The more it’s practiced, the more natural it becomes.

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  • Barlet, X. (1990). Los padres siempre quieren a sus hijos. Revista de Logopedia, Foniatría y Audiología, 10(1), 15-21.
  • Lasso, E. L. (2011). El lenguaje corporal y la comunicación: una mirada desde la Educación Física. Instituto de Investigación en Educación (IEDU).
  • Naranjo, M. G. M. (2018). Escucha activa y empática. Editorial Elearning, SL.