When Children Feel Understood They Listen to Advice
Have you ever felt excited to share something with a friend just to have her “one up” you with what she felt was better or worse?
This very thing happened to me last night when a friend of mine came over and I shared a miracle that had happened for me recently. She brushed it off like it was nothing to tell me something she was working on.
I did not feel like she understood me or that she really cared. I pondered, “What was missing from that conversation?”
Stephen R. Covey said, “Seek to Understand before you seek to be Understood.” I didn’t feel understood by my friend. I wondered if I treated others like that too. Did I allow my children to feel understood?
My study began with this question: what was understanding?
The scriptures often associate understanding with the heart. Here are some examples:
- Ye have not applied your hearts to understanding; therefore, ye have not been wise. Therefore, what teach ye this people? (Mosiah 12:27)
- Who hath put wisdom in the inward parts? or who hath given understanding to the heart? (Job 38:36)
- He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them. (John 12:40)
And heart is also associated with love. My conclusion: Others feel love when they feel understood. When they feel understood they trust you. When they trust you they will share more with us and possibly listen to our advice.
How can we help them feel understood?
First we have to get them to talk, this can be done in an interview style.
- Instead of asking, “How was your day?” where they can answer in a one word answer, say, “Tell me about…” something specific, so they have to answer in more words.
- Pay attention to “sign posts” - Topic words that will lead you to another question related to what they are saying.
- Keep them talking.
- You are also looking for clues from their subconscious mind (tone, body language and words) to guide the conversation.
- Be present - no distractions.
- Remember to add brief inserts while they are talking. Words like, “Oh,” “wow,” “I see…”
- These show you are paying attention
- Encourages them to keep talking and
- Allows you to listen for more sign posts
- Remember "the pause" - say nothing when they stop talking, just look interested. This causes a slight discomfort and they will start talking again.
- This is your greatest ally - they answer the questions that you didn’t know to ask; they tell you things beyond what you are asking about.
- The child will feel uncomfortable and start talking again and reveals more about their thoughts and feelings.
- This is where the trust begins, they begin to feel understood when you listen.
- Recognize the Clues
- The goal is to help them feel understood
- This is a good place for questions that bring in their feelings and lead them to find their own answers, feel the spirit, and/or know the next step.
- Acknowledge their best quality. (the connector)
- This is a review, where you show them you are “getting it.”
- “I can see that you (fill in with their effective qualities)”
When we understand our children they trust us more and we both feel loved. God showed us love by understanding us.
My conclusion: Do whatever it takes to make others, especially my children, feel understood.
When your children feel understood they trust you and when they trust you, they open up more and often listen to counsel.