Sit Down…and I’m Going to Have a Listen!


How many “conversations” have you had with your young child or teenager that seemed to end with them fidgeting or with a “glassy-eyed” stare? It was as if they tuned you out, which, of course, they did right after you said, “Listen to me! You are going to….”

We (parents) will probably never have a complete understanding of why our kids do some of the things they do. We try and teach them right and offer them the best ways to live that we’ve learned over the years. We want them to avoid some of the pain we went through. However, it can often seem they just don’t want to listen to us. Whenever we reach this point of frustration, we are often heard to say, “You are going to sit down right now and we are going to have a talk!”

This usually means we parents are going to talk and the child is going to look at us with a defiant, incredulous stare that means, “How long do I have to endure this lecture?” Perhaps we need to change our approach and try something different when we are so determined to communicate. Unfortunately, we keep trying the same communication style (shouting, demanding, belittling) hoping that at some point we will get a different result. But the only way to get a different result is to do something different.

I would like to suggest the statement, “You are going to sit down right now and…I am going to have a listen!” Most often kids are willing to talk if they know we want to listen. It means we must indeed want to listen, and make every effort to do so. Listening frequently demonstrates more care than lectures do. Maybe you’ve heard the old saying, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” This is especially true with our kids. If we do listen, they will talk, and they have a great deal to say.

When you effectively listen to your child it communicates the message that not only what they think and feel matters but they matter. They will then be less susceptible to negative peer influence. Besides being an effective listener there are other things you can do as a parent to build the relationship with your child:

  • Work on your relationship (not just changing a behavior) with your son or daughter first, because no discipline will be successful unless there is first a strong relationship. Having a good relationship takes time.
  • Do some activities together on their terms. Listen to their ideas without trying to force your ideas on them. Take an interest in what is important to them and you will have a good baseline to work from.
  • Trusting your teenager is an important part of your relationship. However, trust has to be earned. Remind yourself that your teenager is struggling with lots of new feelings and his/her behavior may be revealing genuine unhappiness or a struggle which needs your concern.
  • Set limits that stick. All children/teenagers need some rules and limits. It works best if you can work these out together with your teenager so that she feels she has some choice. This means there is more chance of her being responsible.
  • Don’t decide on rules in the middle of a crisis, especially if your child or teenager is in trouble for doing something wrong.

So, parents REMEMBER:

  • Check your own expectations of your child – are they reasonable?
  • Make the consequence fit and don’t let them drag out. They lose their point.
  • Ask yourself how important it is to ‘win’ the battle. Winning is not the goal, understanding is.
  • Remember even when you love your teenagers you can still get angry and dislike what they do at times.
  • Don’t store up bad feelings from the last time your teenager broke the rules.
  • Look after yourself. Get support, talk to others and give yourself a ‘break’ without feeling guilty.
  • Hang in there. Don’t give up on your child. The best resource your child has is you.

Oh, and don’t forget to sit down and have a listen!