When you see or hear your child having an issue, and you conclude that his emotional fever is spiking, your efforts to give him active listening are coming from your heart. The beauty of active listening is that you are right when you are right, and you are right when you are wrong. Whaaat?
You are helping Bobby with his homework one night. He erases his answer to the same math problem for the third time. He screams, breaks his pencil in half, and flings the pieces across the room.
Most parents would be inclined to firmly respond, “Now Bobby, calm down. Throwing a fit isn’t going to get you the answer to this math problem.” You are being a concerned parent in correcting Bobby’s behavior, but have you missed a teachable moment? With that response, Bobby may just turn on you, or stomp out of the room.
“Wow, Son. You’re really angry right now.” “No I’m not. I’m frustrated. How can I be so stupid? I can’t get this answer right,” might be Bobby’s response just before he dissolves into tears.
So, you were active listening, but you missed the mark. You suggested anger, when Bobby was feeling frustration. You were wrong, but you were right, because you’re focusing on his feelings leading Bobby to think what he was feeling and then tagging it for you. Now you can fold him into your arms and let him cry it out for a while, reassuring him that he is smart and encouraging him to try again, with your help if he wants it.
Active listening promotes bonding and encourages your child to think through and work on solving their own issues or problems. If you judge, criticize, or solve their problem for them, you run the risk of distancing from her and diminishing her confidence and worth. Active listening when you see your child’s emotional fever spike is coming from your heart and brings you closer together, and even when you are wrong, you can be right.