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What Is Attentive Listening?: Tips to Build Better Parent-Child Relationships

What Is Attentive Listening?: Tips to Build Better Parent-Child Relationships

What is attentive listening in communication? And how can this help you as a parent? One of the most difficult things a parent can do when raising a child is when they reach the stage of being a teenager, as getting your teen to open up needs more and more pressure and persuasion, on both sides of the conversation.

However, a recent study has shown that using various techniques of showing that you’re attentively listening can encourage teens to open up and admit their feelings, as well as admit bad behavior to parents without the need for intense persuasion.

If you’re a parent who wants to learn how to get your teen to open up, read below for more information!

What is attentive listening?

Some people tend to think of attentive listening is just listening intently but is much more than that. An associate professor in clinical and social psychology at the University of Reading, who is also one of the co-writers of the study, Dr. Netta Weinstein says:

“We all know that listening to someone talk about their problems is an effective way of reassuring them and establishing a connection. However, until now there has been little thought given to the quality of that listening, and the difference that makes.”

The quality of listening, in this case, pertains to how the listening is executed. This is where the different listening techniques begin to come in, including nodding, eye contact, and interjecting keywords that encourage being open during the conversation.

Listening is an integral part of a conversation, and it cannot be a reciprocated and mutual interaction if listening to one another is absent. This is one of the essential things needed when trying to get a person to open up.

What is attentive listening in communication?

In communicating with one another, it is easy to assume that the other is not willing to communicate, especially among parents and teenagers. Most parents think their teen children are hesitant in talking, and teenagers mostly think their parents are not ready to listen or understand.

This is the role that attentive listening plays. It builds on the structure of forming an alliance and trust with each other, that when one person speaks, the other one is understanding and reacting to let them know they are being heard. This is what parent-teenager relationships need most.

As a parent, set aside all judgments and listen to your child when talking to each other. Let them speak and engage in attentive listening. This means establish eye contact, give them undivided attention, and focus exclusively on what they are saying. Sometimes, this may even mean you have to refrain from inputting your personal opinion as a parent.

Being listened to means being understood. Be patient and let them open up as much as they can without pressuring or persuading them, as this can make them feel that they are doing this on their own terms. Over time, the teen will feel more comfortable opening up and talking, rather than being afraid of saying things to you as their parent.

How this affects a person’s wellbeing

Every teenager wishes for a parent who is understanding. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to be loose and less strict, but it only means that you should be there for them as a friend as much as a parent.

Younger people are bound to make mistakes, and it may help to put yourselves in their shoes. Think back to when you were your child’s age and be understanding of their situation. This creates a sense of empathy and a level of understanding that can help build a better conversation.

In the study from the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, the emphasis on the quality of listening revealed that being engaged and actively listening helped make the teenage participants of the study feel authenticity and establish a deeper connection with the parent they were talking to.

The study has proven itself to provide implications for a teenager’s wellbeing. It makes the children feel more comfortable and unafraid, which are two things needed in a relationship built on trust. As parents, you definitely would like to know more about your child’s life from them than from other people.

Communicating is a good way to develop good relationships, and with family, it can enhance the bond between parents and teenagers alike.

Learn more about Adolescence here.

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Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


Active listening, https://raisingchildren.net.au/pre-teens/communicating-relationships/communicating/active-listening Accessed June 27, 2021

Attentive listening helps teens open up, study finds, https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/06/210604122722.htm Accessed June 27, 2021

Active Listening, https://www.cdc.gov/parents/essentials/communication/activelistening.html Accessed June 27, 2021

Sharing the Importance of Attentive Listening Skills, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/249669550_Sharing_the_Importance_of_Attentive_Listening_Skills Accessed June 27, 2021

Active Listening Skills, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/in-it-together/202006/active-listening-skills Accessed June 27, 2021

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Written by Kirsten Rocamora Updated Sep 15, 2021
Fact Checked by Kristel Dacumos-Lagorza