backup og meta

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

Medically reviewed by Jezreel Esguerra, MD · General Practitioner

Written by Kirsten Rocamora · Updated Mar 27, 2023

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

What is attentive listening, 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 pressure and persuasion, on both sides of the conversation.

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 or problems. Same is true with admitting bad behavior to parents without the need for intense persuasion.

What is Attentive Listening?

Some people tend to think that attentive listening is just listening intently but it is much more than that. An associate professor in clinical and social psychology at the University of Reading, 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 its execution. 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. It can’t be reciprocated if mutual interaction and listening to one another is absent. This is a necessary first step to take when trying to get someone to open up to you.

What is Attentive Listening in Communication?

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 where attentive listening comes in. 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. Having a conversation with your child or adolescent doesn’t mean that every second must be filled with words, opinions, or advice.

Remember also that listening does not automatically equate to understanding. It is possible that your child listens to you talk, but does not understand what you are trying to tell him or her. 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, your teen will feel more comfortable opening up and talking to you. Remember also that being listened to does not automatically mean being understood.

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. It only means that you should be there for them as a friend as much as a parent.

Younger people are more likely 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 a 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 stated some implications for a teenager’s wellbeing, including making the teenagers 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 rather  than from other people.

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

Learn more about Adolescence here


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

Medically reviewed by

Jezreel Esguerra, MD

General Practitioner

Written by Kirsten Rocamora · Updated Mar 27, 2023

ad iconadvertisement

Was this article helpful?

ad iconadvertisement
ad iconadvertisement