Children are always told to “listen,” are praised for being “good listeners” and scolded when they are “not listening!” In an attempt to increase their child’s active listening, adults often give directions and advice, rather than showing active listening themselves.
Whether a child stutters or not, what better way to foster a child’s self-esteem than to show genuine interest in what the child has to say, rather than how it is said? Parents can achieve this in several ways while talking to their children:
Rather than asking lots of follow-up questions, try empathetic responses such as “that must have been hard.”
Focus on the present moment. Minimize distractions: Put away the cell phone, turn off the television or computer.
Convey with relaxed body language, close proximity, and eye contact that you are attentive and patient. If this is impossible in a busy situation, it is better to convey that you care so much about what the child has to say that you will plan a time to talk in the immediate future.
Reduce the tendency to react with emotionality, to give advice, or anticipate/fill-in what the child is communicating.
Parents who incorporate active listening often report that their children initiate conversation and share more personal information as a result. Give it a try!
Dr. Heather Grossman, PhD, CCC-SLP, BCS-F
Executive Director, Board-Certified Specialist in Fluency Disorders
Dr. Heather Grossman is one of a small number of speech language pathologists holding a PhD in fluency disorders who works primarily in a clinical setting. For more than 25 years, she’s worked tirelessly to help people who stutter to speak freely and live fearlessly.