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Reflective Listening

The first step in reflective listening is to detect. First, you must control your own reactive, subjective emotions in order to focus on your child. This is hard to do because our role in parenting naturally consists of advising and telling our children based on our own judgements. Instead, try to observe your child's demeanor, behaviors, tone, and words!

By listening to your child reflectively, you are helping them define emotions. This teaches your child that they can choose to control and manage emotions. Try to empathize with your child's feelings without making it about you. What is their perspective? Though your child may have hurt your feelings by lashing out at you, try to be nonjudgemental in the moment. Connect with your child's feelings. We can easily empathize with anger and frustration because we all have been in situations where we have those feelings.

Ask questions out of compassion. Keep the conversation focused more on your child's emotions and story before moving forward to address the undesirable behavior or solution. Paraphrase what you hear. Your questions should not be "why" they behaved in such a manner; your questions should come from a place of wanting more information. Ask "Can I help?" or "Can you tell me what happened?"

Reflecting on or summarizing what you hear from your child can help dampen the powerful emotions your child is feeling. When you restate or paraphrase what has been said, your child has an opportunity to step back and reevaluate their statements and feelings. With this practice, you are teaching your child how to regulate emotions through conversation and process feelings rather than behave as a result of emotions.


  1. Take a step back from your own emotions before reacting.

  2. Look underneath the behavior

  3. Don't use "why..." when asking questions, try using "I wonder..." statements

  4. Paraphrase and summarize what you hear from your child

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