At our parenting class this evening we talked about being an active listener. You are an active learner by paraphrasing what you hear. Listen carefully without interrupting. During pauses in the conversation, restate what you understand your child is saying and feeling. Let you child correct your understanding. Be respectful and empathetic. Do not distort or add to your child's message.
When a child comes to you with a problem, let him 'own' the problem. This means you employ active listening and let him be the guide to the root of the problem and the best way to solve it.
As a parent, when we 'own' a problem (the child didn't do his chore and you're not happy. He's just fine with the situation, but you're not. It's your problem.), we should use 'I' statements. For example, "I was embarrassed in church today because of the way you behaved and it makes me feel like people might think I'm not doing a good job as a mom." That way, you're not calling names or blaming, but telling them how their behavior affected you.
Here is how to send a clear message:
*How I feel (express your emotions and feelings without blaming anyone else for them
*About (describe the event that triggered the feelings)
*Because (list the concrete effects in your life)
*I want (explain what you expect)
*I hope (be encouraging, optimistic, positive, full of faith)
Here is an example of a vague message: "Who left their dishes and mess on the countertop? Answer me! Who left their mess on the counter? You guys have got to clean up your own messes around here or you can't eat. I'm sick and tired of being the maid. Get in here now and clean it up. And turn off the TV! You're not going to watch TV until you have it all cleaned up. After you're married and on your own you can live in the pigpen of your choice."
Here is an example of a clear message: "I am very discouraged about the way the kitchen looks. I had it so nice and clean before we left and now it is in a real mess. When you leave your snacks and utensils out it makes a lot more work for me. I want you to clean up after yourselves. You're welcome in the kitchen as long as you clean up."
If you were raised in a home that used berating and criticizing, it's going to take effort to change that. This may not come naturally to a lot of us, anyway. Another item that I am going to add to my goals is being interested in what my child tells me. Sometimes I am so busy doing so many things that I brush him (or her) off when he's telling me something. I need to just set down what I'm doing, get down to his level, and be interested in what he's telling me. Sometimes all you have to do is give him a couple minutes of your time. That's all he needed. And now he knows you were actually paying attention and not just saying, "Uh-huh. Oh, really?" mindlessly. The times I've done it, I can tell it makes a difference.