How to listen, When to Speak, and What to Say – to Your Child



 My 10 year old is getting closer to those teen years which I dread so much. I’m worried about how it might affect our relationship. For the first 8 years of his life we have been inseparable. My little man loved everything about me. Always sharing how he felt, what he thought, his dreams and his curiosities. Then one day it happened. He started to get older and formed his own opinions, likes and dislikes. Then, he began to disagree about everything and anything just for the sake of argument. And, now I find him keeping to himself and very difficult to talk to. I miss my little boy. Is there any way I can reconnect the communication lines which have been damaged?

There’s a motto I like to live by which is stemmed off from many Sunnahs of the Prophet Mohammad(ﷺ):

If you’ve have a problem- take the first step and change something about YOURSELF which can relieve the problem.

Many of our issues in life happen because of the misuse of our tongues. It’s what we say and how we say it. Let’s ask ourselves the following questions:

1. Can my child’s lack of communication be stemmed off by my hasty judgment of him?

2. Do I display a  disappointment towards his new individual thoughts and ideas?

3. Am I too to quick to criticize?

4. What is the proper way to I speak to him?

5. How should I react when he speaks to me?

The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “He who believes in Allah and the Last Day must either speak good or remain silent.”

The answer to 1,2 &3 is most likely, Yes. We will address 4 and 5.

How Should I React (speak)?

  • When asking your child a question, remember to sound calm and gentle. Address it in a very casual way. No matter what the question may be.
  • When your child begins a conversation and shares something with you, sound interested and excited. Show your excitement with a smile and eye contact.

Say Less, Listen More

When your child comes to you with a thought or idea, she feels supported when you listen. If she has a problem she’d like to share, it’s more comforting to know she is not being judged. And, the way to do this is by saying less and listening more. Your child wants to be heard. So, before you share your advice and opinion (as her mom), you must first LEARN to LISTEN.

Different ways to listen :

1. Listen by Only Acknowledging

You may want to try listening to your child without saying much. Instead just acknowledge what he has shared with you with a : “Aww!”   “Mmm”    “I see”, etc.

Child: I hate Ahmed!

You: Aww!

Child:He didn’t ask me to play with him during recess.

You: Mmm?

Child: I wanted to play with him.

You: I see.

Child: Maybe tomorrow I will ask him if he wants to play with me. Thanks mom!


 2. Listen and Reflect

When your child states a problem. The first thing that comes to your mind is to give him/her a solution. If this happens, stop yourself. Instead, repeat what he has said without using his exact words. This shows him that you are listening. It’s really important for children to know that they are being heard and their thoughts and opinions are valued. Acknowledging their thoughts and accepting them will give them the confidence to find a solution on their own. What they need is to feel validated. Let’s value their opinion.

Child: I hate Ahmed!

You: You don’t like your friend?

Child: He didn’t ask me to play with him during recess.

You: He didn’t include you in his play.

Child: Yes

You: I am so glad you told me. Do you need a hug?

Child: Yes

The next day, your son will come home and tell you how much fun he had with Ahmed. Turns out, your child asked Ahmed to play with him. Listening to your child, acknowledging his thoughts and feelings and then comforting him gives him the confidence to believe that he can solve any problem himself. And, that’s what he will do, inshaAllah! Believe in him, he is capable of it.


 3. Listen and Give Words to His Feelings

As a parent you want your child to have the words to express his feelings. You need to help him learn what they are. When you are unhappy or happy with his actions you need to tell him in a “one feeling word” description. Remember to use “I feel ……….” and then the  “one word”  feeling word to express how you feel.

  • “I feel upset when you are not ready for school because this makes us both late and I wish you would be on time.”
  • “I feel tired when I have to pick up after you and I wish you would complete your chores properly.”
  • “I feel happy to see you up and ready. This makes my day so much easier, thank you !”

These “one word” feeling words help him learn how to express his inner thoughts and feelings. And when he comes to you with a problem, he will know what to say. But if for any reason he is not able to express his feelings, you need to look between the words and guess what they are. Again, use the “one word” feeling words : happy, sad, scared, hungry, sleepy, tired and etc. This will help him pay attention to his feelings and give them a name. 

Child: I hate Ahmed!

You: You’re really mad at Ahmed.

Child: He didn’t ask me to play with him during recess.

You: You don’t like it when he doesn’t ask you to play.

Child: No, how could he do that!

You: Your feelings are really hurt.

Your child begins to cry and you comfort him. You don’t have to fix his problem instead ask him if he wants help figuring out how to tell his friend that his feelings were hurt.


 4.Don’t Explain Something Your Child Won’t Understand

 Sometimes our children will want things that they can not have. For example my child wanted pizza for breakfast and I don’t allow that but even if I did, I couldn’t order pizza at that hour of the day. Instead of explaining to him why he couldn’t have pizza (because the rules have been stated in the past) I expressed to him that I understood and acknowledged his needs. This way of approaching their needs and wants sometimes makes it easier for our child to deal with it. When our children are in the moment it’s difficult for them to except when reality comes down hard. To a child, pizza can be a very delicious wish come true.

Child: I want pizza right now!

You: I wish I had some in the house for you.

Child: I want some!

You: I hear how much you want it.

Child: I wish I had them now!

You: I wish I could make that come true  (Hugging him)

Child: Well, maybe I’ll just have some of that rice and chicken.


Speaking to your child may seem difficult but it doesn’t have to be.  Try remembering the different ways to listen and speak. It may just help you keep the healthy relationship going. May Allah (swt) always guide us to be gentle and understanding towards our children through sabir and shukr, ameen. 


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