Your daughter is now stepping out of the terrible twos and into the awesome threes and fours. In this stage of your kid’s development, she is staring to make friends and build relationships, she is learning to interact with other people outside the family (like playmates, teachers, peers, day-care staff, etc.) and is also beginning to express feelings, needs, likes, and dislikes with her newly discovered language skills. This communication is slowly, but surely, building your little girl’s personality and setting the base for future relationships, communication style, and sense of self.

Because of this, communicating with your child is very important for her social and emotional development. As the American Academy of Pediatrics emphasizes, knowing how to receive the message your child is trying to convey to you is an essential part of the communication. This article will focus on listening actively to your preschooler.

All communication can be thought of as a channel that goes both ways: not only the receiver end of the message is getting something! In every communication, the person speaking also gets an implicit message about what he or she is saying. This message is conveyed by the listeners body language, attunement, and feedback or lack thereof. When you use active listening, your child gets the message back that what she is saying is important, and that you are receptive to what she is expressing.

Active listening can help your daughter better understand her feelings, and it fosters a warm and nurturing relationship between the two of you, while also boosting your girl’s sense of worth and self-confidence. Here are some recommendations on how to become an active listener with your child:

  • Try reflective listening. This is when you listen, summarize, and then repeat back the message your child is giving you. The important thing here is not to just repeat what you’re hearing, but to lend your more advanced socio-emotional skills to your child so you speak out what she might be thinking or feeling. You can try giving names to a feeling you see in the communication, as an open suggestion, “It seems to me as if you are happy/sad/angry/tired”.
  • Set aside distractions and show interest. When your daughter is telling you a story, try to get yourself free from distractors, like the cellphone or the newspaper, and give your complete attention to your kid. You can show your interest by maintaining eye contact and making facial expressions.
  • Encourage your child to keep talking. You can interact with the story, while avoiding interrupting, criticizing, or hurrying her up.