Reflective listening

If you search on the term “reflective listening” you will get many different ways of being a reflective listener.

I find reflective listening a wonderful tool, but when I teach it to parents they say “that’s weird”. I tell them to go home and try it, and let me know how it’s going for them in a week’s time. Many parents come back and say “it really works”. For parents of adolescents they say that reflective lstening has changed the relationship between them and their young person.

Here is one way that I use reflective listening…

Child: Jack didn’t play with me at lunchtime today.

Parent: Oh, Jack didn’t play with you at lunchtime. (Same tone, same affect)

Child: Nup

Parent: Hmmm

Child: He played soccer with Caleb instead.

Parent: So, he played soccer with Caleb instead.

Child: Yeah

Parent: Yeah (with a big sigh)

Long silence.

Child: I think I’ll play soccer with Jack tomorrow.

Parent: You’ve decided to play soccer with Jack tomorrow. Sounds like a plan.


What do you notice about this interaction?

The child solved his own problem.

Notice the absence of the parent giving advice. Notice the absence of the parent asking more questions. Notice the presence of silence and space, and this is the magic of it. Our kids are so used to us giving advice and asking lots of questions that they quite often don’t talk about their stuff because they don’t want the fuss or the lecture.

No more of this…



When you give kids lots of silence and space, they open up. Why? Because it is now emotionally safe to do so. Sometimes it takes a while for the child to get used to it, and the communications end quickly. Keep using it, they’ll get used to it.

Kids are clever. They usually have some idea of how they might go about solving their problems. After a good while of reflective listening, if the child hasn’t generated his own solutions, you might want to ask “I wonder what you might do about it?” and do some more reflective listening. If you think your child needs some more ideas you can do a brainstorming session with the following questions (from the Second Step programme)…

  • What are some more solutions?
  • For each solution ask: is it safe?; how might other people feel about it?; is it fair?; will it work?


Narelle Smith


Categories: Encouraging Desirable Behaviour


1 reply


  1. How to practice reflective listening? | happygreenpanda

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: