One of the greatest problems facing families today is the problem of being able to really listen to one another. Parents claim: “He can’t follow simple directions!” “He is easily distracted and hears only what he wants to hear.”
Children sometimes feel their mom, dad, or teacher is too busy to listen to them and have dificulty resolving the stress of not being heard. And, of course, there is the TV and other related diversions which seem to be barriers to developing good listening skills.
It’s important to know that being a good listener is hard work. Once a decision is made to place a high priority on genuine listening within the family, parents can begin practicing the skills of listening. As children journey through childhood they will then reap the many benefits and pleasures of a home that knows how to listen.
How can I help my child be a good listener? Here are some skills and ideas that will help.
Good listening must first be modeled and practiced by the parent if it is to become a part of the child’s character. The power of parental example cannot be overstated. If you want your child to be a good listener, you must be a good listener by providing a daily mirror of what your child can become.
Good listening skils need to be identified and practiced on a regular basis. Positive non-verbal messages need to be given away freely: direct eye contact, open facial expressions, touch. What you say also has value in proving you are listening. Simply restating what a child has said or asking a simple question demonstrates that you value the child’s conversation: “You got to be the leader today!” “Tell me one place you led the class.”
Listen patiently. People think faster than they speak. With limited vocabulary and experience in talking, children often take much longer than adults to relay what is on their mind. Avoid cutting children off before they have finished speaking. Ask questions to help children clarify their thoughts. Providing them with a word or supplying a child with a phrase is helpful, but don’t finish the child’s sentence for him.
Encourage conversation in your home. Affirm your child’s willingness to share her/his ideas, feelings, and experiences. Place a high value on talking together. Remember to create a climate of acceptance in your home and give away lots of empathy to your child as a means of nurturing her/his emotional health.
Be sure to have the child’s attention before speaking. Use the child’s name to secure an attentive response. Ask the child to repeat what he heard to make sure you were understood. Do not routinely repeat directions or instructions.
Remove distractions from conversation. Turn off the TV. Seek out quiet times to have conversation. Use listening games to improve skills. For example: Ask a child to do three tasks in a row, each with increasing difficulty. Be sure to use lots of encouragement and support when a child demonstrates good listening skills.
There are may benefits to a child who has developed good listening skills. In fact these children have a distinct advantage over others who lack these skills. School achievement ranks higher and social relationships are stronger and more successful. Listening also paves the way for sharper thinking and reasoning abilities. lastly, a stronger sense of self-worth is built as a child learns to communicate well with others.
…..Karin Klein, Administrator, Red Hill School, Red Hill, PA.
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