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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

How to Teach Listening Skills to Children.

When one reads the title they may think this is about being an attentive listener when an adult or other authority figure is speaking. Although that is a good trait to have it is ultimately a by product of being an good listener to begin with. You can be both but learning to truly listen to a speaker in this busy world we live in is a skill that is fading fast. Just take one look at the clicky clack of the texting buttons and other technology.

When people have to set rules that no cell phone is allowed at the table it becomes clear that listening is falling by the wayside in favor of a more isolated world. Why should we care? Well firstly because human interaction is vital to maintaining healthy relationships and secondly because all of this not listening is leading to isolation. In particular our youth are suffering.

Raising our children to value each other and those who come into their life is vital to real world relationships. So how can we have our children listen? What magic do we need to perform? It's very simple. Take the time to turn it all off regularly yourself. Take the time to focus solely on those people in your life who are in need of your love and guidance. Your children can learn by your example. It's sounds too simple. How often though have you found yourself immersed in your day to day tasks and notice suddenly that a child has asked a question and you just um humm'd at them? How often do we ourselves let technology or other things draw our own attentiveness away from what's truly important. What message is that sending?

Turn to face the speaker. Shut out other noises and thoughts. Listen with your mind and heart to what they are saying. It may not sound that important but children feel deeply about what they are saying and sharing. You are now showing them that you truly care and it is sending not only a message of love and understanding but one that they are important. Which of course they are. Don't jump in with your opinions right away. Try to understand fully what they are getting at. This isn't always that easy when you have them screaming at you because they are angry with a sibling.

Sometimes children don't want us to critique their conversations or hear friendly advice. More often than not people, children, included just want to be heard. Remember back to the days of them being babies and crying frantically for no apparent reason? Then you discovered they just wanted to be held. Children sometimes need that same reassurance but in a new more mature way. They want to be heard and understood as individuals. So I guess where I am going with this is that by being a better more empathetic listener yourself you are showing your children how to listen to others as well.
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