One of the most important skills your children will use throughout their lives is listening. Good communication skills are necessary for all people in every aspect of our lives - at home, school, work, and in relationships. If your children know how to listen well, they will live a more fulfilling and successful life. The earlier in life they develop these skills, the easier it will be for them to use them later.
Whether they are your own child or in your own program or classroom, try these strategies to promote strong listening skills:
Listen to your children.
One of the effective ways that children learn is through modeling the behaviors of their parents.
When you show good listening skills in your everyday life with your kids around, they will learn those skills, too. They will see how it is done by watching you.
Stop doing whatever you are doing.
I know I am not the only one guilty of being on my phone while my daughter asked me to watch her jump off the couch for the 12th time in five minutes.
When you want to communicate with your child, stop what you are doing to focus completely on them. Whether they start the conversation or you do, stop what you are doing to concentrate on them and what they are sharing with you.
Make eye contact.
When connecting with your child, look in their eyes to teach your children to do the same.
A subtle and personalized connection is made when people make eye contact. You can start modeling this behavior to your children when they are young, even before the age of 2 years. Get at their level and look them in the eyes during the conversation.
Say their name, say their name (in my Destiny’s Child voice).
When you talk to your children, saying their name will help get their attention and set them up to be ready to listen, just like when someone calls your name, you stop what you're doing and look at them.
Getting your child's attention by stating their name is an effective way to prepare them to hear what you're going to say. That focus is necessary to begin to develop listening skills.
Check for understanding.
From time to time, ask your child to explain what you just said. You are trying to determine what they heard by asking them to paraphrase what you said.
When your kids get it right, make sure to let them know. If they misinterpret what you said, you have an opportunity to change how you talk to them to make sure what you are saying is getting through in ways they understand.
Acknowledge your child's effort to listen, no matter how small.
Even with a 2-year-old, you can encourage their listening skills by saying, "Thank you for sitting so quietly while Mommy was talking," or, "You were really listening to Daddy, thank you."
After a conversation, simple responses like smiling while you say, "Great job on listening," let your kids know they exhibited the necessary behavior you were wanting.
Promoting your child's listening abilities is best done in small ways every single day. As a parent, you're the best role model for teaching your children communication skills. Reward their efforts with smiles and positive comments, and you're on your way to building their listening skills for a successful future.