How often do you as a parent become frustrated with your child’s “selective hearing,” and not listening to you when you speak? How often have you given thought to the fact that to become an effective listener is a learned/developed skill?
How would you like to be responsible for and play a paramount role in your child truly becoming an effective listener? Someone who hears and cares about what others say?
Do you want to have more efficient communication with your kids; especially have them listen to what you are saying? What follows are some strategies you can use to assist them in developing effective listening skills.
- Lead by example. Our children learn more from watching us than from us telling them what to do. Be (an active) good listener yourself. When you are listening to them or others, let your kids witness you being completely attentive and focused on what they are saying. Put your phone and all other devices down. No multi-tasking allowed.
- Talk to your children using age-appropriate correct words. Don’t talk down to a child at any age, and be sure to use age-appropriate language to help ensure they understand your expectations. Also, use actual words, not made up “baby talk.” For example, refer to a bottle as a bottle, not a “baba”. Ask if they are hungry, not if they want “nummies.” While this can be viewed as “cute”, not all people communicate that way. You will be more helpful to your children when you use actual words for things. It helps them be effective listeners and overall communicators.
- Make your instructions, wants, needs, and expectations of them clear.
- Be concise. Less is more! For kids of all ages, there are benefits to keeping your instructions to no more than three steps. This is beneficial for younger children because they cannot process too much information at one time. Tweens and teens tend to shut you out after the first sentence because you are interrupting and interfering with whatever they’re doing. Additionally, to this age group, your voice sounds like nails on a chalk board.
- When it comes to kids of all ages, make certain you have their attention. Approach them and tell them you need to talk to them. Ask them to pause their electronics, turn down the radio, etc. Whenever possible, position yourself so that when they look at you, they are automatically making eye contact. Make sure they are focused on what you are saying.
- Ask your children to repeat what you just said. This activity allows you to be sure they heard you and understood your expectations. It also allows you the chance to clarify something, should you realize the need to do so.
- If you feel that your children are not listening, don’t waste your time, energy, or breath. Simply walk away and try again later. Doing this allows you to reduce your frustration or stress level. It becomes a win/win situation for all involved.
- In those times that you need their attention NOW, start out by saying something like, “I am sorry to interrupt or bother you, but I really need your attention for two minutes.” Approaching them in this way makes them more likely to stop what they are doing and listen to you at that moment.
Always remember that effective listening is a learned skill. It is learned over time and takes practice. Be kind and patient with yourself and your children, as you assist them with learning and developing this important communication skill.