We spend up to 80 percent of our waking hours communicating. Just under half of this communication involves listening. Most of us are poor, inefficient listeners, mainly due to the fact that no one has ever taught us how to listen.
Listening is an essential life skill and having an ability to listen effectively is very valuable to our children as they learn and grow.
A loving adult genuinely listening to a child sends a clear message of love and acceptance. A child with the ability to listen is a better friend to his or her peers.
Listening is a craft that we learn. Listening is an active process that we control. A good listener remains still, makes eye contact, gives full attention, respects silences, keeps an open mind and doesn’t track the time. In comparison if we interrupt, change the subject, become distracted or think of a response before the sentence has finished it sends clear signals that not a lot of listening is happening!
How to help children learn to listen
There are many steps you can take as a parent to reinforce good listening in your home.
Provide adult one-on-one interaction whenever you can. Give your child lots of opportunities to listen – especially before they turn three. (This is the period of life when our brains are forming connections faster than at any other stage so create as many good learning foundations as you can during this time.)
Slow down. Being too busy can be a fast track to superficial communication.
Have unhurried conversations. Share stories, fears, tears, and smiles. Use open ended phrases such as “tell me about …” and let the child steer the conversation. Pause to let the child consolidate what’s being said. Be patient. Young children need more time to make sense of spoken words than adults do.
Eat meals together. Take turns to talk. Stop and listen to everyone in the house.
Make your home as quiet and peaceful as possible. Background noise adversely affects children’s concentration (it interferes with auditory discrimination and speech perception). Reduce excess stimulation by turning off the television and other household appliances. A child will tune into these as easily as they tune in the human voice.
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