Mums and dads know the importance of talking to children. The more you talk to your child, the more words she has to build up a picture of the world.
Yet, what about listening? That’s not so easy. Most parents are better at talking: Listening - in our noisy, bustling society - may be becoming a lost art. If it is, it’s a shame.
Listening is very important. It is an unselfish act, a mark of caring and respect for another human being. It leads on to good communication and real friendship. Both children and adults have a need to be listened to.
Let’s be honest. Few of us are good listeners. At work, you listen; you’re trained to. At home, or at a party, you’re a talker. You can’t wait to get your point of view across; you’re dying for the other person to finish so that you can say what you have to say. That’s normal enough, but it isn’t good listening.
Many of us can talk, but how many of us know how to listen? One of the greatest gifts we can offer to our children is listening time - time to be with mum (or dad) and to be listened to carefully, without interruption.
If you can manage it even if it means putting one child to bed while the other child has Listening Time, it will certainly pay off in terms of her self-esteem and her relationship with you.
With your younger child, you could perhaps find some moments in the day that would be his or her Listening Time. Ten minutes, at the same time each day, is all that is needed.
By listening to children we learn what they want, what they need and who they are. “Tell me what you’ve done today” is as good a start. If your child is young, sit her on your knee. A cuddle is worth as much as two good listening ears and that’s a great deal.
Here are some tips on how to become a listening parent.
#1 Allocate ten minutes each day for listening time.
Start off by saying: “What have you been doing? Tell me about it.” Then listen. Sit still, try not to fidget, look over your shoulder (or talk). Let your child do the talking.
Show - by nods, smiles, little words of encouragement (‘Go on; what happened next?)’- that you really are listening.
#3 Keep your own contribution brief.
‘Tell me more about it’ will be enough. Ask open-ended questions, like ‘What did you do at nursery school today?’ Don’t ask, “Do you like cookies?” All the child can say to that is yes or no.
#4 Listen to a record together or your child’s favourite songs.
Listening and sharing is caring, real togetherness.
-Jigsaw puzzles, drawing, plasticine, and play-dough will all stimulate the child to talk. Your job is to help the conversation along, to have fun, and listen.
#5 At the end of the day have ten minutes Listening Time.
What better way to prepare for a bed? How lovely is it to have a quiet chat. How lovely it is – for a child – to be listened to. Talk about the day’s experiences; where she’s been, what she’s seen. Listening is the food of love.
When talking to someone, you may make a point. When you listen to someone, really listen, you make a friend. That applies to children as well as adults. When we listen we pay attention, we also pay respect.
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