It is surprising how most parents wonder if their children ever listen. Children tend to be rude, uncooperative and shrug off every instruction to do something.
In some instances, children do the exact opposite of what you have told them to do. Usually, this does not end at home; even in class children will behave the same way. As a teacher, I have observed that most pupils fail to achieve their full potential because they struggle with listening. Listening is not intuitive; it is a skill that needs to be developed.
As children progress in life, they will achieve more academically and socially if they have good listening skills. Inability to listen can be a habit that becomes difficult to curb more as the child gets older.
Society has generally accepted young children as chatter boxes (always talking). Children at times talk more than they listen and often we tend to ignore their idle talk. This norm has made parents unaware of the need to encourage effective listening.
However, it is at this crucial stage that parents and care givers need to develop listening skills.
Explain to your child the importance of listening. Children are very inquisitive. They will be more cooperative if they understand why they should listen. Children should understand that communication is reciprocal. You talk and you listen to the response.
Limit your child’s use of computer and television games. Children who spend most of their time on computer and television games easily develop bad listening skills. These activities require concentration and reasonable skill to play. The child will find it difficult to concentrate when one is talking because they are used to high pace sounds.
Many studies have proved children suffer from low concentration due to these activities.
“Extensive exposure to television and video games may promote development of brain systems that scan and shift attention at the expense of those that focus attention.” said Dr. Peter Jensen, mental health specialist and founder of the REsource for Advancing Children’s Health Institute and co-director of the Division of Child Psychiatry & Psychology, Department of Psychiatry & Psychology, the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota.
Read to your child aloud. Reading to your child will increase their concentration span and ability to listen.
While reading, pause constantly to ask questions, checking if the child is listening. Children tend to day-dream or stare to pass time, if they find the activity boring. Be enthusiastic about the story and express excitement when they respond to questions appropriately. Make symbolic sounds to imitate animals, human expressions, cars etc. This will capture the child’s interest in the story thereby enhancing listening. Engage in an appropriate discussion leisurely with your children and ask for their own opinion on the story. What the actor should or shouldn’t have done and the moral behind the story. Assess your child’s ability to listen effectively.
Encourage your child to maintain reasonable eye contact when being talked to. This will enhance attentiveness.
During lessons, I have often noticed some children struggling to focus. They just cannot sit attentively but will find pleasure in fidgeting, poking others or even pass notes while the lesson is ongoing. Listening involves attentiveness and understanding. They do not have the chance to effectively listen if they cannot focus. A child who listens will be able to ask questions that will improve their understanding of concepts taught.
Ask your child to repeat a message that you have told them. Talk to your child slowly and ensure they understand. Involve your child in your daily household chores and send him with messages to other family members around the home. You can even phone a friend and ask your child to convey a message. Praise and thank the child when they have conveyed the message accurately.
Remember children will stay positively motivated to do more if you praise them. Play games with your child that encourage listening e.g. spy and telephone games. This will encourage them to be more attentive to detail when being talked to.
Do not interrupt your child when he/she is talking. Children take longer than adults to say what they want. You have to be patient.
Moreover, children get easily agitated when they feel they are not being heard and in some instances may resort to negative behaviour just to seek attention. As a parent, it is important to create an interactive relationship with your child. Ask questions that show attention to issues raised. Spend time with your child and try to understand how their day was.
If you listen to your child, they will in turn listen to you. Children learn more from what you do than what you say.
Developing good listening skills in children is a process. It takes consistency and perseverance yet it is attainable and crucial to a child’s progression. Listening can be the key your child needs to unlock academic challenges thereby achieving better grades.
People who have good listening skills perform better in relationships, team work and are effective leaders. Effective listeners are vigilant and more triumphant than less effective listeners because they pay attention to detail in all situations. San Carlos Children’s Theater in San Francisco, asserts that: “Active listening skills facilitate effective communication throughout life.” Hence, the emphasis on developing effective listening skills in children early on.
Remember our children are our future. Let’s help them realise their destiny.