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Listening 101: Parents can give lessons on listening to their children

Written by: Malak Tariq

“A wise man said to his son, ‘Learn the art of listening as you learn the art of speaking.’

The act of listening well means maintaining eye contact, allowing the speaker to finish what they are saying and restraining your urge to interrupt their speech.

Among the forms of respect, one is to listen with complete attentiveness, even if someone is saying something which is already known to the listener.

It is said, “Learn silence the way you learn to speak. And be more vigilant about listening than speaking.”

Thus, if a person starts telling you something, whether you are alone or in the company of others, something that you already knew very well, you should listen to what they have to say. Do not rush to reveal your knowledge or interfere with the speech. Instead, show your attention and concentration and who knows, you may gain a new perspective on the issue you thought you knew well.

These profound etiquettes pertaining to listening are valuable when imbibed by parents first and then taught to their children. It helps them not only at home but beyond. Good listening is a skill that contains empathy, consideration and patience.

Listening can improve relationships with others. Being able to listen to other people's concerns and problems without instant judgments is a boon.

Listening brings great clarity- Listening carefully to the speaker will help you avoid any conflicts or misunderstandings.

In addition, listening can help in building confidence. We listen to get information, facts and ideas. Knowing the information and being able to repeat it or pass it to someone else is having the confidence to communicate with others.

We live in times of short attention span where everything is instant from sending messages amid pinging notifications to shopping at your fingertips. In such an environment, it is more challenging yet necessary to teach children how to listen with attention.

Here are a few tips to inculcate good listening skills in children:

1. Be a Good Listener

For parents looking to answer the question of how to teach listening skills, the first step is to be a better listener yourself. Whenever your child wants to say something to you, stop and listen to them as respectfully as you can. If you model positive listening behaviour in front of your children, they are likely to follow suit.

2. Involve Your Children in Decision-Making and Conversations

Children who are mostly receiving instructions, advice, or orders from elders tend to tune out after a while. Improve your communication with your child by asking their opinion wherever possible. For instance, ask them to choose the story they would like to read or decide what clothes they want to wear.

3. Encourage Better Communication by Asking Questions

Conversations with kids can be made interesting by asking the right questions. Asking questions can help you start better conversations with your children. Asking each other questions provides clarity, gives a better understanding and shows that you are listening. You could begin by asking the following kinds of questions –

  • Questions that begin discussions or help to expand the conversation. E.g. How was your school today?

  • Questions that elicit specific responses. E.g. What's your favourite subject in school?

  • Questions to help children respond in a particular way or express their opinion on things. Ex: Do you have a lot of homework today?

  • Questions that expand children's thinking and prompt them to think more in one direction. Ex: you mentioned that you love painting; tell me more about it?

4. Listening Games

There are various games and activities for listening skills that parents and children can play together. Here are some examples –

  • Follow the Instructions – Describe a scene and ask the child to draw the scene using crayons. The child needs to listen to you carefully and draw accordingly.

  • What’s That Sound? – Ask your child to close their eyes while you play a sound, and then ask them to identify the sound. The sound could be clicking your fingers, a vehicle horn, or anything else.

  • Spot the Change – Narrate a story to your child. Then narrate it again with some changes. Ask your child to spot the changes you made to the story the second time.

Kids can’t read at an early age. They also can’t make much sense of visual aids. Listening is relatively simple, and it helps them gain quick information. Being the single most powerful tool for gaining knowledge for small kids further increases the importance of listening skills.

Teaching active listening skills involves making kids pay attention to the speaker, to react & respond by speaking, smiling, or nodding to what is said. They also need to be trained to avoid interruptions and add their inputs to a conversation.

When parents join hands with their kids to hone listening skills, confidence, attention and comprehension; they become values for life.

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