Talking to children so they actually listen

‘Listen to me!’ A familiar cry that we overhear from a frustrated parent in a busy shopping centre. We want our children to listen to us when we speak to them. We don’t want to have to repeat ourselves. Ideally, we want our kids to get what we ask them to do right – the first time. We want our kids to hear our instructions so they don’t get hurt. 

So, how can we help our kids listen to us? Here are a few suggestions to help your children to listen:

  • Be a good role model. Our kids carefully watch what we do! Show them how to be a good communicator whenever you are speaking with them, or with others. 
  • Listen carefully to your child. Drop what you are doing and give them your full attention. Let them finish what they are saying before you respond. 
  • Make sure that what you say uses words that your child will understand. This will also help them to remain focused on what you are telling them. 
  • Keep any instructions short and clearly stated.
  • Include positive messages with any constructive feedback you are giving your child. That way, they are more likely to pay attention to what you are saying! 
  • Make sure there are no distractions around that could prevent your child from listening. Turn the TV off or put it on mute. Ask your child to stop playing on their device. Get down to your child’s level so you can help them focus on what you are saying. Take them aside if you are in a noisy environment so they hear what you are telling them. 
  • Sometimes, it’s also good to pick a time when your child will listen best. When they are tired, or cross, or grumpy, they may not listen well. The same goes for when they are busily engaged in play or an activity. 

Teach your kids this skill

Part of listening is letting others speak, so our children may need some guidance in how that is done. We may need to be part of our children’s conversations with other children or adults to role model positive communication. We may need to say, ‘How about we ask Sally what she enjoyed at the zoo?’ or, ‘You’ve shared what you’d like to play. How about we ask Ben what he thinks?’. And then encourage them to wait for the other child’s answer! 

It takes time to learn any skill, and listening is no different. It also takes practice! We need to be patient with our children, and remind ourselves that these are skills that our children will need to use for a lifetime!  Listening is an incredibly valuable skill to have, but sadly, our lives can become so busy that we no longer make the time to listen to those around us.

May we choose to be and to raise a generation of listeners

Sarah McIntosh
MOPS Field Manager

 

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