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Friday, 09 February 2018 11:41

The Art Of Listening

Listening is an invaluable skill that forms part of your child’s social, emotional and life skills. This allows them to have a holistic and healthy development in their early years.

Here are a few questions about listening and your child:

1. Does your child hear or listen?
2. Does your child just ‘hear’ or are they listening in a conversation?
3. What is your understanding of the concept ‘to listen’?

The understanding and answers to these questions are essential to help you and your child learn effective listening skills.

1. Hearing or Listening:

A child who listens understands and responds within the given context. A child who hears does not take in what is being said and reacts inadequately.

Hearing is the ability to use our ears to hear different sounds whilst listening is far more complicated.

Listening is the ability to give meaning to the sounds we hear through speech. It is more than just listening to sounds it is our aptitude to interpret those sounds to give them meaning so that we can comprehend them and responded appropriately.

When we listen we use our minds (the ability to think). We use skills such as understanding, comprehending and interpreting information.

2 Conversations and Listening:

Your child is listening when they actively participate in a conversation, follow instructions and respond fittingly.

Listening is essential to having a healthy conversation. Communication is based on the two individuals listening to each other and expressing themselves. The speaker creates and sparks thoughts in the listener’s mind. This inspires them to think and respond in the correct manner. This links to the ability to understand emotions/feelings and having the appropriate behaviour and words to express them. This ability to think and listen allows the individual to create a sense of empathy and understanding to others in a conversation.

3. Active Listening:

The concept ‘to listen’ is defined by the positive attentiveness, participation, understanding and expression when communicating.

‘To listen’ means you are paying detailed attention to what is being said by being alert and attentative to the conversartion. This is called active listening. Active listening can be difficult. You can be tired or over stressed and not able to focus but for children this everyday activity is challenging. Active listening means the child must pay attention to the information being said. An example is at school, they may be given a task, directions or instructions, then they need to remember the information in a sequenced and detailed manner so that they can perform the instructions, directions or task as required and respond (verbally and/or through actions). This is an intensive pattern to follow and sometimes the information is just too much for the child to retain.

Tips to helping your child:

  • Keep instructions and information being relayed short and simple – level (age) appropriate for your child – and slowly develop their listening skills.
  • Be patient and take time.
  • Ask your child to repeat back to you what you have said – see if they have understood you correctly – it is best to let them use their own words (it is easy to repeat directly what you have said without understanding).
  • Speak slowly and clearly.
  • Occasionally, when speaking add in more information or a new word – see if they have understood and whether they are ready to progress with their ‘active’ listening skills.

Did you know that active listening can become a positive everyday habit?

Did you know that active listening can become a positive everyday habit?

  • Use eye contact to ensure they are really listening to you.
  • Build on memory skills by playing memory games such as learning rhymes , stories and/or songs. Visual memory games – matching cards – (whilst applying words to their actions during the game) are beneficial (this can use a child’s strength to address an area they are struggling).
  • Ask your child to tell you what they are doing – make sure that they use simple sentences and that the sentences match their actions (this also develops speech and sequencing skills).
  • Use an expressive voice (when reading and when speaking to your child).
  • Discuss emotions: “You must be very frustrated as you do not want to go to bed”. By discussing emotions you are helping your child build a vocabulary to express their feelings.
  • Practice (learning new sounds, spelling, etc:) – it is important to revise these even when the child has finished them at school or has mastered the skills
  • Learning new vocabulary: each day learn a new word, a week later repeat the new word again. Explain the word, use it in everyday language (you use it and ask your child to use it). Have a vocabulary weekly chart where the child can see the new words – if your child is unable to read them – then still post them up in large print and say the words with them every day.

These are just some of the things you can do to develop your child’s active listening skills and help it become a positive everyday habit – Remember it is important to continue to do these steps on a regular basis.

Now, the big question is “Are we as parents actively listening to our children?”

A minute of ‘active listening’ is worth a lifetime of just ‘hearing’