One important skill to cultivate in your children is listening. Good communication skills will benefit your children in all aspects of their lives – at home, school, work, and in relationships. If your children know how to listen well, they will live a more fulfilling and successful life.
Strategies to promote strong listening skills in your children
1. Listen to your children. One of the strongest ways that children learn is through modeling behaviors of their parents.
* When you demonstrate good listening skills in your everyday life in the presence of your kids, they will learn those skills, too. They can see how it’s done by watching you.
2. Stop doing whatever you’re doing. When you want to communicate with your child, suspend your current activity to focus completely on them. Whether they initiate the conversation or you do, stop what you’re doing so you can concentrate on your interaction.
3. Make eye contact. In any type of communication, look in the eyes of the person you’re talking to and teach your children to do the same.
* A subtle and special connection is made when people make eye contact. You can start modeling this behavior to your children when they’re quite young, even before the age of 2 years.
4. Say your child’s name. When you talk to your children, saying their name will help get their attention and set them up to be ready to listen, just like when someone calls your name, you stop what you’re doing and look at them.
* Getting your child’s attention by stating his name is an effective way to prepare him to hear what you’re going to say. That focus is necessary to begin to develop listening skills.
5. Suggest to your child that they sit down. This suggestion sends the message, “Get ready to listen because I’m going to talk.”
* When your child is very young, try leading him to a chair. Then say something like, “I’d like to talk to you for a minute,” which serves as an attention-getter.
* Once you complete what you wanted to express, be ready to listen to your child’s response.
6. Spot-check your kids listening skills. From time to time, ask your child what you just said. You’re trying to determine what your child heard by asking him to paraphrase what you said. When he repeats it properly, praise his efforts.
* If he doesn’t get it quite right, you have an opportunity to repeat what you said for clarification and to enhance his listening skills.
7. Reinforce a child’s effort to listen, no matter how small. When your child shows the smallest attempt to listen or to even approach listening, it’s smart to reinforce those efforts right away.
* Even with a 2-year-old, you can encourage their listening skills by saying, “Thank you for sitting so quietly while Mommy was talking,” or, “You were really listening to Daddy, thank you.”
* After a conversation, simple responses, such as smiling while you say, “Great job on listening,” also let your kids know they exhibited the important behavior you were seeking.
Improving your child’s listening abilities is best done in small ways every single day. As a parent, you’re the best role model for teaching your children communication skills. Reward their efforts with smiles and positive comments, and you’re on your way to building their listening skills for a successful future.