By Juliane Morris
Becoming a genuinely good listener is a common human lifelong goal — with areas for ever-improvement, right? As a relationship building life skill, listening requires practice, time and feedback to develop. A good listening skillset is something that we typically expect with maturity and enjoy to see demonstrated in our own circles, whether among friends, at work meetings with colleagues, or in challenging political or moral discussions between exploring individuals.
Cultivating the art of listening and improving listening skills in children means developing the ability to critically listen effectively by processing and responding to provided information. Properly equipping children from a young age with the necessary listening skills helps ensure more successful personal and professional relationships. Listening etiquette like keeping quiet and sitting still can be a challenge for little ones. The important thing is to provide many different listening and listening response opportunities.
Children enjoy hearing stories, and telling stories. Select topics of interest to the child – topics of daily exposure, games, foods, activities of enjoyment. Model that you are listening by responding during a pause to state back a portion of what you heard in your own words, and ask a follow up question. Set reasonable expectations about active listening skills like making eye contact, nodding on occasion, encouraging remarks like, “Ah ha” or, “Mmm-hmm”, and asking appropriate follow up questions that demonstrate your own active listening.
Keep in mind that your listening training should be informal and casual. Be intentional, creative and encouraging. Provide gentle and constructive direction and guidance.
While teaching children to become better listeners, ask questions like these:
- What would you like to learn more about?
- What was the best thing about school today?
- What book or game have you been enjoying lately?
- What goal are you working towards?
- Tell me about your day today.
- What is happening tomorrow?
You can also suggest the two of you talk about a particular topic such as:
- Discussing an item in the news or current affairs topic
- Sharing with one another a character trait you can be working on
- Exploring ideas about a weekend getaway
- Planning a household improvement project together
- Explaining a new board game or school game
The effort of practicing creativity and intentionality to help children develop great listening skills is a reward for families, society and your children as they grow.
Keep in mind that your listening training should be informal and casual.