Posted in: Blog | February 2, 2018
In 2012, Michael B. Gilbert published an article entitled, ‘I know you can hear me, but are you listening?’ In it, he suggests that, ‘ listening as a language skill is widely required in instructional settings at every level.’
In other words; in order to communicate effectively, to retain the maximum amount of information, to increase vocabulary, improve pronunciation and reading skills, and to become functioning members of society, it is very important that we become ‘active listeners.’
From birth, all hearing children react and respond to noise. A sudden loud noise may cause alarm and a startled cry, a parent’s voice can offer comfort, and bring on a huge smile, or simply a head turn in the direction of the voice they hear. So hearing children respond in a vocal and/or physical way to noise stimuli. That is, until they get to around two years old!
Around this age, children become much more self-absorbed, and, although they do hear requests or commands, they fail to listen! We can tell if a child has listened by using the tried and tested method of ‘ counting to 3.’ 99 times out of 100, they respond on ‘3.’ However, ( and I am as guilty as the next person of using this tactic!) children quickly realise they are not expected to react until ‘3’, so they don’t ! This is a prime example of listening but not hearing!
Whilst we are aware of dangers around us, small children aren’t. For example, if they are running toward a road, they need to respond instantly to the command, ‘Stop!’ At nursery, preschool and beyond, they will learn more, become more articulate and much more socially adept, if they are not only hearing, but have developed good listening skills.
How can we help them develop these skills?
Grab their attention ! A loud, ‘Wow!’ should do it, ( Be prepared to come up with more ways though, as we have seen from the ‘1,2,3’ method, they catch on to our little tricks very quickly! Get on their physical level, make eye contact, and say your piece. Don’t repeat yourself. Go back to step one. Use fewer words- children cut off from listening if too many words are aimed at them. Instead of saying, ‘ Put your shoes on or we will be late, and we don’t want to miss the train.’ Try, ‘Shoes on, please.’ Small children need time to process commands, requests and instructions, therefore the fewer words, the easier it is for them to process and respond. When they talk to you, show them you are a good listener.
Teaching good listening skills is a great gift you can give your child. The best thing about helping your child develop these skills, is that you will not only strengthen your bond with them, but you will enjoy some great conversations!