Listening is an incredibly important skill children will use for the rest of their lives, and forming a foundation for kids to hone healthy listening abilities is so important. Crème de la Crème put together this guide to help you help your child develop positive listening habits through everyday interactions.
What Is Active Listening — And Why Is It Important?
You know when you’re trying to discuss something important with a colleague, friend, or partner and you can just sense they’re not REALLY listening? Kids can sense that, too. Healthy listening skills help kids in the classroom and beyond, and you can guide your child to actively listen in your daily interactions.
Active listening means give the speaker your full attention. Instead of just hearing what someone is saying and not really trying to understand or engage with it, active listening involves trying to fully understand the total message. Active listening also includes giving the speaker cues, both verbally and non-verbally, that you’re engaging with their words. This can look like:
- Avoiding distractions.
- Nodding your head.
- Positive reinforcement.
- Remembering what they said.
- Responding with questions.
When you listen actively, you encourage positive conservation. You can do so by acknowledging the speaker’s point of view and being able to repeat what they’ve said using your own words.
So, why is it important for kids to learn how to actively listen? Active listening skills translate to better comprehension in the classroom. Kids who are active listeners are also usually better at solving problems and better at communicating overall. Active listening is a building block to leadership, and it demonstrates empathy. Some other benefits active listeners reap include:
- Being more resourceful.
- Having fewer misunderstandings.
- Improving productivity.
- Increasing self-reliance.
- Working faster.
Tips For Helping Your Child Develop Healthy Listening Skills
Healthy listening skills aren’t just something you can teach in a classroom, though. Your child will develop these skills through their own interactions, so it’s incredibly important for you to demonstrate and model good listening skills to give your child the basis for becoming an active listener themselves. Here are some ways you can boost your child’s listening skills in daily life.
1. Be a Good Listener Yourself
You should treat your child with the same respect you want them to show for you. That means responding and reacting when your kid talks to you, even if you think what they’re saying is irrelevant. Maintain eye contact, repeat what your child tells you, and show them that you understand what they’re trying to say.
You’ll want to model positive listening behaviors when you’re interacting with other people as well. Children learn by imitating how adults behave. If you act in a way that shows your child everyone is worthy of time and attention, they’ll pick up on that. By modeling active listening, you’ll give your child a positive basis for how people should communicate.
2. Maintain Eye Contact
Maintaining eye contact during a conversation shows that you’re honest, reliable, and confident. At the same time, eye contact helps you better concentrate and understand what the speaker is saying to you. Even though it’s sometimes tough to put down the million things you’re doing when your child comes to you with an excited story or teary-eyed concern, pausing to make eye contact goes a long way.
3. Don’t Interrupt (Even If You Have Amazing Advice!)
Let your child complete their thought before you jump in to respond. Don’t guess or assume you know where their thoughts are going, and fight the urge to interrupt with advice or otherwise rush them to finish speaking. Interruptions, even when you mean well, can negatively impact effective communication.
4. Ask Engaged Questions
Asking specific questions not only shows you are listening, but it also allows you to make sure you really do understand what is being said. You can try a few different types of questions depending on the context of your conversation:
- Closed-ended questions: Closed-ended questions, like, “Are you finished with your homework?” help you learn specific details.
- Leading questions: Leading questions, such as “Do you have too much to eat on your plate?” prompts the person responding to answer in a certain way.
- Open-ended questions: Open-ended questions, like “How was your art class today?” will expand your discussion.
- Reflective questions: Reflective questions help extend and expand thinking. Try: “You said math is your favorite thing to learn in school. Can you tell me more about that?”
5. Practice Listening Through Other Activities
While demonstrating active listening skills helps your child build the awareness and tools they need to listen well themselves, plenty of other activities help boost a kid’s ability to listen. Some helpful activities include:
- Cooking with your child: Get your kid in the kitchen when you’re putting together dinner or making a fun treat. Then, read the recipe aloud, asking your child to listen and follow each step.
- Playing listening games: If you’re searching for a fun, easy activity, get out some paper and crayons. Give your child short and simple instructions and have them try to draw a picture according to directions you give.
- Reading stories: Read stories to your child starting from a young age. As your child gets older, you can start asking them to predict what they think will happen next. Making predictions means your child will have to listen to details.
- Talking about things that interest your child: Regular, everyday conversations help a child develop conversation skills. Let your child talk about things that interest them so they can engage in real conversations. They’ll get to practice both speaking and listening that way.
6. Reflect and Repeat
Finally, no matter what you’re talking about with your child, take the time to repeat back or reflect on what they’ve said. A child experiencing an intense emotion may not be able to name what they’re feeling, but your calm and reflective reactions can help them work through their thoughts — while showing them what being a good listener looks like.Real listening requires patience, determination, and concentration. Practicing these techniques helps kids develop communication skills they’ll use their whole lives. Do you have other tips for modeling active listening for your child? Share your ideas with us!