“Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you’d have preferred to talk.” -Doug Larson.
Children are unmolded clay. And we have a crucial role in shaping them before they become set in their ways. With so much to teach in so little time, we have to start with the primary values.
If we want our children to gain as much knowledge as they can from you and their surroundings, one thing they need to master is the habit of listening. Once they are in a receptive mode, they will understand more. Otherwise, everything you say, even if it is pure gold, will have no value for them because they did not listen.
But, instilling something as significant as this is not going to be as easy as, well, anything. But here are five ways in which you can teach them the art of listening, the right way.
It starts with you.
When you want to teach your child something, it is only fair that you do it first. Also, if they have to learn something, they will benefit from seeing someone practice it. They will never understand the true meaning of it unless and until they see you do it.
Your intent alone is not enough. You have to commit to learning yourself. Now you may be thinking, how so? (well, maybe not exactly these words) whenever your child is talking to you, avoid the two ‘Cs.’ Criticizing and Correcting.
Your children wanted to tell you something, instead of listening to what they are saying, don’t start building conclusions and telling them off. Listen with an open mind. Hear them out. Sometimes, they just need to tell you something.
It doesn’t have to become a lecture. Pick your moments. Whatever you have to say is necessary, no doubt, but wait for them to be in a receptive mode. This way, they will understand more rather than taking it the wrong way.
Maintain connection at all time
It does not matter how well you communicate when everything is going great. The connection is as it is powerful when everything is ‘hunky-dory.’ Everyone is merrily chatting to each other. What happens when the tables turn? When your child is having an amicable conversation with you, it is easy to hear and digest what they say.
But, it is equally essential that you pay attention to them when they are not the ‘perfect child.’ In fact, it is critical that you be all ears when they are having problems.
That is the time when they need you to lend them support. It is a piece of cake not to criticize when there is nothing objectionable. But, you have to keep it up even when you don’t agree with what they are saying.
Your actions in such situations are going to teach them a great deal about being a patient listener.
Have a meaningful dialogue with them
Dialogue is where one person speaks while the other listens, and then they swap their roles. So, whenever you are having a conversation with them, it is necessary to keep in mind that both of you are equally contributing. If you are the only one talking, then you will breach the ‘practice what you preach’ rule.
And if your child is the only one talking, then the whole point of teaching them how to listen is rendered moot. A meaningful dialogue must leave you with something more than you had before the conversation started. It shouldn’t just happen for the sake of making it happen.
For instance, let us say you are discussing everything that has happened to you since morning with your child. Hear them out when they are telling you about the recent events. And then the key part is that you will also share about your day.
Children tend to listen more carefully when someone is talking to them like they are grown-up. Share your problems with them and ask them for their opinion, like equals. It will teach them to listen keenly.
When they know that what they say is going to be of some value, they will put a lot of thought into it. And how will they do that? By understanding the situation better through improving their listening skills.
Focus on bonding
The art of communication is expressing your views in such a way that the other person understands you completely. And for that, bonding is of the essence. There has to be a repo, that is, you need to be on the same page when you are talking to each other.
So, before you try to convey your point, make sure that the circuit is properly wired for the flow of current. The current does not flow if the wires are not connected. So, you must connect with them first.
It is human nature to want to solve our own problems. When you see that your child is struggling with something and you know how to get them out of the mess, don’t go ahead and tell them how to do it. Hear me out.
When you give them a suggestion that they didn’t ask for, even if it is a working solution, they will take it the wrong way. They may think that you find them incapable of doing their own work, which is not true (I hope). Instead, let them come to you.
The main part of learning how to listen is understanding the need for it. When they realize that they may need your assistance, they will come to you. And this time, they will listen, which is what you wanted in the first place. The approach to how you decide to teach it will determine a great deal of what they might learn.
“Listening is being able to be changed by the other person.” -Alan Alda.
It is time we acknowledge that no magic exists in the world (So, I guess I should stop hoping for my Hogwarts letter now).
The point being, your child is not going to become a good listener in a day (which would have been possible with a wand and a magic spell). It is going to take time. And it will require immense patience on your part. But the result is worth it.