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Helping your child to be a good listener is an important part of her socialization. Hearing is automatic, but listening is not! Thinking about the distinction between hearing and listening will give some valuable clues to how listening can be taught.
The earliest listening experience for your child was in the womb. The comforting sounds of mother’s heartbeat and body workings conveyed safety and provision. Mom’s racing heartbeat meant something different from her resting beat.
Staying sensitive to sounds and their meaning is important to becoming an effective communicator, whether they be voice, music or other environmental sounds, will help them become a thoughtful and responsive communicator. Each stage of childhood is an opportunity to maintain or reclaim listening skill.
Babies and very young children are very good listeners. They listen for and instinctively know the difference between Mom and Dad’s footsteps on the floor. The soft hum of a lullaby can work wonders. So can the rattle of a favorite toy. Much pleasure is derived from the sense of hearing.
Until children are a little older, listening is not an option. As the will develops, listening can become more deliberate and at times optional! Using music, singing or saying rhymes and catchy songs can keep listening skills developing.
Talking to your infant often throughout the day can keep them “plugged in Eand responsive to you. Maintaining eye contact with your baby is important. Varying your expression to suit the situation will help your young child learn the subtle meanings that accompany changes in tone, volume, pace and pitch.
As your child begins to babble, then form recognizable sounds and words it is good to show interest by your facial expression and listening posture. Modeling real listening will let them know you are listening and that it is something people do to communicate with each other.
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Children ages 5 to 9 are developing listening skills along with all the other learning they are doing. Watching a kindergartener or first grader listening to a story is a joy. Their whole body is in tune with the teller. No one needs to say “Listen!”
Communication with playmates is purposeful, listening and speaking being fairly evenly portioned.
As children age, they begin to lose their careful listening in deference to their urgency to communicate their thoughts and wishes. This is the time, between ages 7 and 9, when deliberate care needs to be taken to preserve and build listening skills.
Playing listening games can be fun and helpful. Musical chairs can keep the mechanism of attending to sound active. Having children follow a clapping pattern, then having them answer in like will do the same. The classic game of sending a whispered message around a circle will inspire careful listening.
Listening to poetry, especially rhyming poetry can keep a young listener engaged. Playing musical games, having fun with homemade percussion instruments or learning to play the piano can keep kids listening.
This is the age when children must be reminded to listen to each other and to you. Interrupting should be met with an insistence to wait and to listen first. If consistently applied in a matter of fact way, they should get the message!
Practicing listening manners can be made fun by role-playing or pretending. Continuing to model good listening must be balanced by the expectation that you want to be listened to. When your child fails to listen to you, he must be gently reminded to attend to your voice and to what you are saying. This will become increasingly important as time goes on.
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Socialization is a major activity at this age. Children 9-12 are usually very adept at listening to peers and responding with enthusiasm. They may not communicate as well with you or with their teachers!
Use the quiet sounds in nature to remind them how to listen. A quiet walk in the park or the woods without chatting can activate their listening ears. Taking a rest from verbalizing while listening for the call of a bird or the peep of the tree frog will refresh the listening skills of your older child.
Taking your child to concerts, a well-chosen movie or to hear someone speak on a favorite topic will further develop their receptive skills.
If your child will not listen to you at times, asking them how they feel when someone does not listen to them may hit home. Taking time to sit with your child and listen to them is time very well spent. This will give them practice with appropriate listening and response.
Interrupting again needs to be firmly dealt with, as it sabotages even adult interchange! Appealing to their sense of fairness can open their ears.
If you are conscious but casual about your child’s active listening skills, and if you truly listen to him, expecting to be listened to in turn, you will likely have helped your child to become a good listener.
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