Elements of a Confident Kid… Skilled Listener
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to pay attention to someone or something in order to hear what is being said, sung, played, etc.
to hear what someone has said and understand that it is serious, important or true.1
About Listening: The ability to listen and to try and fully understand another person’s perspective is one hallmark of an emotionally intelligent person and certainly a confident kid. And there are a variety of types of listening including active, reflective, informational, critical, empathic and therapeutic. Listening is a skill that must be honed and practiced. With so many distractions in daily life, making it a priority can be a challenge particularly with family whom we see everyday, multiple times a day. However, listening may be the single most important way you contribute to your family relationships. Your ability to focus on your family members can offer you insight into their most intimate hopes and challenges. Your efforts will result in modeling and practice for your children. And with that regular practice, you will be able to better empathize with their feelings and help them understand and deal with problems.
Strategy to Promote Listening: You will be offering valuable modeling to your children as you listen with focus and empathy to them. Because listening requires self-awareness and discipline, it can be helpful to pick a specific time of day when you choose to turn off electronic devices and allow yourself to be fully available to your children for whatever they choose to discuss.
When teaching school-age children listening skills, the Responsive Classroom approach shows students how to ask a relevant question or make an empathetic comment in response to a person who has shared something. It may be surprising how challenging it is to adhere to their reflective listening guidelines.2 Try this out with your children and model how your children can become more effective listeners.
Ask a relevant question.
This may mean seeking clarification about something that has been shared to find out further details.
“My math class was so boring today.” your child may relay.
A natural clarifying question might be, “What was boring about it?”
Be certain to leave empty space, or “wait time” for a response. Often our thoughts are cut short by continued conversation. Allow thinking to take place. Though silence can be uncomfortable, it’s often necessary in order to gain a substantive response.
Make an empathetic comment.
This response focuses on the person and whatever she has shared with you. Often we are tempted, in order to relate to another’s situation, to share our own feelings or even a story about ourselves that demonstrates we understand. However, that kind of comment can take the focus away from the sharer and her situation.
“I don’t know if Amy considers me a friend anymore. She hasn’t been talking to me after class like she used to.” your child may say.
“Amy has been your friend for a long time. It sounds like you really miss talking to her.” would be an empathetic response.
“My friend, Hannah, will often not get in touch for weeks but then, when she does call, we connect just as if a day has not passed.” would not be the kind of empathetic comment that focuses on the sharer. Though the comment makes a connection, it removes the focus from your child’s situation with Amy to your own.
Try out these two distinct forms of reflective listening during your sacred time with your children and see if you feel more confident in your modeling of effective communication.
For more ideas on listening and games you can use with your children, read “Say What?”
1. Merriam-Webster Dictionary Online. Retrieved from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/listen on 9-8-14.
2. Kriete, R. (2002). The Morning Meeting Book. Turners Falls, MA: Northeast Foundation for Children.