Your primary schooler’s continuous chatter might impress you. But, when she finds it difficult to focus on what is being told to her, it would certainly worry you, wouldn’t it? Well, you need to remember that it is essential to hone her listening skills. Fine-tuning your child’s listening skills will serve as the platform for the development of the other three language skills, namely, speaking, reading and writing. It is her efficiency in these skills which will determine her ability to communicate effectively throughout her life. So, whether it is listening for basic comprehension, auditory discrimination, focussed listening, critical listening or empathetic listening, you need to encourage your child to pay attention to what is being told to her. Here are some tips to help you in this.
1. Read or narrate stories: Is there a better tool other than stories to get your child to focus and listen? Certainly not! You can tell him stories, not just at bedtime, but even during your leisure hours. While narrating stories, intersperse your stories with questions about the characters, the place and the plot. Such questioning will help engage him in ‘active’ listening and not merely superficial listening. You can also prod him to ask questions; this will finetune his critical listening skills, as he will become involved in the story.
2. Have conversations: When you have one-to-one conversations with your child, it will provide a lot of scope for listening. Research has shown that listening begins from the womb. Even the foetus can listen to sounds. That is why it is recommended that parents talk and bond with their baby even before she is born. In the digital era that we live in, there is hardly any verbal interaction at home. Put those gadgets away and spend time talking to your child. Ask her about her day at school, and share with her interesting snippets from your day at work. This will encourage her to listen. Also, keep in mind your child’s attention span. It is quite limited. So, avoid lengthy discussions or boring lectures. Do not have monologues with your child. Encourage dialogues. Otherwise, your child wouldn’t be able to pay attention; her mind would tend to wander off.
3. Engage in fun activities: Board games, cookery, party games – all these involve instructions. When you engage in such activities with your child, it will make sure that he listens carefully to the instructions so that he is able to carry them out. These activities will come in handy in integrating the development of listening skill in real-life scenarios, and that too with an element of fun. When it comes to activities, don’t forget listening to songs, sing-alongs, and karaoke. Music can be a great tool to hone your child’s listening. Games such as, ‘Simon says’, or ‘Passing the secret’, will also help develop your child’s listening ability.
4. Be a role model: If you don’t listen to your child when she addresses you or keep interrupting when someone else speaks to you, how can you expect your child to pay attention to you? You need to bear in mind that teaching your child any skill, begins with you. Your child will emulate what you demonstrate. So, set an example to her by paying careful attention when you are engaged in conversations. And, remember, you cannot pretend to listen. You should be an ‘active’ listener, involving yourself with your eyes, ears, mind and heart.
“I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen,” said the American novelist Ernest Hemingway. Do you want your child to be like this great writer or like the ‘most people’ who never listen?
Use these tips, and get your child to listen, listen and listen…