We so often complain that our children DO NOT LISTEN to us. That they completely ignore us. That they do not hear us. Could their poor listening skills be partly attributed to what they are observing; grown-ups not listening? We all know children like to test the boundaries. Their inherent nature is to want to explore and assert themselves as individuals which can be very challenging particularly when they do not listen to us. We get sick of repeating ourselves, talking to the walls and getting nowhere.
We tend to denote poor listening skills to children. It’s a phase that they go through and sometimes never grow out of and that’s important to note. Are we raising a generation of poor listeners if we ourselves are poor listeners? Just because we are adults does not mean we are good listeners.
When was the last time you actually listened to someone attentively without unnecessary interruption? Just listened to them from start to end without butting in, adding your point of view, changing the subject or completely tuning out. We can’t help ourselves and most of the time we do these things without realising it. We need to be aware of how we engage with and listen to others so that we can become better listeners and teach our children to become better listeners.
If we’re honest with ourselves, we can all work on our listening skills NOT just our kids. To instil positive ways of being, including listening, we have to be present in the moment.
How many times has your child tried to tell you something and you haven’t really listened to what they have said as your mind and thoughts have been elsewhere? Children are not silly. They know when they do not have our full attention which may help explain why they seem to demand our attention at the most inappropriate times such as when we are on the phone or having a conversation with someone face to face. This behaviour is characteristic of toddlers but I am not referring to toddlers in this instance but older school aged children.
Last weekend, my parents phoned to say they were in the area and they asked if they could drop in to see us. As they do not live locally, it was great to see them. Anyway, my husband and I were trying to have a conversation with them when our son decided he would be helpful and start wiping up the dishes and generally clean the kitchen. The noise coming from the kitchen was unbelievable; clunking and banging of cutlery, plates and drawers. Calmly, I asked him THREE TIMES to come out of the kitchen. He ignored me all three times. Then my husband asked him to leave the kitchen in a stronger tone and he stormed out of the kitchen. Our son is a beautiful person who loves to help out but his timing on this occasion was all wrong. I excused myself from the room and went and spoke to him explaining that I appreciated that he wanted to help but with all the noise, it was difficult to have a conversation. I thought he listened and understood what I had said. Moments later he was back in the kitchen making more noise. As much as I wanted to speak my mind at this point in time, I held back.
Later on, I did however address the issue of his poor listening. I told him I felt angry. I felt angry I had to ask him three times and I felt angry he returned to the kitchen after I had spoken to him. I then asked him why he thought I was angry with him. I wanted to make sure he understood why I was feeling the way I was feeling. He understood. In simple terms he needed to be made aware that his actions and behaviour had consequences, namely making it difficult for us to have a decent conversation. Children need to be aware that we are human too and that we have needs just like them. They have to understand that we have emotions so there is no point hiding your emotions from your children BUT there is a difference between communicating your emotions in a healthy way and just losing complete control. If you have to lose control to release your emotions, do it in private.
So the next time your child doesn’t listen to what you have said and completely ignores you:-
(1) Address the issue when you are in a calm state.
(2) Keep your explanation simple and short to match their concentration span and talk about your feelings in a healthy way.
(3) Remember it takes REPETITION and CONSISTENCY from us as parents to teach our children positive ways of being. It doesn’t happen overnight.
Our messages to them have to be clear and consistent and if we keep on being clear and consistent they will eventually get the message.
(4) Be a good role model listener for your children.
(5) Keep your expectations realistic.
Do we expect too much? Our children have to learn to be good listeners. Listening is a skill like any other skill acquired through life experience and practice. When there are many adults who haven’t mastered the art of listening we can’t expect our children to have it down pat. We can however, lead by example and guide them as best we can.
Would love to hear your thoughts.