Learning to be a good listener is a critical skill. Kids need to learn to be active listeners (here’s how I teach it in the classroom) and adults need to remember to be good listeners too. But there are also things we do as we speak to children that may increase or lessen the likelihood that children will actually be listening.
Here are 6 ways we may be unintentionally telling kids NOT to listen, and how to correct that:
1. Making it Sound Optional
Sometimes we give a direction, but present it as a choice. “Do you want eat your dinner?” “Pick up your shoes, OK?” In our adult world we know the subtleties that imply that these aren’t really optional, but that’s all lost on kids. Make directions…well…direct. That doesn’t mean we have to bark or be impolite. In fact, studies have shown that kids respond best to directions that are spoken softly and worded positively (read more about that study over here). Instead of the ambivalent examples above, try: “You need to join us for dinner now.” “Please pick up your shoes. Thank you!”
2. Creating the Wrong Picture
Like I mentioned above, kids respond best when directions are worded positively. I call this “Say What You Need to See” in my ebook and parenting ecourse. If the directions you give are painting a mental picture that is opposite of what you want, or that doesn’t clarify what you need, kids are likely to misread your directions.