While sitting in the airport, I am listening to a lady talk to her young son – he’s probably around 3-4 years old. He is eating breakfast at the table in the cafeteria and is picking at his muffin making a mess on the table. The mother says, “Stop making a mess.” The child continues to pick at the muffin leaving little crumbs all over the table. She then says, “I told you to stop that.” But the child continues to “eat” his muffin in the same messy way. The mother then says, “You better start listening!”
The question I have is – does this child even know what it means to “listen”? Has he ever been TAUGHT what “listening” looks like? I share this with you to encourage you parents of young children – children must be TAUGHT those social skills that we so often take for granted! Teach your child what listening is! What does listening “look” like – where are our eyes when we listen? What is our mouth doing? How do you let the person you are listening to know that you are doing just that – listening? In frustration, when we say to our children, “I want you to listen!” we are wasting our words and our time if we have not TAUGHT them what that social skill is all about! Set up opportunities for your children to practice the skill of listening. Role play with them what listening is all about and when you get into real life circumstances when you ask them, “Are you listening to me?” it is then that they can truly be held accountable for what is expected of them.
We have to remember that children are not born into this world with the innate knowledge of all things. We know that they have to be taught language, history, and math, but they must also be taught those social skills such as listening, ignoring bad choices, taking turns, keeping their hands to themselves, respecting others and many more. Take time to decide what social skills you want to instill in your children and set out to spend time teaching these to your children. And remember to “practice what you preach”! Your example is one of the most important tools that you have!