The importance of clear speech and effective hearing cannot be stressed enough as a vital skill needed by children to be able to interpret and communicate effectively.
Speaking and listening go hand in hand when we are talking with children and expecting them to understand instructions and information. Children also expect us to understand the need to be listened too and understood.
The ability to listen and respond with empathy and sensitivity in all situations is a learned skill and you will get better at it the more you practice.
Be mindful of listening and getting the correct message and giving a well thought out response which is appropriate to the situation. Be careful you are not listening and commenting on good news and happy situations alone but also hearing stress and worry. Fear, anger and sadness are all feelings that need to be validated and listened to carefully because they usually require greater effort to understand and respond.
Tip for Encouraging Speaking and Listening
- Be mindful that development of oral language and listening skills are different in each child. Make sure you communicate in an age appropriate way. Try to use language that the child can understand and use. Remember children think differently to adults as they can be quite literal and honest. They may have trouble expressing themselves if they are still learning how language works and the meaning of different words.
- Set aside time for speaking and listening. This can be as simple as what they did at the park or daycare or as complex as helping solve a problem. Be open to talking about all kinds of feelings and guiding appropriate behaviors and language to solve problems.
- Pace your discussions. Allow the child to stop speaking before you respond. This will ensure they are satisfied you have heard them and they have heard you.
- Use language the child will understand. Show you are listening by repeating back what the child has said or rephrasing the conversation. This helps them to keep their train of thought and expand on their story.
- Don’t always solve the problem but give cues that will allow them to come to their own conclusion. “How could you have helped James with his sand castle?”
- Watch the non- verbal language and pick up on cues. This means you need to give your full attention to the child. Sometimes we are unsure of what they are saying and need to ask them to repeat it. If this looks like being a problem and you have no idea what they want the best thing to say is “Show me darling what you want.” Use endearments as this lessens the stress of not being understood.
- Hold good eye contact and give appropriate body language. Non- verbal language and facial expressions are important because children look for cues to how you are feeling or responding to their needs.
- Show you are interested by saying “Tell me more…” or “What happened then…..”.
- Be honest and avoid criticism. If you are giving instructions make them short with one or two ideas at a time. Try not to overload a child’s ability to retain information as this will incur confusion and a lack of understanding about what you are trying to tell them. Ask the child “Do you understand what I am saying?” or “Can you tell me what I would like you to do?”
If you speak with and listen to your children they will very quickly build rapport with you and gain trust and confidence in their own ability to respond with appropriate listening and speaking skills. For children to learn to listen and understand, and speak appropriate answers, speaking and listening is a vital skill to be modeled by all parents.
Speaking and listening will help your child develop Emotional Intelligence. You can find out more about developing Emotional Intelligence in Children HERE
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