There is an old saying that children should be seen and notheard, but I would like to update that into just this; children should be heard. When you talk to someone you expect him or her in some way to indicate that they have indeed heard you, it’s the civilised thing to do. You probably would be upset if they looked as if they had not paid any attention to what you said. Many marital arguments have probably started in exactly this way.
We often do children a disservice of not listening to them, as I said in my last blog and even if we do listen not indicating that we’ve heard what they had to say. Children are, to say the least, very persistent and if they think they’ve not been heard they will simply go on repeating themselves until someone shows them that they have. For many parents this would be by the expedient of telling them to be quiet. But you can save yourself a lot of trouble by simply indicating that you have heard them the first time that they speak.
Listening is important but indicating that you have heard your child is equally so. It may suffice to simply say with enthusiasm “Thank you for telling me” or “Oh really?!”, “Oh Wow!” or something of a similar ilk. It may also be incumbent to also give an answer or if you can’t simply say for example “I understand but I can’t talk about it right now, we can discuss it later”.
You will find that the combination of listening and then showing that you’ve heard your child will very likely make your life and theirs much calmer. Children are particularly in tune with their parents and the one thing they want more than anything is usually their parent’s attention, undivided, at least some of the time. Being interested in your child and what they have to say is a very important part of their upbringing and social awareness. Finding shared activities can help – such as fun quizzes!
If you think about the fact that children are very small people who are constantly being told what to do and what to think by very large people. Look back to when you were a child in a land of giants. Giants who don’t listen and especially never show that they have actually heard anything you have to say must be especially frustrating.
It’s often said of some children that they are attention seeking and I am sure this is true but if you think about why they might be craving attention then you might reach the conclusion that perhaps they are not getting any. A very little bit can go a very long way to changing your child’s attitude to you and to others. You can teach children social skills and manners all you want, and you should do so because that is important for their future life, but do not neglect to listen to your child and let them know that you have heard them.
Guest Blog by David Evans Bailey
David Evans Bailey has an MA in Digital Media Art. He taught ICT and Photography at Secondary School level for several years as well as being involved in many theatrical and other endeavours. His background is an IT professional. You can see some of his artwork at www.davidevansbailey.com