Learning to Listen Tips
© Beverley Paine Jun 2004
Learning to be quiet was the hardest part of being a home educating mum... I found, over time, that the less I talked, the more my children would come and tell me about what was happening in their lives, their thoughts, feelings, stories and ideas. This encouraged them to actively think about what they are doing, and to problem solve, and we began to have more conversations, rather than me 'telling' them what, how or when to do something. A friend reminded me that this is also important when the children are reading - to resist from questioning them all the time about what they are reading or how they felt about the story, but to let them share their reactions, understandings and thoughts in their own time, and in a manner of their choosing.
Saying the person's name and making eye contact when wanting to tell someone something is also critical to being heard. All too often I found that the other person only got the last half of the sentence and usually responded with 'what?'. This was incredibly helpful in our family in getting rid of a lot of our frustration experienced when trying to communicate with each other.
Don't talk through walls. It not only muffles the sound but you often end up needing to repeat half, if not all, of what you said!
Are you repeating yourself, often within moments of having said something, perhaps even in the same sentence? Then chances are you subconsciously feel that you are not being heard. The other person may not understand the way you have phrased the words and is taking longer to make sense of what you have said. Try rewording what you want to say. Sometimes we repeat ourselves for emphasis - think up more descriptive words to use that add emphasis naturally; for example, instead of ran, use bolted - it is much more dramatic!
Use the most appropriate tone. If you are making a statement, don't say it using a questioning tone. Or vice versa. Children can be easily confused and not respond, not sure if you want an answer. We need to model building conversations with our children by having conversations with them as well as explaining some of the ways we can improve communication.
Don't beg for responses you don't need by adding words such as 'right?' at the end of sentences. Many people feel insecure if the other person doesn't respond to something they have said and so all sorts of 'tags' have been added to the ends of statements, effectively turning them into questions.
Most all though, pay attention when your children speak. Listen as you would to your best friend. They are important people with lots of interesting things to say and their thoughts and questions guide you as their teacher, mentor and friend.
Take time to talk with your children every day. Not only does this help to build close relationships but it builds vocabulary, listening and speaking skills.
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We began educating our three children in 1985, when our eldest was aged five years. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn as they grew and explored and discovered this amazing world since the moment they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. I hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was!
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