Self-Reliant Part Six

Listening and Talking. The two elements of quality conversation.

"Effective listening is the ability to form an image in our minds of what people are saying to us -- to actively analyze and confirm it so that in our minds we are able to change places with the other person and spontaneously appreciate his or her point of view."

So we visualize the concepts we are hearing. And try to understand to the extent that we walk in their shoes. We practice empathy.

Think about that.

Do you listen that well?

I've heard myself say to my husband -- "would you repeat back to me what I just said?" It's sometimes hard to know if the recipient of your words has really "digested" what you said. Maybe they stopped after a "smell". :p (Sorry, that's kinda silly...)

But really, teaching good listening habits to our children is crucial.

It is difficult to teach reading comprehension to a poor listener. If they don't digest what they hear, why should they assimilate what they read any better?

Our older children need the ability to paraphrase what they read AND what they hear. Can they listen for the feeling or meaning behind spoken or written words? It's called checking for understanding. And we all appreciate it.

"I've just had the WORST day at school. My teacher is so unfair and nobody likes me...why did we have to move to this place anyway? I hate everything about it."

"You must be feeling pretty discouraged and frustrated with all the change we've had lately. Maybe your teacher doesn't understand all the stress you're under and maybe you just need time to get to know your classmates a bit better."

"To have true dialogue, it is not simply enough to exchange information; the exchange must take place in a climate of support and interest."
But what if your child won't talk about their feelings at all? They don't even give you the chance to listen and paraphrase!

Do you find yourself asking a lot of closed-ended questions? "Did you have fun?" "Did you meet any new friends?" "Was your teacher interesting?"

Yes. No. No.

Learn much?

Try open-ended questions. You may get closer to a more stimulating conversation, after a couple tries. Then be patient while your child goes on and on about the colors of the girls' dresses or the amazing number of florescent lights in the gym.

Remember, if children are surrounded by affirming adults who know how to encourage them to explore ideas, they will become increasingly confident, assertive, and skilled in interacting with others.