How do you teach your child to be a good listener…especially in these times of instant technology & multi-tasking? The key is to carve out time each day for face-to-face interaction with your child.
Being calm, which promotes attention and availability to ‘hear’. Think about creating ‘cozy spaces’ to play and talk with your child on a daily basis. These spaces should be quiet with low distractions, can have blankets, pillows and can occur in a fort, a tent or just cozying up on the couch.
Face-to-Face conversation with eye contact to give your child robust experience in reading ‘non-verbal’ cues. Did you know that 70% of communication is facial and body gestures, 23% is vocal intonation (how you say it) and only 7% of communication is the actual words?! Your child must be looking at you to get the emotional content of what you are saying.
Setting aside short chunks of time for these conversations. This will allow time for continuous engagement. During snack times, after school and before bed are all good times of the day to harness these rich face-to-face conversations.
Talking at the dinner table is also a great family time to share experiences! A wonderful mother introduced me to a game called “Food for Talk”, which is a box of cards with different topics to discuss. This is a fun way to generate new and interesting conversations.
Sharing YOUR emotional experiences with your child. Use a wide range of “feeling words” and describe how you feel – your child will love hearing when you were embarrassed, sad, lonely, scared, angry, worried, etc.
Getting practice at identifying other people’s emotions and intentions. After social events, reflect with your child about how other friends reacted/felt and why. You want your child to be a ‘social detective’ and try to figure out what is going on with their friends.
Seeing how long you can keep the conversation going. The longer the conversation, the more practice your child gets in the dance of listening, ‘reading’ the other person’s cues and responding.
Limiting electronics (TV, iPod, iPad, computer, etc.) and replacing them with real face-to-face interaction.
Be exciting and fun to interact with! Entice your child to engage with you!
By Kiegan Blake, O.T.
(This article was originally published in Maui Family Magazine)