Children in the preschool years are very good listeners. These children can tell you exactly what was said on every television commercial for the entire evening. How is it, then, that the same child who hears every whisper about the neighbor's cat or Grandma's cooking can't hear you tell him to pick up his toys or put on his hat?
Studies have determined the amount of time parents spend in meaningful conversation with their children each day. The minutes are few in number, and most parents admit that more time is spent passing out orders and correcting behaviors than just conversation and stories. Children learnquickly what they like to hear and what they would rather not hear. They can also tell when "not hearing" will be to their benefit.
First comes the foundation for good listening. When mothers, fathers and other caregivers stop what they are doing, look into a baby's eyes and take the time to listen to the babble, coos and cries, they are showing the child how to listen. They are also raising the child's feelings of selfworth by hearing what the child thinks and feels.
If you think your child has a genuine hearing problem, contact your physician for medical advice. If you think listening is the problem, consider these points.
Three-, 4- and 5-year-old children are learning from their surroundings every day. Part of their listening problem comes from paying attention to something else. Adults can improve their chances for being heard by their preschoolers by:
Consider what you want the child to listen for. If the talk is negative (Why can't you ever keep your room clean?), threatening (I'm going to give these toys to someone who will care about them.) or demanding (Pick up this mess right this second!), the child is likely not to respond because of fear or confusion or rebellion.
Sometimes the problem lies in the different viewpoints of the child and parents. To a parent looking in at a child's room, there are doll clothes hanging out of every suitcase and purse, books scattered under the bed and stuffed animals peeking out of every corner.
The child sees a very different scene. The doll clothes are sorted according to size so that any baby is ready to travel at a moment's notice. The books are under the bed so they can be reached quickly at night, and the animals are stored neatly away from each other so no fights break out when nobody is there to tend the zoo. A child's perspective of orderly is very different from the parent's notion of what clean is.
When parents need the child to help with a task:
Ask the child to do the task one step at a time. Put your dirty clothes in the hamper. Great, now find a pajama top...
As adults, our words are important, but our actions are what really talk to our children. If you want your child to wear a hat outdoors, wear one yourself. If you think your child isn't a good listener, check your own listening habits and make improvements that will benefit everyone. Good listening is a great life skill to know and practice.
This newsletter is published for North Dakota families with preschoolers by the NDSU Extension Service and distributed through your county extension office. See your county hone economist for more parenting information and other home economics programs.
NDSU Extension Service, North Dakota State University of Agriculture and Applied Science, and U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating. Sharon D. Anderson, Director, Fargo, North Dakota. Distributed in furtherance of the Acts of Congress of May 8 and June 30, 1914. We offer our programs and facilities to all persons regardless of race, color, sex, religion, age, national origin, or disability; and are an equal opportunity employer.
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