The word “listen has the same letters as the word “silent”. Now that I am a grandparent, I realize more than ever the power and importance of listening to children. What a difference it makes when my granddaughter (or truly any person) believes what they have to say is valid and worth listening to. Listening to a child, actually fully listening and giving your undivided attention, is one of the most powerful things you can do to support a child’s self-esteem.
How often have you found yourself saying something like ‘umm, yeah carry on, I’m listening’ when you are actually busy doing something else or thinking about something else? I know I used to do that at times when my kids were young.
At school, on the playground or in the classroom, there are so many children all needing to be heard, and the quieter or less confident child can sometimes end up without a voice. A great practice our teachers often use is to ask the student for their opinion on something and fully listen to what they have to say.
Listening can also teach problem solving. When your child has a problem, it can be so tempting to try and help by ‘fixing’ it for them. No parent likes to see their child struggling, but before you dive in with your advice, ask your child what they think they could do. If they don’t know, support them to come up with some solutions with you. Get into the habit of doing this every time there is a problem and you will be encouraging your child to learn the steps to problem solving in a safe and supportive way.
Maria Montessori described every child’s plea to be, “Help me do it for myself.”