“Small children should be seen and not heard.”
This proverb might have been coined in a century when each family had half a dozen children and it was humanly impossible for the parent to pay attention to each one individually. It might have also been compensated by the fact that the children had their siblings to talk and listen to. However the same cannot be said to be true in our age of nuclear families. Today, due to the fact that each family has only one or at the most two children, it becomes easier for parents to look after them. And hence the onus is also on them to inculcate good communication and interpersonal skills in them.
That brings us to the much hyped Communication skills which is recognized as an important element in the self growth and personal development of children. There are innumerable personality development classes and institutes, which promise parents that they will enhance your child’s communication skills within no time. They emphasize on good presentation and persuasion skills, the ability to talk and influence a group and so forth. However most miss out on the key factor and that is listening.
Most people feel listening is unnecessary and not really a skill to invest one’s time in. The trend is to know how to put forth and express your ideas and concepts and the emphasis is definitely on how one can speak and present one’s self. However the power and advantages that the skill of listening can provide is undeniable.
It is parents themselves who can inculcate in their children the skill of listening at a very early age by being good listeners and thus good role models themselves.
- Listen, it helps you to understand them: Younger children, as their vocabulary is not well developed usually tend to talk in cryptic and puzzling ways, which is often confusing to the listener, and one may not know what the children are trying to convey. However more often than not if one listens carefully to what one feels as the child’s obvious senseless banter, one could make a lot of sense and understand that which is not so obvious
- Listen to their lies: Children have the tendency to lie. Rather than getting angry or irritated at them for lying, it is better if one listens as to what the lie conveys. Children many a times believe their fantasies are true and the line between reality and fantasy is quite blurred. More often than not they believe that what they are saying is the truth and hence if a parent scolds them for lying it is just going to confuse the child. Hence it becomes necessary to first find out whether this is the case.
However at times children do resort to plain lying. But the reasons to indulge in this could be numerous. If the parent listens patiently she/he would come to know whether the lie was said due to fear of losing their social image [and this develops very early in life] and so forth. Thus they can tackle the problem at the primary root of which lying is only a subsidiary reaction
- Listen to their silence: Many a times children lapse into periods of silences and many keep to themselves. Do not underestimate or ignore this. However it also does not mean that one should be alarmed if a child prefers a little quietude. More often than not the child’s silence may be due to fatigue or tiredness. But at times the child’s silence if heard in the proper spirit can convey many deep messages. Children cannot express like adults through speech what they are feeling and experiencing and hence many a times they may resort to withdrawal and solitude. A caring and understanding parent could listen to her/his child’s silence and thus help him out with whatever is troubling the child.
- Listen. Because it’s reciprocal: Most parents make the mistake of doing all the talking and feel that the child learns better when parents talk and they listen. However it is a proven fact that children learn best by emulating the elders in their immediate surrounding. Hence if one wants the child to be a good listener then the best way to teach your child is by first listening to him/her. Be a good role model.
Ultimately as parents if you want to help your children grow up to become good human beings, then remember the golden mantra:
“Who speaks, sows; Who listens, reaps.”