Listen With Your Heart

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One of the greatest gifts you can give your child is to listen to them with an open heart.  When I was teaching first grade, I found that many issues a child dealt with could be easily solved by listening with an open mind and heart.

Children need to have someone who will always be on their side.    That doesn’t mean that they always get want they want.  What this means is that the special people in their lives will put down whatever they are doing if they are in distress, and be with them to help them solve their issue.  This is done through careful thoughtful listening,  often referred to as “active listening”.  Often times, younger children  show their distress by acting out, and they may just need someone to set boundaries, keep them safe and love them through their tantrums.

The art of listening and parenting evolves as your child grows.  It should never be static.  As humans our wants/needs and abilities to communicate change over time, but one thing remains the same.  We all long for authentic loving communication with others.  We all have the need to be heard.

As your child leaves toddlerhood, and begins to be able to communicate with language, the art of listening  is critical to help them to continue to grow their language, and  learn to trust  others and themselves. When you  are really listening to  someone, you are with them. You are making eye contact, facing them, (leaning in) and you are quiet.  You give the speaker a chance to say what they need to say.  If you don’t understand, you ask questions for clarification.  You paraphrase what you think the speaker is saying to check  for understanding.    Once the speaker verifies that you do indeed understand  what they are saying, then you can offer support, advice, etc as needed.  Often all the child needs is to know that someone hears them.  They may need a hug, a smile, or they may need to be told why it is that they can’t do, have etc whatever it is they are seeking.  Don’t give advice unless they ask.  Usually you can lead them to a thoughtful conclusion by asking leading questions.  How empowering for a child to be able to solve issues they may have!!

IF you find that you are worn out with active listening because it always ends up with your child begging for something, then you need to shift the conversation.  Sometimes you need to just say “no” and move on.  If you pay attention, you will learn quickly when a situation calls for active listening and when it calls for a short, sweet response.   Even “no” can be said with kindness.

Last week I had the opportunity to spend time with my Granddaughters who are 4 and 2.  I learned much in listening and conversing with them.  My four-year old (she is four going on 20)  is going to take me to the nail salon when she learns to drive.  When tucking her into bed at night I said , “good night, I love you”, to which  she replied….”good night my love”.   I keep playing that over in my head and it brings a smile to my face every time.     The two-year old is becoming very skilled in asking for what she needs.   She was able to communicate her needs in times of stress (potty training)  and times of play and joy!  “Blow bubbles with me Grandma.”  When a two-year old asks you to blow bubbles, take some time and blow some bubbles.  It really is quite magical.

The art of listening will help both you and your child.    As you are practicing, you learn patience, kindness and SO much about your child.   You will also learn about yourself if you pay attention to how it is for you when you are working on being  an active listener.    Do you find yourself wanting to rush to resolution….do you find yourself wanting to check your cell phone…..do you find yourself uncomfortable with your child’s pain…..do you find yourself wanting to minimize your child’s feelings…..do you find yourself not even hearing what your child is saying as your mind is off somewhere else???  Notice these things and work on your skill. We are all works in progress – all the time!  But the benefits of really listening are well worth the effort!    Your child learns acceptance, compassion and trust.  For no matter what they have going on they are learning that someone will be there to help them through it.  Once they hit their teens, you will be glad this trust has been established.    One of the greatest benefits of all is that  your child is learning valuable skills to help them in all of their relationships as they move forward in life.  Our world needs some compassionate communicators.  It starts at home.

 

 

LET’S TALK!

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TALK to your baby often.   As  you converse, your child is learning valuable language skills.  Get eye level and engage.  Even very young babies respond to a soothing voice.  As your baby gets older and begins to babble and coo, they will be delighted if you join in and mimic their sounds.   Now you’re talking!

 Hours of conversation with your baby will pay big rewards as you watch them go from babbling, to one word, to putting a few words together, to speaking in sentences and then WHOLE paragraphs!  Some days, when most of the conversation on their end begins and ends with “NO”….you may be sorry that they  learned to speak.  However, it won’t always be “NO” –  they will say the greatest things if you just pay attention and  give them time and space to formulate all the amazing ideas that are going on in their developing brains.   Conversation – a wonderful way to bond and let your child know how important they are.

I was getting coffee at my usual spot  the other morning  when I spied a woman with a young girl who appeared to be about ten. What a nice idea, I thought.  A day off from school – a chance for adult and child to spend time at the donut shop together.  In reality the adult was looking at her cell phone and the young girl was quietly eating her donut.  Both sat in silence – not looking at one another – I felt sad for  them.  What a missed opportunity for some quality time.  SO put down your cell phones, turn off your computers and TV and engage in some old-fashioned face to face conversation.  Your child is never to young or old to benefit!

BOOKS AND BABY AND MAGIC

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One of the fondest memories I have from when my children were little is snuggling with them as we read books together.  AND one of the best ways you can help your child learn is by reading to them.

Let’s look at some of the magic that happens when you read to a baby:

  1. BIG TIME BONDING!
  2. LANGUAGE LANGUAGE LANGUAGE
  3. PRINT AWARENESS
  4. LEARNING HOW BOOKS WORK
  5. ENHANCING ORAL, VISUAL AUDITORY AND TACTILE SKILLS
  6. LEARNING ABOUT THE WORLD

Hold them close and feel the connection. Help them associate reading with a loving experience.

AS you read, your baby is  hearing how words are pronounced (articulation) and beginning to associate words with meaning.  You are helping to build your child’s vocabulary – a crucial skill for learning to read.

CREATING BABY’S  LIBRARY

Soft books and board books are wonderful for babies.  They can touch  and interact with them on their own.   These will get messy as babies learn through touch and putting things into their mouths – so make sure they are baby friendly!

Begin building a library that is out of reach until your child is older and knows how to handle books with care.   Look for books with large print – few words and great colorful pictures.  Books that label pictures are great for associating words with objects and rhyming books are great fun for rhythm of language.  Rhyming is an essential skill when learning to read.  Nursery rhymes, poetry and children’s classics are great ideas to build your child’s library.  BUT don’t wait to read these until they are older…..as long as your child shows an interest – engage them with these books as well.

Don’t forget your local library.  They have wonderful story time programs beginning at an early age.  AND of course what better for your home library than rotating books from your local  library on a regular basis.  Best of all…..IT’S FREE!!

READING time with babies will be short and sweet – but do it often and do it with love.  By engaging in this simple loving activity you are forging a path to helping your child be a great reader and a lifelong learner.

If you have any questions, leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you.

Have fun with your child!  Reading is the magic that opens up the world to them.

CAROL

Next post:  Let’s Talk!