Kids are not born with an innate sense of how to communicate. They do not know, for example, that it is rude to say "Gimme that!" instead of "Would you please hand me Item A?"
If there is one complaint that parents repeat predictably, it's that they wish their kids would listen to them more. Getting kids to listen requires active modeling--that is, you need to listen if you want your kids to do so. Doing this is important for a handful of reasons.
. Modeling builds trust.
Kids are not stupid. When you lack reliability, honesty or accuracy, they quickly figure out that you are a shaky foundation, and they stop looking to you for direction and simple information. They no longer trust that you will provide answers they can use, and so they no longer see you as credible. With that credibility and trust gone, your child has very little motivation to tune in to what you say. For this reason, avoid telling lies (even white ones). Always tell the truth, presenting facts as facts and opinions as opinions, and be consistent in what you say and do.
. Modeling teaches kids how to communicate.
Kids are not born with an innate sense of how to communicate. They do not know, for example, that it is rude to say "Gimme that!" instead of "Would you please hand me Item A?" You have to teach them this. In the same way, they do not know that they should make eye contact, wait their turn until you've finished speaking, and so on. If you want your child to listen, you have to do it yourself. This means cueing in to body language just as much as it does paying attention to what your child says. Do not yell or interrupt, as this just sends the message to your child that those behaviors are acceptable patterns in communication sequences.
. Modeling shows you are interested in your child.
A lot of experts focus on the benefits of modeling listening skills for the child, but the benefits of listening aren't exclusive to your youngster. When you listen--truly listen--to what your child is saying, you have a wonderful opportunity to understand him or her better. You can find out the interests, feelings and opinions he or she has. This information about your child helps you respond to him or her better, strengthening your relationship. That builds self-esteem and the willingness to hear you out.
. Modeling builds general language competence.
A basic trick for more effective listening is to repeat back what you've heard, paraphrased (for instance, "Okay, so what you are telling me is..." or "Let me see if I understand..."). When you paraphrase this way with a child, your child hears a new way of expressing the same idea, building vocabulary and syntax. It teaches your child to see the big picture of what someone is saying in addition to the details, as well. This increase in language competence makes it much easier for your child to understand directions and requests and respond to them regardless of how they are phrased, eliminating confusion-based conflicts.
Modeling is essential if you want your child to listen to you well. It is a major way to build the trust that encourages him or her to take you seriously and hear you out. It also shows your child the proper way to engage in communication, whether it's with you or someone else. Being a good listener also shows your child that you care, offering the opportunity for you to learn about him or her and to strengthen your relationship. Showing your child how to listen also can boost their language competence, which in turn makes it simpler for them to grasp what you are saying, what you mean or what you want.