Learning to Listen

Learning to Listen

As of late, I have had to handle my emotions around being heard and listening. It is a painful childhood wound that bubbles up in times of stress and discord. How this dynamic started is a lengthy story. I will refrain from adding in the details. Family of origin material for sure.

Over the years I have had to put effort into being a good listener. This practice has provided great material for my own personal growth and increased my level of understanding of myself and the world. (Learning through this listening is especially critical in programs of recovery) I am not reporting an “A” in this endeavor, but I continue my efforts.

Here are some games you can play with children to help them develop their listening skills.

One that comes to mind I call “Do you hear that?” Sit quietly. Close your eyes. Then go back and forth stating what you can hear in the room. From the hum of the lights to the ticking of a clock, all the way to the sound of breathing; it is a non-threatening way to practice listening. It only takes a few minutes but is effective.

This also works well when outside while walking. “A listening walk” can help children notice the sounds in their environment. From sirens to barking dogs, to birds; try to see what you can hear together.

Another is an exercise I call, “Repeat what I said.” For some, this may be taken literally as repeating like a parrot. But word-for-word is unnecessary. What you heard the person saying will suffice. Take turns with this. After each exchange ask, “Is that what you said?”

“Simon Says” helps children follow directions and pay extra close attention to the leader. It is also quite fun.

“What’s that?” has children close their eyes and see if they can identify the sound I am making. There are so many options. Turn on a lamp. Take ice out of the refrigerator. Click dials. Open doors. Tap your fingers on the table. Children love solving these sound puzzles.

To end, I’d like to stress the value of being a good listener to your children. It is important to model the behavior you’d like them to have. When we listen to each other we honor what is special about others. We acknowledge their wants and needs. We take note of their positions and the nature of their inner life. From those in your family to those in your inner circle and beyond, validating each other through our listening is a rare and precious gift.

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