Back in the day when I was a kindergarten teacher, parents of young children would want to know what skills their child should have before going to kindergarten. They were always a bit surprised at my answer.
The number one thing your child needs to know to go to kindergarten and be successful is………… how to listen. They need to learn to be an active listener, not a passive listener. In a classroom situation an active listener stops what they are doing, looks at the teacher and listens.
The ability to listen effectively is a critical skill that we need throughout life. Active listening is an important part of processing information. Being an active listener helps a child be successful in school. Being an active listener increases the understanding between what is taught and what is learned.
Active listening isn’t a skill children learn naturally. It’s a skill that needs to be taught and practiced.
So, where do you start? If you’ve been reading to your child, you’ve already started. When your child tells you that you have skipped a page, you will know that they have been actively listening. Read a new book and ask questions to check for active listening.
As soon your baby starts babbling you should start modeling active listening for them. When your baby is trying to “tell” you something you should stop, look and listen. Stop what you are doing and give your child your undivided attention. Look by giving them eye contact. Listen to what they are saying and let them know that you were actively listening by making comments on what they “said”.
Without realizing it, your child is learning to stop, look and listen when someone is speaking to them. As they go through developmental stages, testing you and your patience, you can remind them by getting down on their level and gently turning their face to give you eye contact.
You as a parent can teach active listening skills much better than I can as a classroom teacher. Put a passive listener into a classroom with 11-21 other children and it is difficult. Much time is spent on teaching them to stop when you speak. Once that is accomplished it is hard to sustain eye contact because there are other pairs of eyes that need to look so you know who is listening.
So you’ve been modeling active listening, your child has been practicing active listening, it’s time to go off to preschool and this is what I picture happening……….
It’s circle or morning meeting time and your child is sitting quietly watching the teacher, soaking in absolutely everything that is said or done, having an absolutely wonderful time. In elementary school, your child will be the one listening, comprehending and retaining what is being taught. They will not be the child playing with something in their desk missing information that is needed for comprehension, retention and success in school.
Be an active listener roll model and practice with your child. Don’t be one of those parents that has to reteach at night during your family time because your child didn’t actively listen to what was being taught when it was being taught.