Even though I'd say our son is a pretty good little boy, there's always room for improvement. And one area that I've noticed is a bit lacking is his listening skills. It tends to aggravate me when I'm explaining something to him and I notice those eyes wandering. While I know that some amount of inattention to a parent's droning on is just part of being a child, I also know that there are things that I can do to minimize its effects and get him to listen better.
Turn the Television Off
I've noticed that if I'm trying to talk or explain something to our son while the television is one, those eyes of his tend to wander toward the screen after a few seconds. I can tell just by watching him that my words are being successfully deflected by the television's powerful force-field. While sometimes when dad is just blithering, it's not a big deal, if I have any desire for him to actually hear and comprehend the words I'm saying, I will turn the television off -- at least for a few minutes -- while I talk to him.
Put Toys Away
Whether it's a toy car, his binoculars, an action figure or whatever, I can often tell that when there are toys to be had, those fiddling little fingers of his will magically find their way to them while I'm trying to explain something. While I don't stop and make him put all his toys away before continuing, I will typically have him put whatever the object of interest is down before going on with what I want to communicate to my little man.
Make Eye Contact
The best way for me to tell if what I'm saying to our son is actually sinking in is through eye contact. I can often tell if my words are having their desired affect by whether he is or isn't making eye contact with me. If I really want to make sure those words are sinking in, I make sure that those eyes aren't wandering toward more interesting things and that they're remaining fixed on me until we're done talking.
Use his Name
Using my son's name when communicating seems to have a way of snapping him back to reality if his attention seems to be wandering. By mentioning his name a time or two during our conversation, it makes it clear that my words are directed toward him and not just the general public, mommy or someone else. Sometimes, if it is something I really want to make sure he gets, I'll ask him to repeat or tell me what I just said. If he can't do that, we'll rehash the whole thing.
Using sarcasm is something adults do with one another in conversations…especially this adult. However, sometimes it's hard to remember that most kids my son's age just don't get such conversational games and wordplay. When he is jacking around at the table and spills his milk, my "Well that was brilliant," response could be confusing to him. He might wonder why spilling his milk might be considered "brilliant" when I'm really just using the word sarcastically. Therefore, this is one aspect of my communicating techniques and my efforts at getting our son to listen better that this dad must constantly work on himself. I have to remember that it's not always about getting the child to change to our standards, sometimes we must adapt to their needs to ensure things are being communicated properly.
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