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Do you remember your parents uttering the words, “I feel like I am talking to a brick wall!” Ever feel like you are talking to a brick wall? Children have a lot going on in their brains and oddly enough it is not centered around us, the adults in their lives. Go figure! Do you remember being so focused on a task at that the world melted away? How about the intensity we have all seen or experienced at which fans can get so involved in a TV series or sporting event.  Sound familiar? Little people get focused and absorbed too.

1. Get their attention before speaking.   Use their name, try a form of physical contact such as a touch on the shoulder or arm to draw their focus and wait for eye contact. If they are not looking at you they are probably not hearing you.  When you have their attention, keep it short and simple.

2. Keep it short and simple. Too many instructions and children tend to lose focus. To successfully get tasks done focus on one thing at a time. Ask your child to return to you to let you know it’s completed then let them know the next task and heap on the praise. We all love positive vibes.

3. Positive Vibes Children love attention. Just like us, positive attention makes us feel good about others and ourselves. The more praise we give children the more successful they feel and the more they will want to listen and want to complete the tasks we set for them. Children need to feel valued and to know that you are listening too.

4. You are listening too.   Ask inquiry based questions or open-ended questions.   Pay attention and focus on them. We need to model good listening skills if we want our children to learn them. Make eye contact; put aside what you are doing to focus. If you are in the middle of something that can’t wait, tell your child, “I really want to hear what you have to say but just one minute please while I finish this.” Remember to make eye contact whenever possible to show them they are important too.  Inquiry requires more than simply answering questions or getting the right answer, it involves investigation, exploration, and research

An open-ended question is designed to encourage a full, meaningful answer using the subject’s own knowledge and/or feelings. It is the opposite of a closed-ended question, which encourages a short or single-word answer. Most importantly, make time for conversation.

5. Make Time for Conversation. Open and comfortable communication with children develops confidence, self-esteem, good relationships and cooperation. A great conversation starter with your child might be a funny story from when you were growing up. Children love to hear those stories and it creates a sense of belonging and connection. Explore the environment with them. No matter where you are there are always lots of interesting things to chat about.

Talking with kids is a two way street. Talk at them and they may not hear you. Talk with them and then hear what they have to say.  Listening is just as important as talking.

~ Cathy Power, Wee Watch Barrie Supervisor