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There is a line from an old movie that says, “Respect is what you get when you give it.” It came to mind this week as I’ve listened to any number of people in totally different situations complaining that children don’t listen. Is it possible that the reason children don’t listen is because they’re not listened to? Marie Montessori admonished us to “follow the child”. If we study the child, we’ll understand where we need to go with our instruction and with how we set up our environments. Or is there so much noise pollution in our environments that we self-protect by screening out the radio, the TV, traffic noise – and what people say to us?

Every one of us learns, processes, and outputs in variations of three ways: visual, auditory, and/or kinesthetic. In our fast-paced, sound-bites world, we are becoming more visually oriented. This is quick glance, fast analysis, and random access and it works well for us. Auditory is sequential and tends to be more conscious of what came before. Kinesthetic is very much more process oriented in the here and now. It tends to be the slowest of the three styles, but it seems also to be the most thorough. There is no “best” style. However, if any one style is neglected, learning, processing, and connecting suffers. Hence, a child who is tuning out the auditory part of her learning experience is limiting her learning ability. Therefore, if you hear yourself saying “How many times do I have to tell you?” or “You’re not listening”, some simple exercises from our Ms. Yvette might help:

• Play the silence game. In a still moment close your eyes and listen to everything you can hear. Ask your child to explain the sounds he hears.

• When you give an instruction, ask your child to repeat it back.

• With chants, songs, nursery rhymes, or in reading a favorite book, hesitate on key words and wait for your child to say the word, e.g., “One, two, buckle my ___.”

• Use travel time to talk – and to listen to your child. Turn off the radio and really focus. Same thing at home. Turn off the TV and discuss everything. Talking is processed in a different part of the brain than listening. Even though your child listens all the time, talking requires exercising the frontal lobe, the executive portion of the brain.

It’s hard sometimes to listen to little ones. They’re not as fluent as we are, and it takes them longer to express what they mean. You have to probe ever so gently to understand that delicate personality that is beginning to unfold. It will be worth it. To paraphrase, “Listening is what you get when you give it.”