"You're Not Listening", said Lily.

On a recent very early morning flight, a couple with two small children in tow struggled down the aisle towards me. The man resembled a pack animal of some sort and held the hand of a blond headed little girl. The woman had a diaper bag over one arm and carried a blond headed little boy in the other.  They all collapsed into the seats in the row behind me. They lived in Vermont and had spent the previous night with Grandma in Connecticut (they already missed her) and were on the way to Mexico for a family vacation. The little girl was Lily and the baby brother was Waylon. I know all of this because, with the exception of about three minutes, two minutes one minute (of the two hour and 6 minute flight), when Lily enjoyed a juice box, she chattered non-stop. 

As we waited to taxi out to the runway, Lily asked her mom if she could have the phone. I'm not sure what a 3 year old was going to do with the phone, but apparently very young children using phones is a "thing" these days. 

The conversation between Lily and her mom went like this:

Lily: Mommy, can I use your phone?
Mommy: Not now, I have to charge it.
Lily: Can I use it later?
Mommy: Not now, it needs a battery.
Lily: I mean can I have it after the battery?
Mommy: Not now, it needs a charge.
Lily: Mommy, you are not listening!
I said, after you charge it can I use it!
Mommy: ( after apparently tuning in): I'm sorry, Lily, you're right, I wasn't listening.

In an article on the National Children's Bureau website, author Alison Clark writes about the importance of listening to young children as well as the benefits of listening.

She writes, "Listening is important for the children who are being listened to but also for the adults who are listening, whether at home, in an early years learning setting, a school, at a local authority level, or at a national government level."

Listening to children, really listening that is, can benefit children in many ways. When children feel that their views are respected and valued by adults their self confidence receives a powerful and positive boost. True, it sometimes takes a lot of patience on the adults part to truly listen to what a child is saying, but I believe the effort should be made. Besides, you can learn a lot of really juicy information from young children, such as what mommy said about Sally's mom's outfit or who takes showers together at their house.
I've been a classroom teacher, I'm just saying.

Parents and teachers can gain insight into the thinking of a child and may even begin to see a child in a whole new light by listening. Think about this: what if after listening to a child explain their reasoning behind their actions, it is discovered that the schedule they are experiencing (an hour of "desk time") or the environment they are in (hot pink classroom walls, covered with every scrap of paper known to mankind) is stressing them out! What if the adult then makes some adjustments and approaches the situation from another viewpoint, (the child's) and all is right with the world again! I hear you, it's not always that simple, but believe me, if adults would do less talking ("bossing") and more listening, some conflicts could be avoided, daily routines could be accomplished more easily, and the classroom or household could experience less stress.

I'm going to add this next part because I just need to say it. One of the things I find most mystifying in life is why adults, and it seems to be the actual parents of a child, don't answer said child when they are out in public. Is it just me or does anyone else want to answer the little guy in the grocery store line or the one walking down the store aisle. You know the one saying "mommy what's that, mommy look at the (insert any object ), or mommy I need to pee." That one always makes me a little nervous. 

Do you ever want to say, "That's a watermelon, Johnny. Doesn't it look yummy"? Or, "Wow, I see that bike, it's really cool looking. Someday, you'll be big enough to have one of those." Or, "Ok, let's find the bathroom."

Maybe the mom or dad is all "listened" out, I don't know but the following quote gives all of us some food for thought.
"If you don't listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won't tell you the  big stuff when they are big, because to them all of it has always been big stuff".
                                              Catherine M. Wallace

That's it for now.
Check back later! 


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