Monday, August 8, 2011

Deaf Ears? Or Teaching Our Kids How to Listen?


I had another post ready for this week, but as I sit hear reading the Sunday New York Times, another, possibly more pressing issue hit me:  Deaf Ears.  As the US  (and possibly the world) economy unravels and our political systems appear ineffective - our leaders seem to have blinders and deaf ears.

The article "Amid Criticism on Downgrade, S.&P. Fires Back" The article details that:
"The day after Standard & Poor's took the unprecedented step of stripping the United States government of its top credit rating, the ratings agency offered a full-throated defense of its decision, calling the bitter stand-off between President Obama and Congress over raising the debt ceiling a 'debacle'...Initial reactions from Congressional leaders suggesting that S.&P.'s action was unlikely to force consensus on the fundamental divide ...  Politicians on both sides used the decision to bolster their own long-standing positions...Officials in the White House and Treasury criticized S.&P.'s move as based on faulty budget accounting..."
MSNBC reported that  the White House is now blaming the Tea Party Republicans for this mess.  What bothered me most (aside from the overall economic and political "debacle") is that neither Congress nor the White House address the "debacle"  or assume any responsibility. Instead they are "bolstering" their own long standing positions, are arguing with "accounting," and blaming others.  

Blinders and deaf ears!

I am, however, neither a politician nor an economist.  I am a parent and educator and as I read this I realize how difficult it is for all of us to hear, accept, and address things we would prefer to ignore (or blame others for), and how important it is for us as 'responsible' adults, parents and educators to teach our kids to 'listen' to lessons and other opinions, especially when they are difficult to 'hear' , to learn how to assume responsibility, and to respond with veritas.

How to teach kids to avoid the blinders and deaf ears:
  • First and foremost we have to model appropriate behavior.  We have to listen to them, and don't interrupt them as they're attempting to explain their perspectives.  
  • We have to hear why they may not want to accept what we say and acknowledge their feelings.
  • We have to help them recognize our perspectives and problem solve resolutions. 
  • We also have to teach and model compromise.

    How do we help them hear what they don't want to accept?
    • When faced with a potential argument, speak calmly and ask your child to elaborate why they're upset (see this previous posting for more details:
    • Model - show (don't just tell) your kids how you appropriately  approach things you don't want to hear. Model compromising, when appropriate.
    • Brainstorm on how to listen better. Teach and model how to pause, process, think, respond; how to use and respond to eye contact; and not to use subjective 'feeling' words when responding.
    • Read books, watch news clips and together - talk about how characters may not want to face the issues.  Discuss why and brainstorm how to make them more effective listeners.
    • Illustrated books, comic books, and visual clips are effective because you can analyze what is said with body language and facial expressions (which don't necessarily reflect what is said).  Understanding these social nuances is important and these visuals help.
      Play listening games together:
        Telephone - requires a number of players: one person whispers something to the next who whispers the message to the next person, etc.  The last person in the chain must repeat the message (which often is completely garbled) 

        My grandmothers trunk - requires a number of players: The first person begins, "In my grandmother's trunk I found an ______ ("A" word such as alligator).  The next person repeats what the previous person found and adds another item to the trunk, beginning with the next letter of the alphabet.

        Going on a picnic - requires a number of players: The first person begins, "I'm going on a picnic and bringing an ______ ("A" word such as apple).  The next person repeats what the previous person is bringing on the picnic and adds another item to the picnic basket, beginning with the next letter of the alphabet.

        Work in pairs (for home or school) and have each member of the pair talk for one minute in response to a question.  The other person must listen and report back later what was said.  Each member of the pair takes turn as listener and talker, and each must later repeat their partner's response.

        Watch, read, and discuss related content together.  Have some fun - listen to the Monty Python clip above, for example,  from "Monty Python and the Holy Grail."  Try to find all the ways the father is not listening to his son. Next, find all the ways the guards fail to listen to the father. Then brainstorm on how the father and son might be more effective in getting his message across.
          In closing I hope you enjoy these two clips from 1776  as we deal with our current state of affairs (which haven't actually changed much, have they?):

          Are you a good listener?  What do you do to get others to 'hear' you?  I'd love to continue the conversation.


          1. As I listen to the stock market reports for the day, I can only agree with you. Apparently Congress's mothers didn't model good listening behavior for them. What on earth is our country coming to? No matter which side you're on, you're probably wrong.

          2. Meryl,

            This is an important topic. I read your blog entry, and I liked the video clips you chose; they were very apt. Your comments made me think about the differences between our children and our government. It seems to me that children, since their brains and neural pathways are still forming, have an excuse for not listening as well as we would like. Also, children — eventually — seem to learn from their mistakes (as a parent, I have either to believe that or put in a nice dungeon). Our current group of elected officials doesn't seem able to do that.

            More seriously, your observations made me think about different kinds of listening, specifically the listening we do when someone is speaking to us, and the "listening" we do when we read. I haven't spent a lot of time in actual conversation with any of my representatives, but I have done a fair bit of letter writing, and wonder whether anyone reads what I have written, whether anyone really "listens" to what I have tried to say in my writing. I completely agree with you about the need to teach our children, and probably ourselves as well, how to listen, but I think that we also need to consider ways to make ourselves be heard, to be audible when we speak and when we write. I don't have any brilliant ideas for bringing such a result into being, however.


          3. Meryl, a good post on both counts - your political observations (wish more folks would speak up without feeling they need a PhD to defend themselves; we all have opinions, right?) and the most important topic: Children and listening. My mom used to cut me off at the knees if I said anything that she didn't deem "correct." I learned to listen to my daughter, never to interrupt. She learned to listen to others, to not "formulate a rebuttal" while the other person is speaking... these are learned behaviors.

            It doesn't mean a parent has to put up with acting out - it is all about strategy, finding the teachable moment, and realizing that learning is not simply something they do at school. Parents (including single moms, which I was, and I get sick of hearing how children from "broken homes" are somehow less worthy than other children) are the best teachers a fortunate child will ever have.

            Thanks again, Meryl. (PS Political "talk shows" are the best example of chaos I've ever witnessed. Everyone talks at the same time; there is no respect accorded another person.) Amy

          4. I enjoyed your article today. Even though my children are grown and I am a Gigi (Great Gramma) now, I have a few of the neighborhood girls who visit me when they get bored. I love the idea of the Grandma Trunk and Picnic games. They love playing games with me, and told their parents they think I am AWESOME, which surprised me, because we mostly just set on my front porch and talk. One day we played the game My Eye Spies, and they loved it. They are ages from 5-11. A day or two later they came by and brought some of their books to see if I would read to and with them. Next time they come by, I now have two new games to play with them. Thanks for sharing "Deaf Ears" today.

          5. Great post for the D Day, Meryl, and I do agree with you and I don't think I have ever been as totally disgusted with politicians -- both sides -- as I am now! Hope you have a good day in spite of the frustration!!


          6. Listening and hearing are so different.

          7. I look forward to reading your post each week, and you never disappoint. I come from a home where children were to be seen and not heard and I learned early in life not to ask my parents anything about anything. Before succeeding at university and getting am degree in education, I failed several courses simply because I didn't know how to formulate ideas or how to even have a perspective. I learned fast, though, thankfully, and was able to teach my own children to listen and speak up with their own ideas. Children from abusive and/or dysfunctional families need all the help they can get to grow intellectually, socially, and emotionally. Maybe that's the background of some of those leading the country these days - they truly do not know any better. But they should!

          8. Listening is a good thing. Interesting article. I must tell my two-legged Mummy/Mommie to read this. She really needs to listen more!
            Sara Cat
            D is for Dog-SaraCat-ABC-Wed.rd-9-D

          9. I am in agreement with the rest of the commenters.
            I have been in so many groups where everyone talks and no one is really hearing what the other is saying. I like life to be a dialogue, not a monologue.
            Triple A rating for this post.

          10. I just listened to all the clips. Oh my! I think its time to revive 1776.
            Is anybody there, Does anybody care, Does anybody listen?
            The last clip is powerful.

          11. Thank you! I thought it was powerful and relevant albeit a bit sad.

            Thank you all for your wonderful comments and support!

          12. Today's political Debacle is truly a good example of Deaf Ears. But don't blame their mothers. I believe the Washington engine has a way of corrupting even the most noble of people. Wise words about how to teach children (of every age) the value of listening. Now, what can be done about the Selective Hearing of husbands?;-)

          13. Listening is certainly a dwindling resource. Excellent post!

          14. This is relevant to me, not only as a parent, but as a teacher as well. So often, I worry for our country's future when I see the lack of communication, personal responsibility, and listening skills among our youth. I also worry for my own children, as I, myself, forget the proper way to handle things, especially when the stress and day-to-day pressure gets heavy. Thanks for the ideas!

          15. Good post. I think listening to children is an important way to teach them how to listen. It can't be all one way or the other. I've gotten so used to politicians blaming each other than I barely hear that. I'll admit though that I can't stand to listen to any of of it even if I try. The political world has been far too shrill for too many decades. I vote but haven't got much confidence that anything will change.

          16. Wonderful article on present situation in usa.
            I remember the picnic game from childhood.

          17. It's annoying if two or three people talk and sometimes shout at the same time in order to be proved right. Even politicians do this all the time. Debating is a kind of art.
            Thanks for the information and the videos!

          18. A really great post Meryl, - thoughtful and bang on. Listening is so important, and accepting responsibility even more so.

          19. This is a very important post and you deal with the subject well. Loved the videos and the points you make.

          20. Excellent post. This is an issue that I struggle with with my daughter, so I appreciate the tips!

          21. I am more of a listener but I think my kids abuses that sometimes lol. Thanks for the tips!

            ABC Wednesday

          22. Terrific post. We have so much to teach our children, but they are living in a world where polarization is rampant. It seems to me that some of the most valuable life skills we can give them are the ability to really listen and to build bridges by finding commonality.

          23. Dead on accuracy of your observations and summations of what the rest of our country's leaders cannot seem to grasp.

          24. Apposite post, love how you weaved all that together. Political dogma closes politicians ears and minds.

          25. I loved this post, wished more people could listen than shut their ears and expect to heard. I got your message about being removed from Blog-A-Licious Blogs, definitely not intentional. With the new format, I've been manually putting each link back with 1200, there's quite a few more to go, so will definitely put it up again.
            Best wishes - Dora

          26. Listening to the rhetoric, I want to use MY deaf ears.
            I don't think rational behavior works as well as it should. Thsat's why so many scream and yell.

            ROG, ABC Wednesday team

          27. I think modelling is one of THE most important things when raising children, and it is just as important as they go through adolescence as it is with younger children - something many parents seem to forget. They rant and rave at their wayward teens, which just makes them dig their heels in and respond in kind. Sad.

            We played lots of games like that when our boys were young! They are all grown up now.

          28. Thanks for linking up with me at "the perfect line". As a small token of appreciation, I'm showing casing all my new found friends. Please stop by my place this Saturday for a Friends' Meetup Party where I will be linking up with you and a featured blogger. Hope you grace my space and drop in a smile!

            Happy Blogging! :)

            the perfect line

            P.S. Following you back! :)

          29. What a great post! I agree with your view on this completely. It is hard enough to teach your children to fully listen, accept that which they don't like and act appropriately while doing so. My son (15) is such a strong willed person, as am I, and we clash in that we both tend to feel so strongly about our own opinion it makes it difficult for us to really view the side of the other from their perspective. It has not only been a learning experience for him, but for me as well.

            What is even more daunting is the fact that children see these politicians, the people in the most important positions in our country, not heeding these oh-so-important lessons of life. Their public offices, the fact that they are elected to represent the people, that they have been trusted to argue a point but to listen as well, makes them role models for our children. These people are failing miserably. I find it akin to a successful and famous sports player who is seen on the news after being arrested for violence, lewd conduct or drugs. They have failed those who look up to them. It is such a sad thing to see.

            I found you through the FMParty at "the perfect line". I've followed via GFC and look forward to more informative posts that lead to deep thought and discussion. I, too, find that communication from my readers is the greatest gift. Discuss, listen and learn.


          30. GREAT post! Thank you for your comment on my ADHD post, it feels really good to get positive feedback from another professional. I am working through my AS and BS programs in Psychology and Early Child Development. So my education is not nearly as complete as I want it to be but I do feel really good when I know I'm getting things right! I am following back and I look forward to reading more of your posts :)

          31. Hi Meryl,

            Thank you for visiting my blog and for following! I came here intending to return the favor, but GFC is not showing up on any pages that I've been viewing. I will make sure to come back later and follow you.

            Thanks for your suggestions and advice. You have my DREAM job. I have almost completed my Master's in School Counseling... I wish I had the time/money to keep going. Oh well, I'm only 26. There's plenty of time, right? ;)

            I really do look forward to following you (once GFC stops acting up!) and reading more of your awesome posts! :)

          32. ...update... now following! Now on to reading some of your earlier posts. :)

          33. Hi,thanks for following my blog. Following you back. Look forward to reading more from your blog.


          34. Amy, this was an excellent piece and great advice for parents. I try to model good listening to my kids but I'm not sure we've every really TALKED about it! It's such an important skill that will serve them well in all their relationships. Thanks for giving me something to think about.

          35. Trying to follow back but your follower box is missing...? So sorry! I'm over my 300 on blogger, so it wont let me go into my dashboard and put in your blog. Any ideas?
            You are so right about everything you've said! I know I can be bad about listening to my kids when they're trying to explain things to me, mostly when I know what they're going to say and I don't want to hear it. It's not fair to them, AND I notice they do the same thing to me! DUH! LOL!

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