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.
- 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: http://departingthetext.blogspot.com/2011/07/power-of-argument.html)
- 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.
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.
Are you a good listener? What do you do to get others to 'hear' you? I'd love to continue the conversation.