How Do Children Listen? And What Can We Do to Help Children Learn How to Listen with Laura Hargraves

Enjoy this inspiring conversation with author Laura Hargraves, an ASHA-certified speech-language pathologist with an extensive background in the rehabilitation and healthcare field. Recently, her career has focused on public school settings, allowing her to observe how the need for listening skills has become even more critical. And more importantly, what we can do about it.

For kids, the way we deliver the message impacts how they listen and absorb what we say. In this episode, Laura shares examples of how cohesiveness of voice, facial expression, and body language are important factors to consider if we want children to understand our message. By paying more attention to communicating with our whole selves, we can bring about change that leads to more understanding, clarity, and connection with children. Teachers are also surprised about how they have more space and time to do what they love…teach. Laura shares ideas for a listening curriculum that can not only create magic but give us more time to enjoy the magic.

“Be attentive to the whole message and the whole person that you’re communicating with. Because that makes all the difference. And that’s where the magic happens.” 

– Laura Hargraves

Listen IN Notes:

00:49 – When did she start to acknowledge the power of listening: it was so much easier to get adults to attend to what was being said, to really listen to the message and hear it and take it in, versus when working with children. 

03:19 – How do children listen differently: they’re paying attention not only to what you’re doing with your face, but what you’re doing with your body, and whether or not you’re actually attentive to them as the child. 

06:47 – Avoid sending children mixed messages and learn how to develop a signal to support listening.

13:08 – Real listening vs. pretend listening

13:58 – Defining general comprehension and listening comprehension in different ways than what teachers were used to doing.

16:51 – The heart of the matter in listening: Instead of asking them to repeat back directions specifically, get them to repeat back what they’re actually going to do as how it relates to the direction or the situation. This will give you better understanding of how much they listened and what their comprehension is. 

18:03 – How a little girl’s drawing helped her express her needs.  

22:41 – Lessons learned from listening to children that parents can also use: Giving the child the ability to express themselves. 

30:29 – A dream Laura wants to come true: Just like we have curriculums for reading, writing, and integrating kids into scholastic works, we need daily listening curriculum for students, to help them focus on what listening really is. And it can be fun.

33:53 – Why pay attention to signals that are happening even with adults

36:34 The effect when listening fails between adults and kids

38:48 – How a safe environment provides an opportunity for kids to ask questions and listen more: If we’re not encouraging people to ask questions, for clarity, for what we’ve heard, and what we’ve listened to, we’re never going to get a clear answer. 

41:24 – What you can see in families that encourage question asking

42:48 – Laura shares a better way to respond instead of when a teacher says, ‘You weren’t listening, so I’m not going to restate it’: It is important to encourage an exchange, which improves their listening skills.

44:18 – What helps children listen: Listen to them. Because when you’re listening to a child, you actually have to go back to that child and find out,’ Is this what you really meant?’

45:05 – Talking about what her book titled ‘That is Not What I Said,’

48:06 – Becoming more culturally attuned with language and words used as it varies in meaning from country to country.

49:19 – When does the magic happen?

Key Takeaways:

“If kids are just giving you words, but they don’t understand the meaning of those words, or they haven’t listened to the meaning of the whole message, they’re not going to get it right.” – Laura Hargraves

“Parents are really good at telling kids what to do, telling kids how to be, telling kids information but not necessarily checking in with the child to make sure that they’ve registered that information.” – Laura Hargraves

“If we step back, and just literally take moments to listen to our kids and listen to ourselves, the chaos actually reduces, and our kids’ understanding and our connection with them improve so dramatically.” – Laura Hargraves

“We have to show them how to really communicate when they’re not listening or when they don’t understand things. So we can give them the information, so they become better listeners. So that as adults, they’re not adding extra filters to things, which then leads to misinformation and misunderstandings.” – Laura Hargraves


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