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Are You Listening to Me?

There's a difference between hearing and listening

by Shannon Hutton, M.Ed., M.P.A.  |  4527 views  |  4 comments  |        Rate this now! 

I used to think my kids were ignoring me and it drove me crazy! Hello! Are you in there? Then I realized they weren’t ignoring me, they just weren’t listening to me. Yes, there is a difference! And that realization actually made me feel better. This is why.

When my kids are watching T.V. or at the computer, they’re in another world. While they may hear what I’m saying, they’re definitely not listening to me. I know this because hearing and listening are not the same. That and five minutes after I’ve said something I get “Mom, what did you ask me to do?”

Hearing is passive. We do it all the time without even thinking about it. Right now, unfortunately, I hear the carpet cleaner’s truck at my neighbor’s house. But it’s just background noise to me, just like my voice is to my kids unless I tell them to give me whole body listening. (One day I hope they will grant me this courtesy without having to be reminded, but hey parenting is a process!)

Whole body listening is active and involves…yup, your whole body. I break this down into five parts for my kids and the students I work with as a school counselor. The five components of whole body listening are ears, eyes, mouth, body and brain. Specifically, to be respectful listeners we need to:

  • Use our ears to hear the words being said.
  • Use our eyes to see nonverbal cues and convey respect.
  • Keep our mouth closed, so we do not interrupt.
  • Keep our body still so we don’t walk away, tap our foot or otherwise distract the speaker.
  • Use our brain to focus on what is being said, think about it, and let it sink in.

So if you too feel your kids ignore you sometimes, teach them the five parts of whole body listening. Then the next time you think your kids aren’t doing what you’ve asked, stop and ask them “Are you listening to me?” It just might help.


About the Author

Shannon Hutton is a certified School Counselor who counsels students on anger management, social skills, anxiety, divorce, self-esteem, study skills, impulsivity and bullying. She also shares fun kids crafts, coloring pages, easy recipes and simple project ideas at Seasonal Kids Activities and does cool giveaways at Momsational.

Read more by Shannon Hutton, M.Ed., M.P.A.

4 comments so far...

  • It's never too young to start teaching whole body listening. Of course, my nine month old isn't buying it! :) Anyway, three years old is not too young. And I agree with KatieK, if we talk at our kids too much, we just become background noise. Good luck!

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Shannon Hutton, M.Ed., M.P.A. on 17th October 2007

  • Go for quality over quantity. Some kids block out their parents because the parents talk and talk and talk at them. When we talk in our family there is definite eye contact and acknowledgment. Even when my daughter was small, she was polite. The only time I have this problem is when my husband is watching sports on TV and he becomes a complete zombie.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by KatieK on 17th October 2007

  • Lee, I was thinking the same thing and I know my daughter will listen to it so I'm going to give it a try. Gotta get hubby and I to use it, too! Thanks for a great idea Shannon.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Mandy Nelson - Dandysound on 16th October 2007

  • Is age three too young to start talking about whole body listening?? Because my 3-year-old needs a lesson! Thanks for the great idea!

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by el-e-e on 16th October 2007