Positive Discipline in the Classroom: Effective Listening

This post is part of a series on the skills children learn in a Positive Discipline classroom, and how parents can support their children in using these skills outside of school. For more background on this series, read Positive Discipline in The Classroom: Bringing The Skills Home.

If you are in the Pacific Northwest, check out Sound Discipline to learn more about bringing Positive Discipline to your school or community.

What Children Learn:

In this activity, children discuss how much easier it can be to speak than to be a respectful, effective listeners. They role-play multiple ways of listening that are ineffective and notice how they feel when they are both the talker & the listener. Next, children role-play effective listening strategies and notice what felt different. The image above shows ideas the children brainstormed about what it means to listen effectively.

Why It’s Important:

When we think about communication skills, most of us immediately think about how well we can convey our message to others. Communication is not just about how well we send our message, but how well we hear the messages we receive from others. How often do we think about what we want to say next in a conversation while the other person is still speaking?

Effective listening means we are just as actively engaged when someone else is talking. We use focused attention to tune in to their words. It’s important to note that words are not the only thing we need to tune into. Effective listening also includes body language and eye contact. Getting on the same eye level of the person you are listening too is helpful.

The benefit of using these listening skills is the person sending the message feels heard and is much more likely to reciprocate when it’s their turn to listen. It also means richer conversation and greater connections built through communicating.

How Parents Can Support Use At Home:

Because our modeling is what will help them learn this skill, if we want them to listen to what we have to say, we need to show them the same respect when listening to them. This one is huge for kids. If we are looking at our phones, they are not likely to feel heard.

Making sure you have an active listener tuned in when you speak can help reduce frustrations for both parents and children. So often, we yell from the other room, “Put on your shoes,” then come in and wonder why their shoes are not on yet. We may even have said it five times. Try going in to the same room, getting on a child’s level, waiting for eye contact and gently saying, “What do you need to put on your feet so we can leave?” You are much more likely to gain cooperation when the listener has a chance to tune in to your words.