For some reason, adults forget that children can hear us. Adults tend to think that when they whisper or speak to another adult in the room, children will not listen. In one of my less stellar moments as a preschool director, a clown yelled at me. That’s right – reprimanded by a comic child’s entertainer. I invited parents to see a show at our summer camp program. The parents sat in the back of the room and whispered to each other. The clown walked over to me to strongly point out that they were disruptive. The clown was right. The children were trying to quietly watch while the adults seemed to think that the children couldn’t hear them. The children kept turning around because their attention was clearly divided. I tell that true tale every time I invite parents to an activity in the Early Learning Center. They laugh because they recognize themselves – they whisper at children’s activities as if the children cannot hear them.
The false perception that children will not listen when we whisper or when we speak to other adults can have a great impact on them. Children take their cues from the adults around them. We have a choice. We can use our words to build or destroy their confidence, sense of security and self-esteem.
I was recently in the supermarket waiting in line when the lights flickered. A girl of about 4 years old began to whine. The child’s mother looked up at us and said, “I hope the lights stay on. She is afraid of the dark and will flip out. It’s so stupid.” She looked at her child and said, “You’re being ridiculous.” You can be sure that the little girl heard every word, including but not limited to the references to being stupid and ridiculous.
Another indicator that parents forget that children are listening is the desire to bring children to adult appointments and events. Each year, we conduct parent/teacher conferences. We make it very clear that parents cannot bring their children to the conference. The goal of conferences is to provide constructive information for our parents. We want to be able to give each parent an honest assessment of their child’s social, emotional and cognitive development. We also want our parents to be able to express their concerns openly. Children can hear us when they are sitting in the corner looking at a book or playing with toys. Chances are they are listening very closely.
Positive parenting isn’t only about discipline (which is a topic for a future blog). Watching what we say in front of children shouldn’t only be reserved for the use of foul language. We need to assure our children that they will be fine. We need them to hear us tell good tales about them to others. We need to keep in mind that they may be looking elsewhere but they hear it all.
Copyright 2012 © Cindy Terebush
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