Conversing, Listening Declining Skills For Kids

by Keri Vandongen, R.SLP speech-language pathologist

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May is Speech and Hearing Month: Reflecting on What Kids Miss Out on When Conversations or Listening aren’t Strong

As Jake headed off to junior high, I had no doubt he’d do well and make friends easily. But three years earlier, I would have predicted the reverse.

You see Jake rushed through school assignments. His mind wandered while teachers went over lessons. He played sports after lunch and during recess—minimizing conversation time. Encouraging Jake to love listening and having conversations wasn’t easy. I knew he’d focus on these more once he enjoyed their rewards.

Through partnering with Jake and his parents, each of our key roles were supported.

5 Lessons We Discovered Along the Journey to a Love of Conversations and Listening:

  1. Listening took first priority. Jake learned to listen for the meaning and emotion behind the words people spoke. Also, listening for gaps between what people say and what they mean. What emotion comes through their tone of voice and body language.
  2. Telling Jake helpful techniques was easier for his parents and I but harder for him. Showing him was more helpful. Encouraging him to use the techniques was better. Guiding him through the techniques by providing feedback was how he made faster progress.
  3. To increase Jake’s awareness of what to do and what to avoid when conversing…he watched as I roleplayed conversation scenarios. He also watched videos with his parents to observe whether or not people used conversation skills well.
  4. Jake was taught to embrace the ‘hot mess’ of using conversation skills. While he understood what to do, messing up was a big part of learning to converse with different people, in different settings, and for different purposes.
  5. What Jake appreciated most was hearing about the mistakes his parents and I made because of not listening or conversing well. Skills we strive to enhance even as adults.

As you and your child(ren) communicate more through texts and emails and less via conversations, your ability to converse and listen is affected. These skills are vital for kids’ success, now and in the future.

I challenge you to empower your child(ren) to develop a love for conversing and a love for listening. Related rewards shall appear for school, relationships and career roles.