What do you think is one of the best things we can do for kids?
When Mr. Rogers was asked this question his answer, plain and simple, was listen to them.
In all my years working with kids I have learned that they are intelligent and thoughtful beings and listening to them can not only inspire us as adults but it can show them that they are important.
As part of the Kindness Kangaroo Project I work with groups of kids to create books. I spend time with them listening to their ideas for a story, hearing their experiences and thoughts about specific scenarios and learning how they think we can all do better in this world. And each of these discussions inspire a story that , thanks to their drawings, becomes a book.
Hear about the world from their perspective
When you listen to children you can discover an innocent wonder that can give you a different perspective on things. You can learn to understand what they need and how you can help them get it. And you can build a relationship of honesty and safety which will show them that they are always free to talk.
I had created some great conversations with the kids I worked with. They knew that I was willing to listen to their ideas, answer their questions to the best of my ability and be respectful of their needs and concerns. In fact, one of those children, after experiencing the death of his pet, questionned as to why none of my books could help him deal with his emotions of grief.
We went to a park together and I listened to him talk about his pet and his grief. I recognized that he needed something to help him understand his emotions, to connect him to others so he didn't feel he was grieving alone. And from this conversation, from hearing this young boy, not only was I inspired to write a book about the loss of a pet but a whole series of books that deal with grief and loss.
These books invite children to listen to the story about a child experiencing a personal loss. Then it provides questions for parents to ask so they can listen to their child explain their grief.
Book recommendation: The Empty Rocking Chair
This story deals with the loss of a grandmother and one child’s journey of how to honour her in a special way.
Each page offers questions to help parents get the conversation started with children about their own feelings, and the way they are dealing with the loss of a grandparent.
It is third in the Feeling Empty series which also includes The Empty Crib: Celebrating the Life of an Angel Baby and The Empty Cage: a book about pet loss.
Practice listening with your ears (really hear what is being said), with your eyes (show that you are focused on what they have to say), with your body (bring yourself down to their level) and with your heart (respect their feelings and sympathize with them).
"Taking the time to truly listen to someone can communicate our love and respect even more than the spoken word." -- Dave Willis
Listening is a powerful tool to show and earn respect. Are you a good listener? Check out my blog post The Art of Listening to learn how to practice good listening skills.