Is hearing speech important for children

Listen to the child

Listen actively

The concept of active listening is now widely known. At that time Carl R. Rogers (1902-1987) shaped him for psychotherapeutic work, he has been taught, learned and practiced in communication training for years. Nobody denies that attentive listening is just as important as clear and understandable speech for constructive conversation. Still, we usually try much more to speak well than to listen well. This also applies to upbringing: how many parents and teachers are very careful to make themselves understandable to the children! They make an effort to say things correctly, preferably to explain several times over and over again what the children should and should not do. Often these efforts are unsuccessful, and the adage that education means saying the same thing a hundred times over is by no means true.

In the meantime, much less energy is spent on listening carefully in communicative situations - especially with children. A little generalizing, one could say: We talk a lot and hardly hear. The educators are often too little aware that it is essential for the healthy development of children to actively listen to them.

Listen, listen, listen

What is the difference between hearing, listening and listening? We can hear without making an effort. If we are healthy, we hear automatically. Acoustic stimuli reach our ears, pleasant and unpleasant. It can hardly escape us when a child screams like a stick without our ears perking up. We can be preoccupied with anything that occupies us and immediately notice it. The situation is different if a child is less noticeable. Often we are reluctant to be bothered and hardly take in what it really wants to say. And when we turn to it, we may not be fully attentive to it after all. Internally busy with other things, we only listen “with half an ear” or at the same time think about what we want to say ourselves afterwards. It is not uncommon for us to miss some of what the child has to say to us.

We can definitely listen without actively listening. In doing so, we usually only take in roughly what the child means. The talk of children is hardly ready to go to press; Depending on how they develop their language, they have their own form of expression, which is very different from ours. Anyone who hears inwardly indifferent, distant or passively waiting, often does not notice the essentials. The child itself, however, could get the impression that it is being listened to seriously and then may be disappointed to notice that it was not understood. Real listening, however, means putting yourself in the other person's shoes, paying full attention to them and paying attention not only to the content, but also to the nuances. And it is not uncommon for children to express this clearly and frankly. We miss out on valuable information potential if we ignore it.

However, when we occasionally listen to the child one hundred percent, not only do we understand better what they are saying. We also encourage their expression and strengthen their self-esteem. It is allowed to experience that it “has something to say” that is important enough to be listened to and accepted. In addition, active listening is exemplary: the child will imitate what we are doing for him in this area too.

Seven tips would encourage you to give the children what they need in everyday life: Adults who take them seriously in their utterances by absorbing their “messages” and trying to understand them.

Tip 1: show interest!

Children soon notice who is interested in them - or not. It is always tragic when the next of kin hardly know what really moves their children. What we don't necessarily like to hear, we should take in all the more attentively. Some parents are too fixated on their own images that they make of their offspring and too little open to what they reveal as independent beings. Children can be very different from what parents want and think. Interested listening puts your own ideas in the background and lets yourself be completely involved with the child.

Tip 2: Be heard!

The phrase is correct: it is a gift to be heard by someone. This is actually how it is, now more than ever: In hectic times, which also demand a lot from young parents, it is not a matter of course to listen carefully. The time alone is often missing, or the necessary energy, when you have to listen to the children after a job is done. But it's worth it - not just for the child! We ourselves are given gifts, and sometimes we are surprised. How many things just sound delicious, interesting and thoroughly original from a child's mouth. The children perceive many things very differently than we do. For the first time you experience what we have known for a long time. If they tell it, we can certainly hear something new about what has long been taken for granted, something that we have never paid attention to or for a long time.

Tip 3: turn to!

While emptying the dishwasher it is quite possible to hear the child say that they were laughed at in kindergarten and were not allowed to play in the dolls' corner. You can hear his words and hear his sad tone - even his crying. But if you pause for a moment and take the child in your arms, you will learn more. You will hear “between the words”, as one reads between the lines in a substantial reading. That doesn't mean that you always have to lay or drop everything when your child opens their mouth. But your intuition will not let you down: whenever you notice that your child needs more than half the attention, turn to him. Often there is no need to do much more. Just speaking out about injuries can heal a lot - if there is someone there who is actively listening.

Tip 4: listen with your heart!

A Chinese saying goes that when you listen, your ears get eyes. What wisdom! Whoever really listens, “sees” inside what is being told. It will be the same for you if your child is eager to tell you what they have experienced. You will hear and see - and empathize with it. Keep your compassion awake, but not overly concerned, but in such a way that the child feels genuinely understood. An overreaction can irritate the child if they themselves assess the message it is bringing differently. Of course there are situations that frighten us. It is all the more important to understand your point of view. His worry, joy, anger or sadness should reach us as he intended before we react. When children talk spontaneously, they are usually very authentic and they deserve to be able to finish speaking and to be heard before we explain our own point of view.

Tip 5: take part!

Listening means taking part in the literal sense: I accept the parts that are communicated to me. Sensitive questions can intensify the sympathy: "How did you do that?" "What did you say afterwards?" "And then where did you go?" Pay attention - such questions can also have a controlling or even reproachful effect. That is by no means meant. In our speaking tone, in the way we ask the questions, the child will instead feel our inner presence. This affection in turn helps him to trust us and also to tell what is perhaps difficult or tricky to say.

Tip 6: think about what you hear!

Sometimes children tell us something that we won't soon forget. It can be pleasant or stressful. Such messages are important enough to be reconsidered later or discussed with another person. It is often good to seek advice from others who have anything to do with children. A lot can be clarified by talking to them. Sometimes, however, children also tell us something astonishing or exhilarating that we like to remember. Educators sometimes tell each other such anecdotes that one can marvel at or just smile about.

Tip 7: keep your ears open!

Of course, it's not about hearing everything so as not to miss anything. But we have to learn to take in what is important. Children make themselves heard, it is said. But not all of them do. There are those who only make themselves noticeable with soft tones. In contact with shy children - who still exist today! - it is particularly important to be empathetic. Careful control could intimidate them even more. On the other hand, appreciative, genuine interest also gives access to rather closed individuals. They challenge us in a special way, precisely because they do not challenge us. With our special sensitivity, we will also enable you to express yourself fearlessly when something is preoccupying you.


From: "World of the Child", 85th year 2007, issue 2, page 13.

Takeover with the kind permission of Kösel Verlag, Verlagsgruppe Random House GmbH Munich.

Further contributions by the author can be found here in our family handbook


Vreni Merz
born in Zurich in 1948, died on October 11, 2011

Religious educator and dipl. BSO supervisor, author and adult educator

Teaching assignments for didactics of religion / ethics at the universities of Lucerne and Friborg as well as at the Lucerne University of Education.

Editor of the magazine “ferment”

Created on April 13, 2007, last changed on November 6, 2014