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Becoming Better Listeners
July 27, 2022
To be heard, you must speak the language of the one you want to listen.
-Robin Wall Kimmerer, Author and Botanist

“When we learn to sharpen our looking and listening, and cultivate a disposition of respect and curiosity towards children, we find ourselves learning and improving our relationships with them. Isn’t this what parents deserve from us as well?” So writes Margie Carter in The Art of Leadership: Engaging Families.

“Listening 101 is straightforward, but it’s surprising how many people don’t follow the rules of everyday conversation. It should go without saying, but if you want to be a good listener, avoid interrupting or abruptly changing the subject,” writes Kristin Wong in The Cut. She goes on to suggest honing your interviewing skills – asking questions early in a conversation, particularly ones that show you’re genuinely interested, and paying close attention to details to help with followup questions.

In another article in The Art of Leadership: Engaging Families, Holly Elissa Bruno suggests open-ended “Ask and Listen” questions. Examples include:

  • Tell me about your child.
  • What activities does your family like to do together?
  • What is important to you in raising your child?
  • How was your weekend/vacation/afternoon together?
  • What are ways your child feels comforted, soothed?
  • Is there anything you would like me to know about your child?

She continues, “If I can ASK AND LISTEN, I may be able to find common ground. I may be able to find that quieter place inside myself where I relax my ego and open myself to wonderment.”

The Art of Leadership
Engaging Families
in Early Childhood Organizations

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Comments (2)

Displaying All 2 Comments
Kirsten Haugen · August 01, 2022
Exchange Press
Eugene, OR, United States

Thank you, Shawna, for reminding us of yet another way Dr. Brazelton has made such an impact for so many parents and educators.

Shawna Daniels · July 27, 2022
Learning and Growing Consulting
Carrboro , NC, United States

Language is the most expressive way for us to share ourselves with and learn from others. There’s no question that we all need to listen to what we are hearing, look at non-verbal communication, and really engage with children and their families in order to serve them best.
One of my favorite examples of this engaged communication was T.Barry Brazelton. His style of engaging even the most challenging parents gives me hope that we can understand the importance of mostly listening and repeating what families tell us, not what we think they mean. It’s the first and last step in building a center’s community.

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