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Hearing VS the Art of Listening

Updated: Jun 30, 2023

Listening is an important life skill that I as an adult have had to work on. I have definitely caught myself daydreaming or thinking of something else while someone is trying to have a conversation with me. So, I could hear them but I wasn’t actually focused on what they were saying and I sure wasn’t listening to them. As a result, I didn’t give the person proper verbal feedback as I wasn’t quite sure what they had said to me. Inevitably, I had to cut the conversation short and that does not make for good relationships.

Listening skills are learned or not learned at a young age. Listening, actual listening is an especially important life skill, without it you can miss opportunities in business and relationally by not comprehending what was said to you.

As you develop physically, emotionally and cognitively, listening becomes more of a developed skill. What is expected of you at a younger age and what is expected of you as an adult is vastly different. Obviously, more is expected of you as you grow and mature. Conversations become more sophisticated, lectures become longer, books have more details etc.

What is the key issue here? Your concentration and focus level! Your brain is trained from a young age to focus and concentrate. If you allow yourself to slack off in any of these areas, you don’t develop as you should. You only allow yourself to get stuck with a lot of bad habits. You can train your brain to focus and concentrate in a lecture and you can do it by listening to people when they talk to you. One only needs to be mindful of yourself and what you are mentally focusing on.

Hearing is simply one of the five senses, whereas listening is a crucial skill that is developed from the time we are conceived. We hear and listen to voices even in our mother’s womb, the most important one being your mother. From an early age, we listen to tone, we listen to body language, we listen to voice inflections, it is not merely a bunch of sound waves hitting your eardrum.

Listening is a critical skill for young children to acquire, it is one of the basic building blocks of language, communication and learning. We often find ourselves pondering what listening means for our children, is it simply to obey instructions and to show us that they are able to be attentive and obedient? No. Listening is so much more than hearing and acting on a task given by a parent or teacher. In fact, it is one of the most fundamental lessons in a child’s life, from the womb right through to the teenage years. It is important that we, as teachers and parents, are consciously aware of our responsibilities in developing our children.

Just like any other life skill, listening takes practice.

Children are not able to listen like adults do, when an adult hears a sound it enters into a well-developed brain which is able to process it, whereas the child’s brain is not fully developed. The human brain is not fully developed until you are 25 years old. Thus, children do not have the cognitive ability to fill in missing gaps and so they require more detailed and complete auditory information, which is up to us as the adults in their life to provide them with these cognitive opportunities.

Not only are you growing your child’s vocabulary, narrative skills and life skills as you develop their listening ability, but you are also assisting with their early brain development. Training our emotions and our brains are fundamentals to a healthy life. From having a positive interaction with your baby when you make sounds and encourage them to make the same sounds, you are helping them with a lifetime of learning. These experiences change the brain by growing neural connections which later will help children to read books, create art, learn, solve problems and even have conversations with friends. A well rounded child is a confident child. A confident child is usually more popular, has more friends and is more empathetic towards the peers around them. They are usually socially and emotionally more mature.

There are many ways we help our children develop mentally. For instance, at an early age we start teaching our babies signs and sounds, we read books, we play with toys and talk and we expose them to many different learning opportunities.

As parents and teachers, we grow a child’s listening ability by requesting them to complete certain tasks. As they manage with smaller tasks, we can increase the complexity, allowing them to absorb and action more than one task at a time. Look at a simple puzzle for example, we start with games where kids are asked to place the same shapes together. Then we work with 4 - 6 piece puzzles and then develop into more complex puzzles. The development is inevitable unless there is a learning disorder with short term memory. I will address that in another article.

There are different types of listening; three that come to mind immediately are listening when the answer is no, listening to instructions and empathetic listening. I have written a series of children's books on these subjects to help them grow this skill, you can go to and click on “Books” to order them from Amazon. They will certainly help your child to understand the differences and the importance of listening.

Hearing a simple answer such as ‘no’ is an important element of learning to listen, which can be a very difficult thing for a child to listen to, absorb and accept. This is an area that not only grows the child’s ability to listen and follow through but will also grow the child’s emotional capacity when it comes to accepting things they may not like or even fully understand. Listening teaches our children to follow instructions and action them. Listening can teach our children empathetic skills, children do what we do and not as we say. So we need to be sure to talk about these subjects and practice what we preach. Children do not always understand all the emotions they are feeling. We all have to learn how to control our emotions and respect others even if we have a different opinion. One only needs to go read Facebook or Twitter to get a dose of some very unsympathetic people when it comes to having different opinions. We all have to learn to respect another person’s viewpoint on life even when it differs from our own. You can see how important this skill is and how it could get you extremely far in both life and business.

A child should also be encouraged to be an active listener from an early age, this can be done by acknowledging certain words or actions given by the speaker to show that they are interacting and absorbing the content. This happens by giving verbal feedback.

Teachers and parents can help children develop the necessary skills by asking open-ended questions as they speak. Start with How, What, Which, and Where questions. Try to not ask too many Yes or No questions as they do not encourage dialogue as much as open-ended questions do. Allow your child to truly engage with the content and show their understanding.

Focus, concentration and hearing are all cognitive skills and work hand in hand. Whilst attention is sensory-based, listening is an active process, which allows us to select that which we need to attend to.

It is worth considering that when we ask a child to listen, we are asking them to take part in a complex process that can be easily interrupted by various factors such as physical development, emotional maturity, health, state of mind or cognitive ability. The task that may seem simple is packed with factors such as; look at me, filter out the background noise, ignore environmental stimuli, break down my command and understand it and do all of these things simultaneously and consistently. We want to break it down for them, take a breath, be mindful, focus and then concentrate!

It is clear to see why children do not acquire listening skills quickly, this skill has to be continuously practiced and encouraged in order to equip our children for a healthy and fulfilling life. Listening is truly an art and important life skill that we cannot afford to abandon or leave to develop by chance.

Please don’t forget to go to my website to order your child’s books.

Happy Reading!


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