By the time your child reaches the later grade-school years, her communication skills will have a complexity that includes the ability to understand a more sophisticated vocabulary and participate in the back-and-forth of a conversation. Although your 11-year-old should have the listening skills to focus attentively on what you or her teacher is saying, inattention at this age is something you shouldn't tolerate. It's imperative you help your child focus and listen to what others are saying.
Modeling Is More Than Walking a Runway
Whether you want the honor or not, you are a role model for your child. If you expect your 11-year-old to listen when you speak to her, model appropriate communication behavior and listen to her, too. Instead of simply staring at her or talking at your child, model the interactivity that a conversation needs by practicing your own version of active listening. Look attentive and follow up her statements with questions. When you demonstrate top-notch listening skills, your older grade-schooler can follow suit.
Questioning With a Purpose
In order to adequately answer a question, your child has to listen to you. The pediatric pros at the KidsHealth website suggest using questions that require more than a "yes" or "no" answer in order to facilitate better communication practices. Instead of saying, "Did you have a good day at school?" ask your child, "What are three things that you did today at school?" A more complex question forces your child to stop and listen to you before spouting off her answer.
Making Mental Notes
Struggling to focus on what someone else is saying isn't exactly uncommon. Adults and kids alike can have trouble following a conversation now and then. If you notice that your 11-year-old seems to lose her way when you, a friend or her teacher is speaking, help her to make mental notes. Your grade-schooler can try mentally repeating what the other person says during a conversation. This technique is particularly helpful when she begins to lose concentration. By repeating what the other person is saying, she must focus and actively listen.
The more practice that your child gets at listening, the better she will do. Provide plenty of chances for her to listen attentively through conversations that she will enjoy. Have a nightly conversation about her day during family dinners or sit down after she is done with her homework to talk. Another option is to discuss current -- age-appropriate -- events such as a presidential race, the Super Bowl, special school activities such as the upcoming daddy-daughter dance or a new cafeteria policy.
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