Developing the Ability to Listen

Ha'azinu: A resource for families

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Reprinted with permission from Torah Topics for Today.

We all want our children to listen. There are several kinds of listening that we expect from our children: obedience to what we tell them to do, paying attention generally to what we say, and taking in our criticism. But often children choose not to or can’t listen to what we tell them. All of these different kinds of listening can be difficult for children, whether they simply want to do what they want to do, or because their attention is elsewhere, or finally because it's hard to hear criticism. 
learning to listen
Our Torah portion begins with the injunction to "give ear," to listen. It is filled with Moses’ criticism of the Children of Israel, criticism designed to make them into a better people. For the sake of the future of Israel, it is crucial that the Children of Israel take Moses' words to heart.

It is difficult to figure out how to help children listen when we speak. Listening to them and giving them a sense of control and choice in their lives can help them to listen to us. When they have a sense of control, they are less likely to have a power struggle with us. If they feel listened to and feel that they can shape their own environment, they are likely to be more open to listen to what we have to say, whether it's about what they need to do, or chit chat, or constructive criticism.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS
about the importance of listening.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

·    When is it hardest for you to listen?
·    When is it easiest for you to listen?
·    Why do you think listening is important?
·    Can you listen and do other things (multitask) at the same time?

Rabbi Dianne Cohler-Esses

Dianne Cohler-Esses is the first Syrian Jewish woman to be ordained as a rabbi. She was ordained in 1995 at the Jewish Theological Seminary. She is currently a freelance educator and writer, teaching and writing about a wide range of Jewish subjects. She lives in New York City with her journalist husband and their three children.