This Listening Tool
"I listen with my eyes, ears, heart, & mind."
BMSA puts a high priority on listening because the more we listen, the more we LEARN! We learn from each other about the world around us and each other. It helps us to practice our 7 Habits of Happy Kids--especially Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood, Think Win-Win, and Synergize.
We practice listening with eyes, so the speaker knows we are listening and we can collect nonverbal information. We listen with our hearts to understand what is behind the words and what the speaker is feeling, or the deeper meaning of what they are saying. And we listen with our minds to connect what we hear to what we already know, and recognize what we have yet to learn.
At BMSA, we use the Listening Tool language to cue students to fully engage in listening. Many teachers practice very specific listening positions in their classroom, helping to prime the student's brains for learning. This includes having eyes on the speaker, hearts facing hearts, and minds fully engaged. When student's are working out a conflict, they may be asked, "Are you willing to use your empathy and listening tool to seek to understand how to make things right?" This invitation to use the tool engages their free will. When they conciously choose to use these tools, they create pathways in their brain that will serve them throughout their life.
Encouraging the Listening Tool at Home
You Go First
If we expect a behavior, we must model it. Practice conversations with your child in which you stop doing other things, make eye contact (on their level), and listen with your whole heart. In our busy world, this may require purposeful planning (Habit #2: Begin with the End in Mind - Have a Plan). A good time to fit this in may be first thing in the morning when you welcome your child to the new day, asking, "How was your night?" or during the bed time routine when things are winding down.
Conflicts provide great opportunities to practice the Listening Tool. Spend some time asking and really listening to your child's thinking about something you don't agree on. You may learn something new about them and at the least, they will feel heard. At BMSA, we practice phrases like, "I hear you saying _____. Is that right?" and "I respectfully disagree because ______."
Practice as a Family
- Make it a routine: As a family, you can decide on a time that works best for intentional practice of the listening tool. An ideal time may be during mealtime, so all family members can practice and see good listening modeled. If your family doesn't eat together, find another routine time to connect with each family member. As you first begin practicing, use specific language, saying, "Let's practice listening with our eyes, ears, hearts, and minds. Encourage progress by giving specific feedback like, "I could tell you were really listening by the way you looked at me. Thanks for helping me feel heard."
- Ask better questions: To encourage meaningful conversations, parents can be intentional about the questions we ask. The standard how-was-your-day question most often gets a one word response which doesn't allow for much listening practice or understanding of the other person's reality. Here are some resources that offer questions that help get conversations going:
Encourage Family Members
The best way to reinforce a behavior is to provide a reward when it is exhibited. Be sure to notice when a family member takes time to look you in the eyes when you're talking; and thank him/her. When you feel as though someone's really understood how you're feeling, tell them, "Thank you for listening with your heart. That makes me feel like you really care." When your child shares what they've learned, tell them, "You're learning so much by using your Listening Tool!"
When there's a conflict, intentionally use the Listening Tool language and say, "I'd like to understand your side of this so I'm going to use my listening tool." When siblings argue, invite them to make a calming choice (Breathing Tool, Quiet Safe Place Tool, or Taking Time) and when they're in Green Zone, return to have a Seek-to-Understand conversation. The BMSA counselor and upper elementary classroom teachers have the 5 Restorative Questions posted in their room. It's a very effective tool for taking turns seeking to understand how to make things right with those that have been affected. You can guide your children through the questions when their calm. Eventually, they will be able to go through the questions on their own.
Here are the 5 Restorative Questions used to work through conflict at BMSA:
- What happened?
- What were you thinking and feeling at the time?
- What have you thought about since then?
- Who has been affected?
- What can be done to make things right?