Stop, Look, Listen

Sand Box TimePerhaps I’m the only one, but, when I’m talking to someone, I like to make eye contact. Whenever possible, I like to look them in the face and would like to see them do the same. As a parent, I am trying to train this into our children. I want them to learn how to stop, look, and listen.

Often, when people are having a conversation, we are not really paying attention. We are hearing their words and mentally attempting to form a response which we plan to vocalize the minute the other person stops speaking. We are so anxious to participate in the conversation we aren’t paying attention to the other person at all. Do they really want a response? Is one even warranted?

One area which I definitely want to work on with my kids is open acknowledgement of other people. Sometimes our children speak to another person, but do so with their back turned or respond to an adult’s request without actually making eye contact. This bothers me. When someone is speaking to them, I want them to stop what they are doing (if this is possible) and truly look at that person. I want them to listen intently and then form a response, if one is warranted. When someone offers them something, I want them to respond with a “No, thank you.” or a “Yes, please.” while looking at the person!

How often have we spoken to someone who is staring off into the horizon? While it’s true they might be listening, it can also be frustrating. Are they really paying attention and being respectful? Especially when a response is required, looking at someone while listening and speaking is a polite gesture. Does this mean the person looking is always paying attention? (sigh) Unfortunately not; but it’s a first step.

It’s true; this isn’t a moral issue. One might even debate this is completely subjective and they would probably be right. It is a preference. However, it is my preference and therefore this is how I choose to train my kiddos.

Time to Chime In: How important is eye contact to you?

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22 thoughts on “Stop, Look, Listen

  1. Having worked with many home school families and their children I have this very issue, kids not making eye contact. My kids were guilty too. I would like to make one suggestion. Instead of correcting them on the spot, bring it to there attention after the occurrence. I used to remind them before we went place when I knew that they would be meeting people.

    I have been guilty of listening but not listening. I actually will remind myself to “pay attention”.

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  2. I so agree with you. For a lot of reasons… It’s all about manners. I agree, I feel it is important to make eye contact and to look at someone. Not only to pay respect to that person but also to really get what this person is saying. Words are words. But eyes and facial expression might tell you more of or a different story… So not only do you mind your manners by looking in someone’s eyes but you might actually also get more out of it…

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  3. To me, it seems even more important for us to teach children (and model as an example to others) how to look each other in the eyes and focus on a conversation because I see so many people glued to their devices/phones all the time! Put down the technology and interact.

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  4. I have trouble with this. I can’t hold eye contact with someone every second If I’m out and about alone with my 4. Sometimes I feel people don’t understand but keeping my kids safe and looked after is my top priority. I really really try to make sure the person knows I’m listening and paying attention because I am!
    I try to teach my kids this too and for the most part they are good at it, at least the eye contact part. We still need a TON of work on really listening.
    This has bothered me for a while because I was raised learning that it’s rude to not give someone your full attention when they are speaking to you but have found it virtually impossible to implement at all times after having kids.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You bring up a good point. I think circumstances with parents are a little different, especially depending on the venue.

      When out and about, it would be only natural for us to keep an eye more on our kids than on people speaking. We’ve discovered this frequently on field trips and park days. I find this most difficult when I need to interrupt someone speaking in order to get my child’s attention; I have to remind myself to say, “excuse me a moment” and then ask them to kindly continue their thought. I often wonder if they feel I am being rude and not really listening, but needing to speak to my child is more vital.

      I think the art of conversation does go beyond mere eye contact. If we are unable to give our full attention with our eyes, perhaps through asking appropriate questions and giving timely responses the other person will understand we are still participating in the conversation.

      Good thoughts! Thank you for sharing. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I think that is important. I would even say it is important not to check your phone when talking with someone. I’ve not really had to work with my kids much on this since I have difficulty hearing. They know they have to look at me when they speak or I won’t hear them.

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  6. It’s also a cultural expectation. In many cultures, looking a person in the eyes is a sign of disrespect unless you are on the same standing as them in society. Therefore, many children have been taught that they are to look down so as not to meet eyes as some kind of challenge to authority. It may not even be a conscious action anymore as parents may have passed down the idea to their children and may follow the same expectation even as adults. While I’m on board, tread lightly with other people’s children.

    I’m with you on the tv/cell phone challenge. Though often people demand attention immediately and by asking someone if they can talk, they’ll be more likely to be receptive to what you’re saying.

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    • I would never deem to dictate how other people’s children should behave, that would be inappropriate of me. I just know this is something I want my own children to learn.

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us! This is something to take into account. 🙂

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  7. This is an important topic and one dear to my heart, just not in the way you would expect. My mom always taught us that it was very important to make eye contact when we were speaking and when we were listening. With this in mind, I endeavored to instill this into my daughter and later my son. Despite repeated explaining and efforts on my part with my daughter, she struggled to make that all-important eye contact. It took me a long time to understand that she heard and understood everything I said but just could not make and maintain that contact. She has learned to make that contact briefly and then come back to make additional contact periodically. This is part of her personality and as she has grown older we have helped her learn to do this so that in her part-time job, she can make it clear that she is paying attention even though maintaining constant eye contact throughout the whole conversation is “just not possible”. Our son does not have issues with this and does maintain that eye contact for the most part.

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    • My husband tends to do this as well; making eye contact only occasionally during a conversation. (Although, he does seem to be making more contact as the years go by.)

      I wonder if this stems from an inner shyness? Hmm… Thank you for sharing with us!

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  8. Wow, this is my “pet peeve.” Where I am from it is kind of insulting to NOT look someone in the eye while they are talking. But now I realize it’s not like that everywhere. It’s still ingrained in me to almost stare at someone when they are talking, lol. My children actually do pretty well with this, they just like people and they ask alot of questions they really want to know the answer to. When I went to Florida some people would respond with their back turned to me! I thought this was borderline hostile, but my Husband assured me it wasn’t.

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  9. I remember when I was a young teenager talking to someone at a local fair. She asked me where I went to school. When I replied that I was homeschooled she said “Oh, that’s why you look me in the eyes when you are talking.” She then complimented my mother on my good manners. I agree that it’s much harder to keep eye contact when you have to keep your eyes on your children. At home though I try to model good manners. Instead of just yelling through the house I get up and go to the other room to talk to my daughter. I want her to know that she is an important person worth the effort of leaving my comfy chair. I remember being taught to respect my elders when I was a child. Now that I’m an adult, I also think it is important to respect children as well. They are made in God’s image.

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  10. I love this post! I interact with so many children & teens; I never know if they are listening to me because they don’t seem very comfortable looking me in the eye. My husband & I feel that it is important for people to not only look a person in the eye but to give some sort of sign you are listening.(a head nod or even some eye movement) I am sure we all have encountered the kid that seems to look right through you, while they tune you out:) Thanks for sharing:)

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  11. It’s so hard to get my 2 year old to look at us while being in the moment and truly listening to us. We’ve been working hard at getting him to make eye contact when it comes to responding to us, with manners. It’s finally paying off now. I’m sure once we get into the teen years it will wonder away, but for now I’m going to ingrain that as far in as I can! 😉

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  12. I think eye contact is showing respect. Kids don’t know to do this unless they are taught. Kids need to know how to speak and how to listen. When being talked to one needs stop, look at the speaker and acknowledge that they hear. To speak one must say words clearly and look at the person they are talking to. This takes practice and it is a skill that children must have. So I practice with them. The important thing is that we stop, position ourselves to their level, and look them in the eyes when they talk to us. We get so busy as moms that we sometimes don’t give them a 100% eye contact. I struggle with this. My six year old and four year old struggle with respectful communication. We encourage our children to say thank you and look the person in the eye. Kids get a bit shy from time to time. Or they seem to have ADD. Or their brains are going a million miles an hour and they can’t slow done and communicate properly. I have to remind myself to be patient. Not always easy.

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  13. While I agree that teaching our children to look at people when they speak with them (and I did teach that to my own children), I have found it needful to be careful in labeling others’ behavior as rude. Some learning challenges make eye contact almost impossible, while others make it only extremely difficult (such as autism and sensory disorders). People who are auditory tend to look down when they are truly listening; visual distractions make it more difficult for them to focus. None of these realities can be judged as being meant to be unkind or inattentive. Reflecting back when people speak, stopping what you are doing in order to listen, and using language that shows empathy or understanding is just as important.
    The more I learn about others, and what their challenges are, the more I realize that my job is to do my best to teach my own children-and now grandchildren- how to be courteous, and then to let any judgement or annoyance go. That is the ultimate courtesy.

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  14. Great post, and I totally agree. In our culture, it is a sign of respect to make eye contact while conversing. (A dying art in our techno culture, for sure!)

    With our super shy daughter, we role play before she is thrown into social situations. We make it fun and silly, but make sure she knows how to be polite and the practice makes her more confident. 🙂

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