A recent study shows something that most parents already know: listening to your child helps them solve problems better.
“The basic idea is that it is really effective to try to get kids to explain things themselves instead of just telling them the answer,” says Bethany Rittle-Johnson, the study’s lead author. “Explaining their reasoning, to a parent or perhaps to other people they know, will help [the child] understand the problem and apply what they have learned to other situations.”
Rittle-Johnson believes the new finding can help parents better assist their children with their schoolwork, even when they are not sure of the answer themselves. Although the researchers used children and their mothers in the study, they believe the same results will hold true whether the person is the child’s father, grandparent, or other familiar person.
Real Parents Agree
The study has support, at least anectodally, from friends with children. Tiffani and Rand, parents of two toddler girls, say, “We have definitely seen this study prove itself over and over again, with both girls, but especially our oldest. It’s truly amazing to see her work through a thought as she begins explaining to us what is on her mind.”
Another mom, Earlene, agrees and adds that “I already believed this based on myself because I sometimes just need to hear myself speak out loud to truly register things.”
Half Listening Doesn’t Count
Parents often need to multi-task: talk on the phone, cook dinner, tap online, navigate around pets, do laundry, and talk to the kids all at once. Getting more done in a short period of time seems efficient, but at least according to this study, it may not help toddlers learn to problem solve as much as giving them full attention.
So what are harried parents to do? Based on these results, make time to sit down and give younger kids both ears. Delegate some chores to older children, hire help, or schedule differently — perhaps throw in the laundry after bedtime or prepare bulk meals in advance so there is less preparation at the end of a long day. However it works out, this latest research indicates its more important to be attentive during this critical phase of development.