Does my 5 year old listen to me? Is she paying attention? Am I talking to myself?
It gets very frustrating talking to her sometimes. She’s dancing around instead of listening. She starts talking to me about something completely different while I’m in the middle of saying something, to her. She walks away. She starts changing her clothes. She starts talking to someone else. She starts playing. She asks me a question while I am still answering her last question.
Sometimes I am explaining something really, very, incredibly important and she just interrupts me. Sometimes I roll my eyes. Sometimes I have to take a deep breath. Sometimes I tell her she’s being very rude. Sometimes I shout at her. Being ignored feels rubbish regardless of how old you are.
And then a while later, sometimes weeks later, we’ll be talking and she refers to what I have said. Sometimes she raises an example I gave to help her understand what we’re saying. Sometimes she asks a question out of the blue almost quoting what I have said.
How does she do that? When did she listen? When did she absorb and take it in? I didn’t notice. I shouted at her for not listening.
It has made me think about learned behaviour. The signifiers we learn to give other people around us. The nodding, the acknowledgements, the questions. It is fascinating to me that a child doesn’t consider giving those signifiers, because to them it is obvious they are listening. And yet if I don’t give her those signifiers, she gets stressed with me. Does she learn to give those signifiers because I tell her to (she realises she gets shouted at less if she gives them), because she observes me giving them, or because she starts to notice her own feelings and responses and learns from them?
I think I shall still continue to be amazed when she quotes me verbatim 2 months after she hasn’t listened to me.