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We live in a culture of constant noise! Stop for a moment and listen to the sounds around you. Humming, buzzing, talking, ticking and screens and machines of all kinds adding to our hectic, moving noisy world!
Now, think about conversing with your kids. How often do you take the time to look into their eyes when communicating with them? Are many of your conversations occurring with constant digital background noise? Are your discussions happening with children looking at the back of your head while in transit from one place to another?
Have we lost the face-to-face, look into my eyes interactions? Eye contact is an important means of communication and can convey the real intent of our verbal message. Why is eye contact important? In our society, direct eye contact comes across as confident and honest. It provides an emotional connection between the speaker and the listener. However, eye contact does not always come natural without reinforcing its practice.
Take every opportunity with your children of all ages to practice eye contact.
Begin by eliminating as much of the surrounding noise distractions as possible. Take “DISCONNECT TIME” at home with no screens, cell phones or as little sound as possible. Start with a cue, “Can I see your eyes, so I know you really see and hear me.” Start with just small doses of eye contact being required and then gradually increase the requirement. Ask them to hold that glance for a couple of seconds. Gradually increase the requirement while decreasing the cues that they require, until they are able to maintain a reasonable amount of eye contact without any cues or with minimal cues.
In the Montessori classroom environment establishing eye contact with children before speaking is a part of the grace and courtesy exercised daily with students and teachers. We do this by respectfully bringing our eyes to the same level of the children. We are not merely instituting eye contact, but using our whole body to communicate a respectful presence.
As Montessori parents and educators, let us remember to engage our children and students by being truly present whenever we communicate with them. The eyes are often said to be the windows of individuals– they can clearly express our interest in, respect for, and connection to each other.