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Learning Styles and Good Communication

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Communicating with our children, particularly our teenagers, can be a challenge. Knowing about learning styles can help. Let’s say, for instance, that your child wants something and knows it won’t be an easy sell. Let’s look for a moment at how they are likely to approach you and persuade you.

A visual learner has mulled over each point of her argument in advance. She may even have typed it out. She is 100% certain that she’s presenting an iron-clad case, with irrefutable reasons for her position, whatever it may be. She has spent a lot of time anticipating your arguments and coming up with answers to them. She cannot fathom that you won’t agree with her point. Be really careful with visual learners not to say no to quickly. They will be devastated and feel a little betrayed.

An auditory learner will know what she wants to say, and may also have a list. But she will get off track or provide way too much detail or use 50 words when seven would do. You will need pre-arranged signals to get the discussion back to the point. She, too, will be surprised if you say no, but not intensely disappointed. She will also not give up. These are the ones who keep talking and talking and talking and eventually it seems easier to give them what they want, rather than hear another word. It won’t be easier in the long run.

A tactile learner will gesture until you feel endangered by flying elbows and he may even actually jump up and down. He will passionately believe what he is saying and often will say something he may later regret. You may have to sort through the emotions to hear what he actually means to say. Do not react if he says something stupid or hurtful. He doesn’t mean it and probably doesn’t know he said it. It’s okay to say something like, “It hurts me when you say you wish I weren’t your mother, but that’s not part of the discussion.”

The burden of self-control is –once again—on you, the adult. You may need to establish specific ways to interact and this may take time to figure out. The important thing is that you listen and don’t react or get hurt feelings. Here are some good practices to get you started.

•Make eye contact both when you are listening and when you are talking. •Pay attention. Absorb. Listen to what’s being said (and not being said) instead of thinking about what you are going to say next. •Stick to what’s important in this discussion. If you’re discussing an F on a math test, hair color doesn’t matter. •Hear it through to the end. Try not to draw any conclusions until you hear all points. •Avoid emotional responses. Do get defiant or become angry (even though your child might). You are the adult, and part of that job means your kids will get angry with you and say angry things. •Put a time limit on the discussion. •Don’t make a decision or judgment right away. Step back, think about it, and resume the discussion when you’re both ready. Don’t let your children push you into a quick decision.

These listening practices are things you can discuss at a family dinner or occasion when you are all together. Then everyone knows “how things work” and won’t be distracted by the process.