Listening to Children: A practitioner's guide.

Author:Argent, Hedi
Position:Book review

Listening to Children: A practitioner's guide Alison McLeod Jessica Kingsley Publishers 224 pages 17.99 [pounds sterling]

Do we listen to children because we think it is right to do so, or because we know that they have a right to be heard? And what exactly is a right? Can children be entitled to rights that they are not capable of exercising--that is, should they be allowed to make decisions before they are able to make informed choices? Are we listening if we empathise with what children say and respect their right to say it, or does listening imply acting on what we hear? Does 'You're not listening to me, Mum!' really mean, 'You're not doing what I want you to do!' These are just some of many questions considered and discussed in this excellent, well-written guide for practitioners.

The book is divided into five parts. The first presents a historical perspective of children's rights and their place in the family and society. There is a very useful examination of the meaning of words used in legislation dealing with the voice of the child--unfortunately this does not cover Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. (This is an inherent problem when writing social work books for a UK readership: listing all the differences in the law can make for tiresome reading; leaving them out can be frustrating for readers who do not practise in England.)

The second part offers a critical view of how the disciplines of psychology, sociology and social work frame our understanding of communication. Communicating only becomes effective if the listener is part of a listening organisation. In order to be effective and respectful about communicating with children, we may have to reconsider not only our services but also our attitudes to childhood. And we must not overlook the fact that with the right to be heard comes the right to say nothing. This should alert us to sharpen our skills 'to listen to the silence of children and to hear their behaviour'.

Parts three and four deal more directly with working with children; there...

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