How to raise a child who listens well
by Holly Hanke
Last updated: March 2012
Being a good listener is critical to your child's success at school. If he can't follow directions, either on the playground or in the classroom, he'll have a tough time learning. Children who are good listeners also have an advantage socially because they tend to be very good friends to others.
Here are seven ways you can help your child become a better listener:
Be a good listener yourself
Don't interrupt your child when he's telling you a story. Give him your undivided attention when he's talking – don't read the paper or carry on a conversation with someone else at the same time. Turn your attention to him when he wants to tell or show you something.
If you want him to listen to you, he needs to see that you will listen to him too. Children return the respect they receive, and children who are listened to often become good listeners themselves.
Also, listen to the way you speak. You may not be aware of it, but your communication style may sound a lot like the one your parents used. Pay attention to what you say – and how you say it - to see if there are some habits you'd like to change.
Give clear, simple directions for everyday tasks
Get in the habit of giving your child simple instructions. Make eye contact with her, and say, "Please go into your room and make your bed. Then get your backpack and meet me downstairs."
As she becomes a better listener, you can add another task or two. In this way, you're not only teaching your child to listen well, but also to be independent.
Praise good listening
Saying "thanks for being such a good listener" reinforces your child's desire to listen. Make a special point of praising him when he follows directions the first time.
Say what you mean
If you tell your child she can have two more cookies, then give her two cookies – not three or four. Otherwise your child will only tune you out once she figures out that you don't stick to your word.
Be consistent with consequences
If you tell your child that you'll have to leave the toy store if he doesn't stop whining, follow through without giving him another chance. Your child will be more inclined to do what he's asked when he understands that his actions have clear, enforceable consequences.
Read aloud together every day
The time you spend reading together is invaluable for listening and learning. Before you begin, ask your child to recap what you read the night before. When you finish, ask her to predict what might happen next based on what she's heard so far.
For more reading tips, see our article.
Play listening games
Find ways to make listening fun. Put on some music and play Statue or Freeze so your child has to listen closely for the music to stop.
Take turns interviewing each another. After your child interviews you, ask her to tell an imaginary audience what you said.