"I Love to Listen Day" is Sunday, May 16th!

Ten Listening Tips for Parents and Guardians

Marva Shand-McIntosh & Bramwell Osula

Teaching a child to listen is one of the most precious gifts that you can give to a child.  Listening is more than half of our daily communication routine. Effective listening is tied to obedience authority figures, the ability to be a better friend, and classroom performance.

As a speech language pathologist, parents frequently asked,” how can I get my child to listen?” These tips were developed in an attempt to answer that question.

1. Be a role model. Children learn from observing. Be sincere. Give your full

attention when she is speaking to you. When the child is finished, respond in a

meaningful manner to what was said. Positive reinforcement will encourage your

child to keep on trying.


2. Promote Diversity of Listening Experience: Take your child to a setting where

people speak with a different accent and or language from what she may be

accustomed to in the family. This early exposure teaches tolerance and respect

for cultural differences. It may also curb the urge to correct the speech of other

children, tease, or bully them.


3. Give Clear Direction. Perhaps the most frequently occurring concern is your

child not being able to listen and follow directions. For some children the

problem increases when the direction is complicated, there is noise in the

background, direction is lengthy or if direction has to be carried out later.

Start by giving the child one simple direction. “Give me the comb.” Move on to more

complex listening activities as your child’s skill matures. Next use simpler short

sentences, make eye contact and ask the child to repeat the direction. Finally, in

building memory for directions, ask the child to carry out a simple task in 2

minutes after you’ve given the direction. Then increase the length of time as

ability to listen and follow directions improves.


4. Make it Fun. Children explore their world through play as they grow.

Social and make belief play are non-threatening and are rich sources of listening

opportunities for both parent and child. Play word games that include rhyming,

riddles, humor and figurative language. Many young children enjoy the hand

clapping games that are useful for increasing attention span. The child will copy

the clapping pattern that they hear. Slowly increase the number of claps and vary the

patterns. Stop when the smile begins to fade and the child starts to show signs of frustration.

Understanding humor in word-play is a higher order skill in language development.

Young children, and some adults, who are concrete (literal) in their thinking may have

difficulty in acquiring this skill. Keep trying.


5. Listen to audio books. Ask the librarian for audio books that are appropriate

for your child’s age or developmental level. In addition, children with reading

challenges and visual impairment can also participate fully and benefit from this

activity. To promote rigorous vocabulary development, provide audio reading

material about 2 grades beyond the child’s reading level. With practice, your

child will also demonstrate sustained attention to spoken words. Listening to radio

drama and other recorded performances are excellent for entertainment and expanding imaginary skills.


6. Create A Family Listening Tradition. Participate in I Love to Listen –Day on

May 16th. Send a card or letter to someone saying, “thank you for listening.”

Visit someone in a nursing or retirement home and listen to their story. Listen to audio

books together. Give “good listening” awards to anyone who consistently listens well.

Memorize and or write texts, proverbs, poems, and letters, on listening. In family meetings

give each family member time to speak without interruption. Compliment each other’s attentive

listening habits.


7. Listen for Health and Healing. Teach your child the impact of effective listening on our health

 and well being. In a recent report, speakers rated interrupting as the number-one most annoying

conversational trait. Interruption is a struggle for power in conversations. Several university studies

found that people who interrupt conversations are at grater risk for heart problems. In another area

of health, researchers at a New York hospital showed that hypertensive patients obtained normal

systolic blood pressure after listening to classical music or nature sounds for as little as 3 minutes.


8. Listen for Emotional Cues. Teach your child to listen by observing facial

expressions, other gestures, and to listen for tone of voice. These emotional cues carry far more

information than spoken words alone. In most western cultures a generous amount of sustained

eye contact is considered essential in effective listening.


9. Listen to Discover Who You Are. What a child believes influences how the child behaves.

Listening to negative self-talk saps energy and weakens enthusiasm for initiating and completing tasks.

Encourage positive thinking and be patient.  Reinforce every small step in this direction. “Effective leaders

are effective listeners.”


10. Promote Classroom Listening at Home. In a typical school day your child will

spend more than 75% of classroom time listening. As she gets older and the

grades increase, so will the listening demands. Parents can help their child to be

aware of the following types of listening requirements in school. Listen for

content of the message, listen for enjoyment, listen critically to judge a message, and listening

to support others but not to judge them.


Join scores of people all over the world in celebrating I Love To Listen Day on May 16.

For more information, reprint or an expanded version of this article or contact Marva at ILoveToListen2@yahoo.com.





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