Ten Tips


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 sustainedeye 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 listenmay16@gmail.com

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