If you believe that your child has learned to “tune you out,” then you need to break the habit. Let him know that both of you have developed a bad habit and you want to break it! Tell your child that you will make a request just one time, and you will expect him to listen and follow directions. Then, stick to your guns!
Breaking bad habits is not easy and it takes real commitment and energy. But it will be well worth the effort in the long run.
The best consequences are “natural consequences” because they occur without having to do anything at all. For example, if you call your child to the dinner table and he does not come, he will be left eating a cold meal alone at a later time.
Within the classroom situation, if a child is not attending to an instruction, then ignoring the child when they come and ask for clarification may reinforce the notion of careful listening behaviour.
In many cases, it is up to the parents and educators to decide on and agree on a consequence.
Consequences need to be relevant, reasonable and doable.
You can teach your child to listen by having good listening skills yourself.
Here are some ideas to help you:
- Do not Interrupt – when someone says something that we disagree with, we love to interrupt and even go the extra step further by proving them wrong. Hearing what your child says improves their listening skills by encouraging them to not interrupt.
- Be Together – just by interacting with your child and building a relationship, they are spending more time with you. The more time you have in their lives, the more influential you become, and the more you interact and talk to them, the more your effective listening skills run-over onto your child.
- Honesty – just like adults, children can see when you are not listening. You need to be attentive and honest in your listening by not tricking them into thinking that you are listening.
- Have Patience – you cannot expect your child to be patient and attentively listen to you when you cannot be patient yourself. Understand that children take longer than adults to say what they want.
If you don’t have the time to devote your full attention to your child, then tell him, and set aside time later on.
Games and activities to facilitate good listening:
- Simon Says – Your child must follow your directions, but only when you begin the sentence with the words “Simon says.” Keep your child moving and the directions coming quickly to make the game exciting.
- I Spy – Give your child clues about something within viewing range. See how quickly he can guess what you are spying.
- Twenty Questions – Think of a person, place or thing and give your child up to 20 chances to ask questions that will help him guess the answer.
- Red Light, Green Light – One or more children line up at the back of an open space. The “policeman” calls out the words “red light” or “green light” with his back turned to the group. The group can only move forward when the policeman calls “green light” and must stop when they hear “red light.” The policeman turns around when he says “red light” and any child caught still moving is out. The first to follow the directions and reach the policeman becomes the new policemen.
- Environmental Noises – Commercial games with common environmental sounds are available and I am sure there must be an “#app” available. Otherwise, listening to the “real thing” can be fun. See who can identify the most sounds.
- Broken Telephone – A whispered message is passed through a group until the last person last player announces the message to the entire group.
- Listening For Absurdities encourages children to listen for details. For example I ate the cold-drink through a straw. Sentences can increase in length and complexity.
- Reading to your child and discussing what you have read and predicting what might happen. Making a few ‘purposeful errors” will give you an indication of how actively your child is listening. For example you could change the characters name in the story.
- Audiobooks – These can be downloaded, purchased or rented through listener libraries.
- Watch TV with your child (Yes I said it :-)). This means that you have to watch one of the programmes that your child enjoys
but not cartoon network. While you’re watching, pretend that you didn’t hear something and ask your child to tell you what the character said.
Poor listening skills are a major challenge in the classroom as well as in the home. Listening skills are the cornerstone for developing interpersonal relationships and yet it is one of the most neglected language skills in teaching environments. Many children receive as much as half of their educational programming through listening but have little instruction on how to listen effectively.
Hopefully we can break the cycle.
One of the biggest complaints that I hear from teachers as children enter a more formal learning environment, is that the children do not know how to listen.
I am not talking about the children with Auditory Perception Difficulties or the children with any form of hearing loss. Neither am I referring to the “selective listening” behavior displayed by most children at one point or another. I am referring to children who enter the formal schooling system without any delays or difficulties and develop difficulties because of poor listening skills.
The passive nature of hearing is very different from the active nature of listening. Take, for example, many of the adverts on TV. Unless they have a very catchy jingle, or something visual that draws in your attention, you are often able to “tune out” and not even know what the advert was for.
We need to ask the question WHY children are not learning to listen.
1. BAD HABITS
When a child does not respond to a parent’s first request (and how many kids do?), parents often subscribe to what appears to be the obvious solution – they repeat their request, sometimes several times, until they get the desired response from their child. On occasion, this is a useful tactic for parents. Perhaps their child did not actually hear the request, or maybe he was distracted and needs another reminder.
However, when repeating requests, directions or questions becomes the typical way you interact with your child, it may very well be that bad habits have developed. And I say bad habits (plural!) because both the parents and the child have developed a bad habit here. The adults have become accustomed to talking and talking and talking while their child has learned to ignore, ignore and ignore. Why should he stop and pay attention the first time when he knows that there will be many opportunities to hear the request. And the child may even have developed a “deaf ear” to all the chatter, which means that he has stopped paying attention to what is being said.
Enter the grade one classroom, and the poor teacher is faced with a whole group of children with poor listening habits.
The ability to concentrate and pay attention are key factors in being a good listener. Research has shown that too much television watching at an early age might contribute to poor listening skills later in life.
When you think about it, does your child talk much when watching television or playing computer games?
Unless they provide commentary and annoy everyone else around them, you probably answered “not much at all”.
They will sit in front of a gaming console, computer, or television and become ‘mind slaves’ to the device as they ‘switch off’ their mind into the rapid, hypnotic pace these devices deliver. Of course, we do listen while watching yet the devices deliver sound at a greater speed that is considerably more entertaining to children then the sound of nagging parents talking to them.
I have often had the retort from parents that “my child can sit for hours playing a video-game. How come you are telling me he can’t focus?” They are correct, but the type of focus required for a video game and active listening, is totally different. Activities such as video/computer games, require a high level of concentration and reasonable skills to play. When these two are combined, time becomes distorted. Children receive instant gratification from television and video games whereas the pace of normal conversation is slow in comparison.
Some research has suggested that extensive exposure to television and video games may promote development of brain systems that scan and shift attention at the expense of those that focus attention.
This being said, TV, video games and the like are not evil. In fact there is more and more research into how technology can be incorporated into learning and the plethora of educational ‘’apps” is testament to this. The old adage of everything in moderation and everything with MEDIATION is paramount.
One of the many reasons that anxiety in children is on the increase, is because of pressure to succeed in the school environment. Whilst this issue is the realm of the psychologist/psychiatrist, the impact of anxiety on listening behavior cannot be discounted.
Anxious children are often preoccupied with worries about their success in activities and their ability to obtain the approval of others. They tend to “tune-out” when others are talking because they are often so worried about what they are going to say when it is his or her turn to speak.
Listening skills are something that requires practice. Good listening skills are an integral part of good communication and are one of the foundation skills for later learning success.
Children develop at different rates. While some children with foundational literacy difficulties will catch up to their peers, children who make slow early progress often need extra help. If they don’t get it, they can experience delays in literacy development which ultimately impacts on their academic success.
There are some early signs that your child might be having trouble with foundational literacy skills. These signs involve both oral language (vocabulary and listening skills) and knowledge of word structure (knowing letters, rhyming, sounding out and blending sounds in simple words).
Seek help or advice if most of the time your child has trouble with three or more of the following activities:
- Telling you what action is going on in a picture book (running, barking, eating)
- Using all of the necessary words to make a complete sentence – for example, ‘I’m going to the zoo’ rather than ‘ me going zoo’
- Listening to an adult read to her on a regular basis
- Remembering a previously read book when shown its cover
- Showing an awareness of how books are handled
- Naming simple objects represented in books
- Concentrating on and responding to print, such as the letters in names, signs and so on
- Scribbling to make shapes that look like letters
- Playing with words and making rhyming words. Children particularly enjoy making up “rude” rhymes. E.g. hum, bum, mum
- Repeating at least parts of nursery rhymes.
5 – 6 years
Seek help or advice if most of the time your child can’t do the things listed above, and struggles with three or more of the following.
- Understanding everyday spoken directions
- Incorporating new words when he speaks, and noticeably using longer sentences (often more than five words)
- Recognising the beginning of words and sounds that rhyme, and producing examples
- Breaking simple words into their parts (syllables or single sounds), and putting sounds together to make words
- Using the proper endings of words – for example, ‘He played soccer with me’ rather than ‘He play soccer with me’
- Showing interest in books and reading
- Trying to read – for example, your child should recognize their own name, brands (McDonald’s ‘M’, Stop Signs, Woolworths etc.) Recognizes the sounds of letters and makes references like, ‘that one starts the same as my name, or snakes start with the same letter that Stop does..
- Following the sequence of events in stories
- Relating what happens in books to her own life events
- Listening attentively when books are read aloud, deriving meaning and pleasure from it.
- Knowing that words in print are different from pictures, and are there to be read
- Observing and commenting on print in different settings, such as on TV, food packets and so on
- Appreciating the different purposes of print – for example, prices, shopping lists, recipes, assembly instructions
- Knowing that each letter in the alphabet has a name and a sound, and being able to name at least eight of them
- Understanding that writing is a tool for communication, and scribbling his name, messages and so on (regardless of whether you can read what he scribbles).
By the middle of grade one your child should be enjoying learning to read and should be developing a growing sight – word vocabulary such as the, and, and is. The letter – sound associations should be more automatic and he should be eager to read. The following may be warning signs as you listen to your child read aloud:
- Doesn’t know the sounds associated with all of the letters
- Skips words in a sentence and doesn’t stop to self-correct
- Can’t remember words; sounds out the same word every time it occurs on the page
- Frequently guesses at unknown words rather than sounding them out
You can also look at your child’s writing for clues about reading difficulty. By the end of Grade R, a child should be writing his name and some other consonants. Mixed uppercase and lower case letters is appropriate.
It’s important not to panic if you see some of these warning signs in your child. Lists of early warning signs can help you be on the lookout; however, there is no precise list of surefire signs of a reading difficulty. Each child is unique and may exhibit only some of the signs. Knowing what to look for can help you decide whether you need to investigate further.
When in doubt check it out.