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.

1. Consequences

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.

2. Modeling:

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.

Listen Hear!

Listen Hear!

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.



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.

Identifying Children with Auditory Processing Difficulties


The following difficulties may present in the classroom if a child has auditory processing difficulties. If a child presents with difficulties in more than 3 to 4 of these items, referral to a speech & language therapist may be indicated for further assessment.


1)    Following Instructions

  • Copies other children
  • Starts before you’ve finished giving the instruction
  • Asks for repetition (often)
  • Takes time to get going after instructions have been given
  • Completes part of the instruction
  • Inaccurate completion of instructions
  • May appear to have “selective hearing”


2) Speech

  • Imprecise or “slushy” speech
  • Articulation errors
  • Difficulty saying multisyllabic words


3) Reading

  • Guesses at the word from the first letter
  • Guesses at words from surrounding text/pictures
  • Difficulty decoding novel words
  • Phoneme (sound) – Grapheme (letter) confusion
  • Difficulty decoding multisyllabic words e.g. rubbish-bin
  • Blending of syllables or phonemes
  • Fluency is poor
  • Decodes word by word and then struggles to get meaning
  • Poor attention to punctuation
  • Difficulty recalling what has been read


4) Spelling

  • Vowel confusion – particularly i/e
  • Long and short vowel confusion
  • Difficulty with vowel digraphs (ee ea oa etc.)
  • Difficulty learning word families
  • Analysis – syllables or phonemes
  • Poor generalization of spelling rules to unfamiliar words
  • Forgets previously learned spelling
  • Sequencing errors
  • Difficulty with blends
  • Phoneme – Grapheme confusion
  • Weak syllable omission e.g. tephone/telephone
  • Difficulty using punctuation


What is Auditory Processing?

What is Auditory Processing?

I am sure that you know the feeling that there is so much noise you can’t think straight!  Imagine having that feeling all day long!

Auditory processing refers to “how well the ear talks to the brain and how well the brain understands what the ear tells it” (Musiek).

Children with Auditory Processing difficulties may seem to have a hearing problem or “selective hearing.”

In its very broadest sense, Auditory Processing refers to how the central nervous system (CNS) uses auditory information.  Auditory processing refers to the ability to identify, interpret and attach meaning to sound that is heard.  This can be in the absence of a physical hearing loss.

Children with auditory processing difficulties are often easily distracted because they find it difficult to filter out the meaningless background noise and pay attention to the meaningful information.

Auditory Processing difficulties may cause delay in development of receptive and expressive communication skills. The disorder may be evident in a toddler or preschooler (i.e. failure to follow commands correctly, difficulty following conversation, difficulty reciting nursery rhymes), but it will be much more evident when the child begins more formal education (Grade 1- Foundation Phase). Reading and writing difficulties are likely to emerge due to the child’s confusion regarding speech sounds.

Phonological processing is an auditory processing skill.  It refers to the ability to reflect on and manipulate the sound structure of an utterance as distinct from its meaning. The terms auditory processing and phonological processing are therefore often used interchangeably.

A child with auditory processing/phonological processing difficulties may present with the following difficulties:

Speech production errors, including:

  • Omitting a sound or sounds in spoken words
  • Speaking in an inconsistent speech pattern
  • Mispronouncing frequently-occurring words
  • Making articulation errors in speech
  • Have difficulty in producing rhyming words

Auditory perception errors include:

  • Misperceiving a word to be a similar-sounding word to that which was spoken.
  • Difficulty paying attention to and remembering information presented orally
  • Difficulty carrying out multistep directions
  •  Poor listening skills
  • Need more time to process information

Reading and written language problems, including difficulties in:

  • Learning pre-literacy skills
  • Sounding out words as they read
  • Substituting words with the same initial letter when reading
  • Using inventive spelling beyond the early primary grades
  • Omitting vowels when spelling words

Early intervention is the key.

When in doubt, check it out.