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Raising a Good Listener

Ask moms how to raise a good listener, and you’ll be met with a variety of responses. Some, like Eva Gavin, will laugh out loud and say, “If you write about kids who ignore their parents all the time, I’m your woman.” Others may tell you they have it all together and that their children always listen to them and do everything they say (don’t trust these women!).

So many of us are at a loss when it comes to teaching listening skills. Parents are busier than ever, and that can sometimes make it difficult to just stop and listen to our children. Yet making sure you raise your child to be a good listener is crucial for many reasons. For example, your child needs to be able to follow directions at school, in university and at a job. They also need the practiced skill of listening to make and keep friends, snag a spouse, and deal with a variety of people in everyday life.

So how do you become one of those moms whose children don’t tune her out?

1. Humor works wonders.
Tresa Cope says, “When I want to get my four-year-old’s attention, I randomly insert the word ‘chocolate’ into whatever I’m saying. As in, ‘Put your chocolate shoes on, now, please.’ Sometimes he giggles at my misuse of the word; sometimes he makes me pay up with chocolate-covered raisins.”

2. Practice reading comprehension. When you finish reading your child a story, ask them random questions about it. You can also ask them to summarize the story for you. If you’re reading a bedtime book that takes many nights to finish, ask your child what they think might happen the next night in the story.

3. Listen to your child. If you want your child to pay attention to what you are saying, practice listening. Turn off the radio in the car and hear what your child wants to tell you about their day. Most importantly, don’t interrupt. Look them in the eye when they’re talking to you so they know you are present and paying attention. Parents, this is a hard one, so you have to practice often. It’s easy to mumble a bunch of “mm, hmms” when your child is telling you about an artistic creation or about a kid at school, so put the dishes down and just listen.

4. Give directions in small steps. For the younger set, general instructions like, “Please clean your room” can be overwhelming. Instead, ask them first to put all of their stuffed animals in the box in the closet. Then ask them to hang up their shirts. Then have your child put all the dolls on their bed. Kids love that they can do something for themselves and please you at the same time. Instead of saying, “Pick up the living room,” Jill Connors asks her smaller kids to pick up 10 toys each and put them in the toy bin. When they are done, she asks them how many more they think it will take to clear the floor. The counting practice is invaluable, and the room is clean in no time.

5. Consistency counts. If you are a parent who threatens and never follows through, watch out because your child is watching what you say and do. If you say there will be no allowance for skipping chores, then don’t pay allowance that week. Then make sure you have the same consequence if it happens again.

6. Show your appreciation. Thanking your child for being a good listener when they do something you asked them to is a great way to show them that listening really does matter and that you notice what they do.

Listening games to try with your child:

Simon Says
Red Light, Green Light
Opposites (you say a word and your child acts out the opposite).
Guessing game (give several clues like, “I’m thinking of an animal that lives at the zoo.” Then, “The animal is gray.”)
Scavenger hunt (tell your child two things to find in the house and bring them back to you, working your way up to 10 items).

Kerrie usually snaps her fingers at her five kids when their attention wanders. She’s happy to have some new skills!


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