November 14, 2011

Teaching Your Child Active Listening Skills

Active Listening is one of the most important communication skills you can have. People often think that confident communication skills are about being articulate, telling a good tale or having a wide vocabulary. Yes, all of these are important, but the ability and willingness to listen to others is more important. How well you listen has a major impact on your job effectiveness, and on the quality of your relationships with others. Listening actively is required in every area of life.

Consider the questions below about your own listening skills and tick the answers that are relevant to you.

While the other person is talking, do you:
□  Rehearse what you are going to say?
□  Wish they would get to the point more quickly?
□  Interrupt?
□  Mind-read?
□  Judge them by appearance or accent?
□  Filter what you already think or want to think?
□  Daydream?
Most of us do some of these some of the time. We might think we are listening but we are not. Active listening skills are  very difficult master . People whose profession is to listen have spent years being trained to do so. In a recorded counselling or therapy situation it is likely that the voice of the listener will only be heard for 10 % of the 50 minutes. The benefit to people of being able to just talk can be amazing. 

One of the best things that you as a parent can do is to become a good role model. Develop your own active listening skills. Adults and children make common listening mistakes. If you make them, your child could mimic you.
Our two previous blog articles provide some great tools and techniques to build active listening skills for adults:

And as a parent, you can help your child to develop active listening skills and provide your child with foundation communication skills that last a lifetime.

Strategies for parents

1. Help your child to make better choices of activities to participate in during the day
Aim to develop your child's patience so he or she at least has the chance to pay attention to the person who speaks. Many studies conclude today's children suffer from a lowered attention span due to activities like TV and computer games.  Listening to action songs (songs that tell your child to do something) is an example of the activities that you could organise for your child. It's always fun to dance, and if your child follows along to the words, he's exercising his listening skills.
2. Read to your child then have him or her talk to you about what you read
Interact while reading together. Before you turn the page, ask your child to predict what might happen next.
This aims to help them to focus and teach them a briefly summarizing technique, as well as to develop their imagination.
3. When you say something to your child throughout the day, ask your child to say his or her understanding of what you said
Very often, children are required to keep quite and pay attention - so-called "listening" as they associate good listening with not interrupting and not saying a word, which creates "mindless" hearing in their relationship communication. Your goal in this exercise is to build a relationship and practice a correct response.
4. Teach your child to listen non-verbally
Have them maintain reasonable eye-contact with the speaker and develop other non-verbal skills such as facing you, not fidgeting, and maintaining good posture where appropriate.
Good listening skills take practice. The more your child practices, the sooner being an active listener becomes second nature!

Tower of Power, Joshua Uebergang,
Active Listening Skills Improve Communication, Ranjit Das,
Perfect Confidence by Jan Ferguson
Fun Ways to Practice Listening
Michelle McNally


  1. Listening skills fuel our social, emotional and professional success, and studies prove that listening is a skill we can learn.

  2. Hi all,

    Teach children the difference between hearing and listening. Explaining the difference early can eliminate confusion and reduce time spent correcting inattentiveness. Practice active listening when your children are talking to you. Set a positive example by focusing on your child when he shares information with you. Thanks...

  3. Thanks a lot for the article, it is really helpful. I sometimes think that parents also need a bit more info on active listening to their children. Anyway, it will not be excessive.