How to Teach Kids to Listen

Because listening to others is the foundation for every relationship your child will create, it's worth the time it takes to teach. Not to mention, parenting a child who listens is WAY easier than parenting a child who ignores you.

Quick Tips To Get Kids to Listen

  • Be clear and pleasant
  • Avoid nagging
  • Use humor
  • Phrase things in a new way
  • Be concise - can you say short attention span?
  • Never baby talk to a small child
  • Avoid negatives. Instead of Don't Run, say Walk Only.
  • Don't talk down - expect maturity and you're more likely to get it
  • Don't back down or kids won't know when you're serious
  • Check for understanding by asking the child to repeat what you said
  • Make a game out of story time - lock lips and put the key in your pocket

Be a Good Listener

The trick to getting kids to listen? Listen to them first. Whether you like it or not, you show them all the time with every action how to behave. Find moments to give your child undivided attention. Take off the Bluetooth, sit down, and look at her for a minute. It doesn't need to be an hour. Just pay attention when she's excited to tell you something and she'll learn to return the favor. Ask about things they're interested in. Listening to the plot of the latest Goosebumps mystery today may pay off tomorrow.

You can also practice listening at the dinner table. It's one more reason to eat together. Let each person ask a question and everyone has to answer. Or go around the table telling a silly story, everyone adding on a couple sentences while the others listen quietly. Pass a spoon to designate who is allowed to speak.

Speak Carefully

Speak to children respectfully, making eye contact and using a pleasant tone of voice. Of course you shouldn't yell, but you already knew that. Nevertheless, we all do it. Get over the guilt and do better next time.

We get confused because when our babies are two, we need to scream sometimes to startle them out of the street. No one ever talked a kid out of sticking a fork in an electrical socket. Parents can get stuck in a tone that kept a toddler in line, but it won't work for an older child. Disrespect them and they'll tune you out.

What about the times we just want kids to act? Set the table - Eat your broccoli - Go to bed! It helps to occasionally add the Why:

  • Being part of a family or community means doing your fair share.
  • Eating the right foods keeps your mind and body strong.
  • Getting enough rest gives you energy to play with your friends.

You don't need to explain everything every time, but remind them once in while that you have reasons behind your requests.

The older your child gets, the more you need her to listen. Build trust over time so that she'll listen when it's really important. The sex and drug talks are not quick and they're not one-timers. You'll need to capture your child's ear over and over to get crucial messages across.

It takes endless creativity to be a parent. A good listener is patient, empathetic, and respectful. That's what you need to model in order to teach your kids to listen to you. Of course there's nothing wrong with going into raging lunatic mode occasionally. Your kids won't be listening anyway!

More by this Author


olgakhumlo profile image

olgakhumlo 5 years ago from Mira Road Mumbai India

Hi Lela,I like the message in your hub. Thank you.I am a parent of four kids ,only by God's strength and wisdom I make it each day. 'Listening' is truly a magic potion.

Michael Shane profile image

Michael Shane 6 years ago from Gadsden, Alabama

Great tips & advice! I am still trying to get mine to listen...They are 15, 14, & 8.....Thanks for the hub!

daljir 7 years ago

Today,s children are tommorow,s leaders.I think we should listen to them and talk to them the way we want them to talk to us.

jacobkuttyta profile image

jacobkuttyta 7 years ago from Delhi, India

Nice post with good insight.

Keep up the good work

We Do Listen Non Profit Foundation 7 years ago

check out "Howard B. Wigglebottom Learns to Listen" is an animated book we offer for free to help children eight and under learn how to listen and feel better about themselves.

AshleyVictoria profile image

AshleyVictoria 7 years ago from Los Angeles

Great advice - what better way is there to teach listening than by talking about it?

Tosin 8 years ago

Hi Robin,

Wonderful, Wonderful post. Y'know, I've not stopped thinking about your post since I read it this morning. It's so sincere, real and touching. I could have been sitting right in front of you listening to you talk.

Also, it's to timely b'cos my 4 yr old girl is giving me a tough time. She hardly listens. I know where I've gone wrong and I'm definitely going to give it all it takes to make her listen.

Thank you so much for sharing this priceless knowledge. Bless you.

profile image

BalsamFir 8 years ago

I enjoyed reading your article. How many times do adults not listen to other adults, or insist on doing something else, while they listen? How many times do adults just wait until the child is finished to say their lecture or admonishment, or worse, interrupt them? You made some excellent points. If we can teach our children to listen well, then they will become adults who listen well. Thanks!

childcen profile image

childcen 8 years ago from New Zealand

your suggestion will applies for adults too. Listening is an important part in communications. Thanks for this article. i love it!

ugirl2 8 years ago

How do you know if your child is having trouble listening and following directions or if they have attention deficit disorder?

xotinyyxo profile image

xotinyyxo 8 years ago from atlanta

I agree 100% on this.

Kids should listen, it could

really be useful :D.

-gives cookie-

great job, this was a good one :D

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VinceSamios 8 years ago from Australia

Its obvious what my parents did wrong!

Guest 8 years ago

You make a few good points, but I think that you're objectifying the job of parenting too much. Teach your kids to be civilized, respectful, and explain to them why it's important to respect of others. If they don't give you respect, punish them - not harshly, but in a way that shows them what they have done. And teach them to be human beings - being treated like suck now will help them to be mature and responsible later.

Lela Davidson profile image

Lela Davidson 8 years ago from Bentonville, Arkansas Author

thanks Coach Gerry - I hope so... But then again, I don't always follow my own advice!

Coach Gerry profile image

Coach Gerry 8 years ago from Loveland

Lela you must be a wonderful parent to your little girl. This article is really good!

I will keep it in mind when I see my grandchildren again.

Thanks,  Gerry

Serena 8 years ago

I do agree even though im only 9 years of age,i know that that is totally true lol.

glassvisage profile image

glassvisage 8 years ago from Northern California

I hope that my using Bluetooth so much now won't get me stuck with a bad habit of not listening well enough! :(

John Chancellor profile image

John Chancellor 8 years ago from Tennessee

Great advice.  What matters more than what you tell them is how you as a parent behave.  Children learn more from how we act than from what we say to them. They will model our behavior.  And learning to listen is probably the most important skill we can learn in life.  Far too many people are passive listeners rather than active listeners.  If you are an active listener, you are modeling behavior that will serve your child well for all their lives,

plz begentle profile image

plz begentle 9 years ago from Texas

Right! Righteous read. Be a good listener. Parents often forget the humility of raising children.

Lela Davidson profile image

Lela Davidson 9 years ago from Bentonville, Arkansas Author

Thanks, RR! What a sweet compliment. Glad you enjoyed.

RainbowRecognizer profile image

RainbowRecognizer 9 years ago from Midwest

I appreciate the genuine respect and warmth that comes through in your writing - thank you.

raguett profile image

raguett 9 years ago

great tips and advice...

greathub 9 years ago

I have always emphasized that if you want to change your child, change yourself first. For more details please read:

Bob 9 years ago

Great adviceI'll Try that on the boys.

Blogger Mom profile image

Blogger Mom 9 years ago from Northeast, US

Great advice. Thanks for the good read! =)

MoralsEthics1960 profile image

MoralsEthics1960 9 years ago from Florida

Great post

DrPLHolmes profile image

DrPLHolmes 9 years ago

I love you article. It gives excellent advice that so many of us need!

Conquistador 9 years ago

I m in love with your hub pages to be honest. I love articles related to parenting or child care. I wanna thank you for giving me some more topics to write about on my blog I would love if you visit and tell me what you think of it.

Lela Davidson profile image

Lela Davidson 9 years ago from Bentonville, Arkansas Author

Thanks, Robin. I love the 5 second rule. I am so guilty of speaking too quickly!

Robin profile image

Robin 9 years ago from San Francisco

Great advice! I notice that sometimes adults are quick to answer for a child when he/she pauses before an answer is given. When I taught I used the five second rule. Basically, after asking a question you give the child a bit of time before answering. (I obviously did not count this out-loud; it was a rule only in my head.) This gave kids time to think before they answered and for the more shy or slower students, it allowed them to formulate an answer as well.

As you said, it is so important that a child's voice is valued. It creates higher self-esteem and self-confidence when adults respect their voice and opinions. Thanks for all of the tips!

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