If parents received a dollar for every time they told their children to “pay attention” or “you need to be a good listener” there would be wealthy parents all over the world. If you are struggling to get your child to be a good listener, welcome to parenthood!

6 parenting tips to get your child to be a good listener.

1. Set a good example.

Children are constantly learning and picking up on the habits of their parents. So if you want to change the behavior of your children the first place to start is with yourself. Make sure when your child or another family member is speaking, you are engaged and do not interrupt. Get the whole family involved and make it a family rule that you listen intently to others when they are speaking.

2. Reassure your child that you are not ignoring them.

A simple gesture of affirmation might be enough to keep your child happy and attentive while you finish a conversation with another adult or finish giving your child instructions. Try taking your child’s hand and saying, “I can’t wait to hear what you have to say, but I’m not finished talking yet.” You could also give your child a pen and paper or dry-erase board so they can write what they want to say to prevent them forgetting when it’s finally their turn to speak.

3. Avoid labeling your child a poor listener.

As hard as it is while frustrated with your child's poor listening skills, it's far more valuable to remind yourself and them that it is a simply a skill that takes practice. Too often we identify a bad behavior as an innate flaw when it is just a talent to be honed. Reward them with praise for the specific things they do to show they are listening. This will encourage them to improve the skill despite their own frustrations. 

4. Use repetition to make it stick.

Before you give your child a lengthy explanation or set of instructions, take a moment to organize your thoughts. It also helps if you give a short introduction of what you are going to talk about to help corral their focus. Then, when you finish with the details, summarize what you’ve just said. This method will help make the information stick better in your child’s mind.

You may even go a step further by asking your child to repeat what you’ve said in their words. Your child will have to work at translating what you’ve said into their own words, which helps them internalize the message. It doesn’t have to be detailed, just effective. The added layer of repetition doesn't hurt either.

5. Have your child take notes while you talk.

Before you give instructions or a lengthy explanation you can hand your child a paper and pen, telling them that you have something important you want them to remember. Explain that by taking notes it will help them remember it easier. Taking notes, in itself, is a great skill to learn. Your child will also have a written reminder of what you said that they can refer to if they get stuck.

6. Engage all the senses.

Perhaps your child isn’t having trouble listening. Perhaps your child retains information better when they can see it rather than hear it. Or perhaps your child needs to touch or hold whatever it is you are talking about. For example, instead of just listing out all the chores that need to get done try setting out the related tools and objects in the proper order. Bring out the broom and the rake and a toy to signify “sweeping”, “raking” and “picking up toys”. Let your child hold each item while you are giving instructions.