Reading time: 3 minutes
Suitable for: Families of primary-age children
You might feel it’s impossible to get your child listening. Most parents complain that their child just doesn’t pay attention to them. It’s a common problem.
So what does lack of attention look like and what can you do to help your child listen to you?
What does your child listening look like?
When we think of children paying attention, it normally means them stopping what they’re doing and sitting still. You might feel they’re not paying attention if they’re squirming in their seat, fidgeting, doodling, or playing with something.
However, children are made to be active. They find it difficult to sit still for any length of time. They may be listening even though their body is moving. Asking them to repeat an instruction back is an easy way to check if they’re paying attention to you.
Why are they not paying attention?
There are many reasons why your child might not be paying attention when you speak.
They could be:
- Focused on something else: When your child is intently playing with something, they may literally not hear you.
- Worried about something: If they feel stressed or under pressure, they may struggle to focus on what you’re saying.
- Choosing not to listen: Your child may find it hard to stop playing a game or activity they enjoy.
If you notice your child doesn’t hear your instructions, mishears you, or increasingly doesn’t pay attention to you, it’s worth making an appointment with your doctor for a hearing check.
Many children struggle with fluctuating hearing loss caused by glue ear that can look like they’re just not paying attention.
How to get your child listening
We are all guilty of half listening while scrolling through a phone or watching TV. Give your child your full attention when they’re speaking to you to model what good listening looks like.
If your child struggles to pay attention when you speak, there are some simple techniques you can use to help them focus and remember what you’ve said:
- Start by saying their name to catch their attention. Instead of saying, “It’s time to make your bed, Karim,” you might say, “Karim, it’s time to make your bed.”
- Keep instructions short and to the point. If there is a lot for them to remember, they could do one thing first and then listen to the next instruction.
- Avoid long lectures. Children are good at zoning out of conversations if they feel they’ve heard it all before.
- Ask them for eye contact first. You could say, “Jenson, look at me, please. Well done. You need to put your toys away ready for dinner.” However, if your child has autism, they may prefer not to make direct eye contact.
- Turn off distractions like the TV, radio or video games. They may find it easier to pay attention if there’s no background noise.
If you feel your child isn’t paying attention because they’re stressed or worried about something, talk to them about it. Tell them what you’ve noticed. Listen carefully to any worries they have and let them take the lead on how they could solve the problem.
Find out more
There are lots of ways you can get your child listening and doing as you ask, without big reactions, or refusals. Check out our free Support Talk series, called The Ask, to find out more.