My child does not seem to listen to me. What could be the problem? There are lots of reasons why your child may not seem to be listening to you. Often as parents we think our child is choosing not to listen but there are other things we should think about first, before deciding that it is “just behaviour”.
The first thing to consider is whether your child is hearing properly. If your child has not had a thorough hearing test by a child audiologist this is a good idea. It is especially important if your child has had a number of ear infections either recently or in the past. Even mild undiagnosed hearing problems can effect a child’s development, learning and school progress so do check this out if you are concerned.
Children with a hearing impairment benefit from speech pathology support. They may be eligible for support under the "betterstart" program funded by the federal government for children with a range of disabilities including hearing loss.
If your child has normal hearing but has difficulty listening and remembering what you say another thing to consider is auditory processing disorder (APD). This is where the child’s ears receive sounds normally but their brain has difficulty storing, breaking down and interpreting what they hear. Children with APD have particular difficulty listening in back ground noise. APD can be diagnosed in children over seven years by qualified audiologists specialising in APD. Children with APD also benefit from support from a speech pathologist.
Attention difficulties also effect a child’s ability to listen as they can’t focus for long enough on what is being said. Children with attention difficulties will also have difficulties staying focused on tasks that do not just involve listening. If you are concerned about your child’s ability to concentrate in different parts of their life talk to your GP about speaking with a paediatrician.
If your child seems not to understand or remember what is said to them they may have a language difficulty, particularly in the area of comprehension. This can be assessed by a speech pathologist who can then offer therapy and support to develop your child's language skills.
How do I help my child to
Developing good listening skills enables children to listen to their environment and learn from it. Good listening skills are developed with practice over time and ensure children have the best chance of learning in the classroom environment. The ability to listen and clearly hear and interpret sounds is particularly important as children learn to both understand and use verbal communication. Learning to listen should begin when children are young.
To help your child develop good listening skills, try these ideas:
- Play a listening game. Sit quietly and take turns to identify sounds you can hear e.g. taps dripping, clocks ticking, birds in the trees.
- Make a scrap book. Cut out pictures you find in magazines and stick them into a scrapbook, talking about the noise they make. See if you can hear and find these things around the house.
- Play with toys, making noise as you play. Encourage your child to listen and imitate the noises. As your child’s skills improve, hide a toy behind your back and see if your child can identify the toy from the noise you make.
- Experience lots of sounds. Give your child plenty of opportunity to experience sounds and talk to your child about the sounds you hear.
- Listen to music. Use music as a fun activity for developing listening. Listen to music on CD but also make your own with either bought or home made musical instruments.
For older children
good listeningbehaviours by being a good listener yourself
- Explicitly teach good listening behaviours. Talk about what makes a good listener and how you know when someone is listening to you. Praise your child when they show good listening behaviours by telling them exactly what they are doing well. e.g. “I can tell you are listening carefully because you are making good eye contact, and thinking about what I’m saying”
- Consider the listening environment and turn off TV or move to a quiet place to have a conversation.
- Check your child has correctly understood your message by asking them to repeat back to you what you have said to them. Encourage your child to ask for clarification when needed
- Encourage your child to monitor their own ability to listen and concentrate such as by moving to a quiet spot or turning off background noise when they do homework.
Good luck with developing your child’s listening skills.
Talking Matters team