Teaching Active Listening to Your Child

With all of the distractions in our modern world, we have become a community of people who don’t know how to focus and listen to others. Active Listening is an important life skill that you can teach your child – and help yourself, too! Before you can teach your child active listening you need to understand what it is. Active listening is a technique of understanding the complete message being communicated through words, tones of the voice, and body language. Active listening requires that those participating in the conversation are not distracted. This is something we all need to work on. Distractions may be other people or things in the environment such as television, video games, computers, and electronic devices. As you are teaching your child active listening skills it may take discipline on your part to remove the distractions. Active listening requires all participates to use a combination of skills by acknowledging the individual speaking to you as well as validating their problems and feelings. Active listening is a life skill that will improve overall communications, trust, and relationships.

10 Active Listening Skills

  1. Hearing Content
    Giving feedback, insight, and experiences related to the topic can reinforce that you are hearing what is being said.
  2. Listening for Feelings
    Helping identify feelings and emotions with words help with understanding. You can support the conversation with statements like: “It sounds like you are frustrated” or “I am sensing that you are worried”.
  3. Observing Body Language
    Body language can give us cues of others emotions. This may take practice. Things such as lack of eye contact, moving away, and folding arms are signs of negative emotions, while eye contact, being close, and open arms are signs of neutral and/or positive emotions.
  4. Neutral Technique
    Listening free of judgement or opinion. Listen to obtain information and gain understanding.
  5. Paraphrasing
    Shorting and restating what you heard in the conversation. It shows that what was said was heard.
  6. Self-Awareness
    Being aware of your eye contact, body language, tone, and attention is important to active listening. In order to do this you must be paying attention and not thinking about how you are going to respond.
  7. Reflection
    Reflection takes the conversation and assesses what feelings are behind the conversation. “It seems like you are afraid of …..” or “Are you feeling afraid because of ….”.
  8. Questioning
    Asking questions helps to get a deeper understanding of what is being said. “What do you think about….?” or “What would happen if…?”
  9. Clarifying Technique
    Clarifying technique involves restating what was said as well as asking questions to clarify. “Did I hear you say…?” or “Did you mean…. when you said…?”
  10. Summarizing
    Review the facts and check your understanding of the conversation.
    Active Listening

Modeling and Practicing Active Listening

The best way to teach your child active listening is to do it. Make active listening part of your daily routine. Bedtime is a great time to practice. You can ask your child about their day and then model the active listening skills above.

Reading is a great way to let your child practice active listening skill. Depending on your child’s age, read several pages and then ask questions using various techniques from above. Help your child recognize the emotions in the story.

When your child comes to speak to you, stop what you are doing, get down on their level or bring them up to yours, make eye contact and use the skills listed above. This is also a great time to teach boundaries of when it is an isn’t appropriate to talk to you at that time. This goes back to manners and being considerate of others.

Benefits of active listening for children and parents, by Larissa Dann:

Children can:

  • learn to understand and name feelings.
  • understand themselves better – what is happening – why he/she is upset, sad, etc.
  • start the process of controlling their emotions, once they understand what they are feeling.
  • reduce the number of times they get angry or have tantrums.
  • learn to solve their own problems, become more confident and have better self-esteem.
  • feel better about their parents, and have a closer relationship with them.
  • find that, often, when strong feelings are named, the intensity of feelings seems to reduce – the emotion is dissipated. The child is then able to work through his/her problem more easily.
  • develop resilience and empathy.

Parents can:

  • find this to be an effective way to defuse angry situations, such as when the child is about to have a tantrum.
  • gain a better understanding of their child from the child’s perspective – what is happening to him/her; what he/she is feeling; why he/she isn’t happy etc.
  • show they respect their child as a person. Hopefully, your child will then respect you.
  • feel closer to their children.
  • find that children are more likely to listen to them.

Active Listening using Sign Language

Active listening skills can be reinforced by using simple signs. The child must keep an eye on the speaker who is using sign language so they don’t miss the sign.

Many teachers and educators are using sign in their classes for classroom management. Christine Weis, founder of For the Love of Teachers, stated:

“When students know and feel that they are heard and understood, they are more likely to engage. Teaching, modeling, and providing guided practice in active listening transforms students into active listeners.”

When you are using active listening skills, incorporate signs into your sentences. Use simple signs to express feelings, like happy, sad, grumpy, or excited. Because children have fun learning sign language, using the signs make your conversations more enjoyable as the child waits for you to make the next sign. Signs also help young children with limited vocabulary express themselves when they can’t find the words.

The method teachers use with sign language can easily be brought home and used in your Active Listening skills. Some of the signs you can teach for active listening are:

  • quiet – “We need to be quiet so that we can listen to her.”
  • feelings – “Can you explain your feelings to me?”
  • again – “Please tell me that again?”
  • feel – “I feel sad right now.”
  • grumpy – “You seem to be grumpy. Can you tell me why?
  • happy – “What will make you happy?”
  • excited – “What are you excited about?”
  • sad – “Why are you sad?”
  • why – “Why…….?”

At Signing Time, we teach over 1000 ASL signs. You can get access to those signs with a My Signing Time Subscription.


Become a Better Listener: Active Listening By John M. Grohol, Psy.D.

Communication With Children by Larissa Dann

How to Improve Listening Skills in Children

7 Signs for Classroom Management, by Christine Weis

Abode Stock Photos

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