Help your child develop receptive listening skills

by | Last updated May 26, 2021

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Help your child develop receptive listening skills

Listening skills are fundamental to learning and building relationships 


School is almost out, but developing listening skills is a year-round pursuit! There’s a lot you and your child can do over the summer to improve their chances of a successful new school year in the fall.

You might be wondering whether your child has trouble listening or if they’re just defiant. Here’s are some tell-tale signs. Do you find that your child often says, “What?” after you tell them something? Maybe you notice that they don’t remember much from school or that they struggle to follow simple narratives. This doesn’t mean your child is defiant or necessarily has trouble learning. The issue could actually be that they’re having trouble listening. Although it can be frustrating to have to repeat ourselves over and over again because our child “doesn’t pay attention,” there’s a good chance that kiddos like this just need some coaching and support to develop receptive listening skills. 

Before we dive into how to help your kiddo, let’s talk about what “receptive listening” actually is.

Receptive language is the ability to understand conceptual information, whether spoken or read. When there is a breakdown in language processing, a child might be confused or have trouble understanding what he is reading or is being asked to do. It’s not that your child doesn’t understand what a word means or how to complete a task. They may simply have trouble processing the information.

For a child struggling with receptive language, completing work may feel like reading a foreign language. Although they may be able to read words fluently, they may totally miss the context and concepts. If asked questions about the reading, they may look confused and struggle to correctly communicate the ideas presented.

So, what can you do?


5 Tips to help your child with receptive listening skills


1. Teach using less words. 

For example, when teaching your child their morning routine, you might first demonstrate how to brush your teeth, get dressed, and comb your hair. Then, create a visual poster and hang it in the bathroom so you can easily point to each step.

2. Provide extra time.

Allow your child extra time to get started on tasks but stay close-by to ensure it gets done. Staying close will give you the chance to redirect any distracted behavior so they get into the practice of completing a task from start to finish. 

3. Encourage independence.

Allow your kiddo to choose what to wear and what to eat for breakfast. Encourage independence with tasks they can accomplish without you. 

4. Try reflective storytelling.

Consider talking while reading. Choose a simple story and reflect together throughout the reading. For example, if you read, “The bear sat down at the table,” you might then playfully ask, “What did that bear just do!?” Hopefully, this will help your child get in the habit of thinking about the actions characters are taking and be able to recall more information.  

5. Play “follow the leader”

Create a list of simple “follower the leader” activities. Creating short, easy-to-follow activities may help your child improve receptive listening skills. Take turns being the leader and modeling simple tasks while stating what you’re doing. For example, “Now I am rolling around on the floor,” or, “I’m sweeping this dirt into a pile.” Model simple tasks and ask your child to “repeat after me.”


Where to go from here

Struggles with receptive listening skills could be attributed to a number of things. Scroll down to the “We’re Here to Help” section to schedule a free discovery session to talk with us, and be sure to meet with your pediatric primary care provider as well. In the meantime, here are some additional resources.

    Additional resources to help you on your parenting journey


    We’re Here to Help 

    You don’t have to do this alone. Schedule a FREE 20-minute discovery session for help sorting through the complexities of your individual child. Start getting support for your family’s unique path and learn more about our coaching and consultation options.


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