How to develop listening skills in a 6-year-old

Updated June 13, 2017

Like many adults, some children have trouble listening; fortunately, it is never too late to improve. A 6-year-old can still build solid listening skills that will greatly impact her ability to learn, follow instructions and obey rules in the future. Poor listening skills can result in misbehavior, misunderstood information or forgetfulness. Children must learn how to focus their attention and why good listening skills are so important. When teaching a 6-year-old how to listen better, parents must remember that consistency matters. Always have the same expectations and follow through on consequences.

Understanding Why Your Child Doesn't Listen

Determine why your child isn't listening. Is your child testing the boundaries? Is your child trying to be self-sufficient? Have you ignored bad behaviour in the past? Have you been a poor role model? Is your child feeling guilty or angry about something? Does your child have an attention disorder or a hearing loss issue? Figure out the underlying reason why your 6-year-old isn't listening.

Design a Behavior Chart

Create a chart that will visually keep track of your child's behaviour. Allow her to come up with some goals such as looking at the person who is speaking and doing what she is told. Split each day of the week into morning, afternoon and evening and place a sticker or draw a smiley face for each part of the day that your child met her goals. Your child's teacher may be able to collaborate with you on this. Develop a reward system so your child experiences positive reinforcement for listening well.

Develop Some Games

Sometimes children learn to tune out adults who are asking them to do tasks they'd rather not do. Sing, whisper or use different funny voices to give directions and you will catch their attention. You can also play a silent game to practice attentional skills. Mouth different numbers or words and see if your child can guess what you said. Give clues, such as "this is a three-digit number" or "this is a red fruit."

Use a Prop

Try using a prop in the house when people want to speak. You can name it something like the speaking stick. You might choose to use a small plastic or stuffed animal and name it something like the talking turtle. When someone is holding the object, everyone must listen to that person. Practice using this strategy at the dinner table when talking about the day's events.

Quick Tips

  1. Acknowledge when your child has listened well. Verbally comment on his or her accomplishment.

  2. Make eye contact when speaking with your child, especially when asking him or her to do a task.

  3. Raise your voice only when necessary.

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About the Author

Rachel Pancare taught elementary school for seven years before moving into the K-12 publishing industry. Pancare holds a Master of Science in childhood education from Bank Street College and a Bachelor of Arts in English from Skidmore College.