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The Lost Art of Listening

listen1Schools teach kids how to read and write, but one very important skill is overlooked.  Teaching kids how to listen.  New research reports that as parents we can have a big impact on teaching our kids to be active listeners.

Various studies stress the importance of listening as a communication skill. It is generally accepted that we spend 70 to 80 percent of our waking hours in some form of communication. Of that time, we spend about 9 percent writing, 16 percent reading, 30 percent speaking, and 45 percent listening. Studies also confirm that most of us are poor and inefficient listeners.

Did you know?

  • Hearing is not the same as listening.
  • Top CEOs spend 80% percent of their time listening.
  • We listen to people at a rate of 125-250 words per minute, but think at 1,000-3,000 words per minute, which means we often pseudolisten (we are listening but our minds are thinking about something else).
  • Less than 2 percent of people have had any formal education on how to listen.
  • We only remember 25-50% of what we hear
  • 85% of people rank themselves as average of worse listeners

listen2I can definitely say I wish I had been taught to be a better listener.  I remember when I was in university I took a second year course in first year and it was tough.  Unlike in first year where they walked you through the lectures, you were on your own.  I often got lost or missed the point of what he was saying (mind you he was also a super cool archaeologist so I may have been a bit distracted 😉

In any case, since then I have come across situations over and over where active listening is so important.

A few weeks ago I read an article (to which I spent hours trying to find the link for this post but couldn’t, sorry) that said that the ages of birth through five are the most critical for teaching your child to listen because the brain actually undergoes physical changes.  After the age of five, however, the pathways are written and what you do will not have such a large impact.

Listening Starts Early

If you have children you know what listening3it’s like to feel like you’re talking to a wall. Kids have an uncanny ability to appear to be listening to you while actually paying no attention at all. While this is something that may pass with age it is important to help children develop good listening skills early. They will do better in school and you will keep your sanity.

Here are some things you can do from the Global Post:

Model Listening Skills

Kids learn how to behave based on what they see, especially from parents. It’s easy to pretend you’re listening when your little one talks nonstop, but if you don’t use active listening skills you miss out on a learning opportunity for your child.

Listening to your child shows him you value his feelings and are open to communication, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. To model active listening, stop what you’re doing and look at your child as he talks. Hold back the urge to interrupt or jump in with your opinion while your child is still trying to express himself.

Play Listening Games

Games give your child the opportunity to practice listening skills in an entertaining way. The classic game Simon emphasizes the importance of listening closely to what is said. Play a few rounds with your child to help him focus on listening. A scavenger hunt with verbal clues is another way to get your child to listen. Write a series of clues to lead your little one to a treasure. You can also make up your own games that involve listening to directions or paying attention to sounds. With his eyes closed, ask your child to tell you what he hears.


Real-life listening practice helps your child develop his skills. Reading is a simple way for your little one to listen while he expands literacy skills. As you read, ask your child questions about the story. Say, “What did Goldilocks do when the bear family returned home?” Asking for predictions is another way to encourage listening. He needs to listen to what happened earlier in the story to guess what will happen next. You might say, “What do you think the Little Engine will do?” Retelling or acting out the story is another way to check your child’s listening.


Praise reinforces the listening skills your little one displays. Instead of focusing on poor listening skills, watch for positive displays of listening. Let him know right away when he’s using active listening skills. Say, “I like the way you stopped playing with your cars and looked at me when I talked to you.” Pointing out these skills in others is another way to reinforce the listening skills you want your child to display. You might say, “Look at the way that little boy listened to the directions his mom gave him and followed each one.” This reminds your child how to listen well and encourages those skills in your little one.

Happy Listening!

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About Shannon

I am a university educated full-time working mother of four children. Proudly Canadian, I freeze my butt off along with my loving partner, two dogs and a cat. I hope you enjoy reading my posts as much as I love writing them, but if you have nothing nice to say, don't say anything at all.


9 thoughts on “The Lost Art of Listening

  1. Great post and very informative. My son is a terrible listener. He does have a language disorder so it’s all the more important that he gets the right message in the first place because it gets jumbled in his brain. So if I don’t make sure he’s heard me properly, I’ve got no chance of getting my point across! It’s very true that we could all be better listeners.

    Posted by Dawn Frazier | December 16, 2013, 3:58 pm
    • That must be a challenge for you. I hope he doesn’t let it hold him back. My kids just suffer from “selective” listening (ie. They can’t hear me say dinner but they hear me say dessert). Thanks for reading. I have to get by your blog soon. I have been so busy back at work I am a little remiss. Hope you have a great holiday.

      Posted by Shannon | December 16, 2013, 6:02 pm
  2. Good advice, Shannon. Particularly the model listening skills. In the end, children take their cue from their parents. Children often repeat themselves several times before their parent focuses on them.

    Posted by maryanne28 | December 16, 2013, 11:38 pm
  3. Reblogged this on momfrancesca and commented:
    Chi insegna ai ragazzi ad ascoltare?

    Posted by momfrancesca | August 23, 2014, 3:26 pm
  4. I’ve missed your blog! That darn summer ! Lol…great post to come back too. It’s so true. I think the art of listening is so important – truly listening. Good stuff!

    Posted by Tales of a Twin Mombie | August 23, 2014, 4:55 pm
    • Thanks for the compliment! I live in regret every day that I literally have no time to work on it. It’s a worthwhile sacrifice to be sure but I miss the community. Thanks for reading and have a great day.

      Posted by Shannon | August 23, 2014, 6:19 pm


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