Sometimes, as a parent, you may feel like a broken record. “Pick up your toys”; “Do your homework;” “Eat your vegetables;” and “Don’t hit your brother” become everyday mantras that you feel like you’re chanting to yourself.
Getting kids to listen can be one of the most frustrating aspects of parenting. It could be a discipline issue, but if you’ve ruled out this option, it could mean that your child’s attention is distracted even before the sentence is out of their mouth.
Many studies show that activities such as television and video games reduce children’s attention span. When a child is constantly receiving entertainment through these devices, they develop a growing desire for instant entertainment. When they get used to something fast and exciting like a video game, Mom or Dad’s voice becomes very boring in comparison.
Moderating your child’s time in front of the television, computer, and video games will help his attention span, especially if his alternative activities involve other children or games that require his full attention. Connor Hodum takes karate classes and his father Daniel has seen an improvement in his ability to listen.
“Connor’s listening and understanding has improved a lot since he started practicing karate,” Daniel said. “His attention span has also been better and we are still working on it.”
Daniel gave an important point about improving your child’s attention span and listening skills: it’s a work in progress. Having the television turned off for one night is not going to do the job. Make activities that help your child pay attention a part of your daily routine.
Reading is a great way to help your child focus. Encourage him to read something that interests him, be it a magazine, novel, or comic. If you find the material boring, paying attention will be harder than ever. Ask him about the things he reads at dinner to practice remembering the details of what he read.
If your child is too young to read by himself, read to him. After the story, ask your child questions to see what he remembers about it. See how much of the story can relate to you.
Even repeating the directions you give your child can help increase his listening skills. It helps you make sure they really listen and understand what you are saying, and it reduces the likelihood that you will have to retell them.
Studies have shown that music increases listening skills. Take time to listen to music or dance with your children. Ask them to choose their favorite songs and help them make a CD that they can listen to. Add some of your favorites and explain why you like them or what they remind you of. Adding music to study materials, such as state capitals or multiplication tables, can also be a useful memory tool for your children.
Another common factor attributed to decreased attention span is sleep deprivation. Children need eight to nine hours of sleep a night, and if they don’t get the recommended amount, this could be one of the reasons they have trouble hearing and concentrating. Set a firm bedtime each night to make sure your child gets the sleep he needs.
Teaching your child to be a good listener takes a lot of work and a lot of patience. A good attention span is easier for some than others, so remember to work at your child’s pace. If you gradually introduce listening activities into your daily routine, your attention span will gradually increase.