Tips For Teaching Your Child Listening Skills

One of the greatest tools for teaching listening skills in a childcare or preschool center is the red-light-green-light system.

This can easily be implemented in both a school setting and a home setting, so feel free to try this when you are helping your child practice their listening skills.

Tips For Teaching Your Child Listening Skills & The Red-Light-Green-Light System

How To Get Your Child To Listen the First Time

There are three steps that you can follow while you are in the process of teaching your kids how to listen well.

  • Step 1: Give Clear Instructions the First Time

Make sure the instructions you give are clear and simple. Try to be as specific as possible as well; kids usually can’t pick up on innuendo and may not understand common sense steps that older children and adults know need to be included in a process.

  • Step 2: Give One Warning

If your child doesn’t listen the first time, then you need to follow it up with one warning of a consequence. Repeating the command over and over again or nagging them to follow your instructions sends the wrong message that the child is the one in charge of the situation. Consistently responding to a lack of listening with a warning will start to show children that they need to be obeying the 1st time and not the 50th time.

  • Step 3: Follow Through with a Consequence

If you have given your instructions and your warning and your child still doesn’t listen to you, then it’s time to follow through with the consequence. And most importantly, whatever consequence you have warned them with is what you must follow through with.

Consistency with consequences is a vital part of this teaching process. Some parents make numerous requests with numerous warnings, often with consequences occurring unpredictably, late, or not at all.

Children see this and learn that it isn’t important for them to learn how to listen well because there isn’t any consequence to their actions. So make sure to stay consistent with your warnings if you want to be successful in teaching your children good listening skills. After the consequence, you can reset with your child and start the process fresh again with Step 1.

The Red-Light-Green-Light System

A verbal tool or analogy that can be very helpful to use with young children is the Red-Light-Green-Light System. It helps walk you and your child through these steps of learning good listening skills in a way that children really resonate with.

Green Light (Step 1): 

As a child is learning to listen, it’s important to praise them as a way to reinforce good behavior. When their good behavior is praised, children will want to repeat that behavior. This is called giving them the Green Light.

If your child listens to instructions the first time, be sure to:

  • Give your child praise, attention, and smiles
  • Thank them for listening the first time

Yellow Light (Step 2):

The Yellow Light comes into play when your child isn’t listening the first time.

If your child doesn’t listen to instructions, be sure to:

  • Warn your child of upcoming consequences
  • Avoid repeating instructions or nagging

Red Light (Step 3): 

The Red Light corresponds to Step 3, following through with a consequence if needed.

If your child still doesn’t listen after both the directions and a warning:

  • Follow through with a negative consequence such as a time out
  • After the consequence go back to Green and try again. 

The Red Light step isn’t about carrying punishment on for long periods of time. It’s about teaching kids that there are negative consequences to our negative actions, but there is always a chance to try again and choose a better path.

What are some of your tips for teaching children good listening skills?