question about forming the habit of listening well

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  • homesweetschool

    I have heard it said many times that in order to help foster careful listening we should not repeat ourselves to our children. This is a great idea but I am struggling to figure out how this plays out. For example, if I am orally telling my child a math problem and they ask me to repeat it, do I simply start over with a new question or do I come up with a consequence or?? I’d love to hear some practical tips and examples that you ladies have found useful, thanks!


    I understand what you’re going through. My dd8 has the same problem in math. I can tell her a problem, have her repeat it to me then she either gets a different equation in her head while pulling out coins/buttons OR she gets the problem correct but can’t recall the original problem when I ask her to explain why.

    If someone has a thought I too would love to hear it. Thanks!


    My idea would be that you write the problem on a white board or paper.  Solving Math orally still but having a visual cue there as well.  I never did Math exclusively in an oral way – maybe when my son was in early grade school, but after that I don’t remember doing that except with Math facts.  If your child learns strongly in a visual-spacial way or linguistically even, they may need those pictures and words to work at their best.

    I am such a weak kinesthetic learner that the idea of listening to a Math problem and finding buttons at the same time would send me over the edge.  LOL.

    Just a few quick thoughts.  Hope it helps.


    I look forward to hearing what others think on this too!  For me, a few things come to mind.

    1. How old is the child? Is what you are asking them to do reasonable?

    2. Have you cleared the area of all distractions – noise, visual, etc?  If not, it’s not their fault they can’t concentrate (esp. with elementary ages, though this is true for all ages to some extent depending on how they learn best.).

    3. Have you practiced this in other areas besides math or is this new in all areas for the child?  Choose ONE area to practice it.  Then expand from there.

    Listening well is a learned skill, and learning it in a distraction free environment until they are good at it would be best in my opinion.  Then once they HAVE the skill you could work on teaching them to use it in more distraction-prone environments.

    My kids are in varying points of the process.  Some you would think ‘should’ have a good grasp on it by now don’t.  One child especially comes to mind, my 3rd child (of 8 going on 9).  She is almost 10 years old and listening well STILL has to happen in a distraction free environment.  She is very auditory and visual.  If there is movement in her field of vision, noise, anything – she naturally zeroes in on that.  It draws her attention.  I can use that to my advantage (for example including movement when I’m telling her something so she focuses on me). But many times it is difficult for her to focus in a distracting environment.

    Some of my kids younger than her don’t have that issue at all (nor do I), but Daddy does as do some of my other children.  We’re all different and it takes different measures to help us learn a new habit/skill.


    Great points to think on, thank you! My son is 12. This is a new skill we are working on and although he does learn well in an auditory mode, the area we have been doing math does have potential distractions. I think these are great tips that you have offered and I will make some adjustments to aid him in acquiring this still in a more distraction free area for the start. I’m still curious though what to do if/when he wants me to repeat a question. Are there any indications as to how Charlotte handled this? It also makes me think of her math advice to leave a wrong answer wrong (I learned of this though the new math book and DVD offered here on SCM). Did she just give a new similar but different problem and try again rather than correcting the problem? Sorry if that is too much of a shift in question but it seemed slightly related.


    I am certainly interested in this subject too.  This year we are trying a new book called Play by the Rules, by Tin Man Press.  It is supposed to help them get better at listening to and following instructions through short 10 – 15 minute exercises.  I hope it helps them and carries over to other areas.


    Tristan, should you happen to be reading this a few years since: My daughter resembles yours. I’m curious, how do you accomplish group readings/narrations with an easily distracted child? Is she able to listen and tell back only one-on-one? My hope is to be able to do our read-alouds family-style, but my 2nd Grader loses focus at the slightest sound or movement.

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