Must-have skill for children #11: being a good listener

Being a good listener is important not only for learning but also for building strong personal relationships. Too often, people zone out or they are eager to cut in with their two cents. They focus more on what they want to say than what the other person is saying. How many times has this happened to you? However, listening well goes beyond simply staying silent. There are many aspects that make someone a good listener, and you will find that practicing this skill will result in greater respect, stronger friendships, and increased wisdom.

This is why being a good listener is a must-have skill for your child too. Teach them the importance of giving others their full attention and watch their social life and academic performance flourish. More engaging study environments, like the JEI class ratio of five students to one instructor, can make it easier for them to practice. This is especially helpful if your child is learning English as a second language.  

You can also help your child become a better listener with these tips:

Figure Out Their Role
The first thing they should do is figure out what kind of conversation they are having and what their role is. Their role varies depending on the situation and who is talking. If a parent or teacher is trying to teach them an important lesson, they may want to listen quietly and ask questions for clarification. If they’re brainstorming for a group project, they can be more actively engaged while remaining respectful of others’ ideas. They should try to gauge what position best serves the conversation; sometimes, they can ask the other party directly.  

This also works in casual social settings. It’s natural that when a friend is talking about their problems, your child wants to help out. However, not everybody is airing their grievances to be told what to do. Sometimes, people want a sympathetic ear, so your child shouldn’t jump right in with advice or suggestions unless asked or appropriate.

Practice Basic Manners
Interrupting is not advisable. Of course if a conversation is fast-paced and exciting, it’s bound to happen, but your child should always try to let the other person finish talking. They don’t want the other person to feel rushed, and they want to hear the full idea or statement. Otherwise, they wouldn’t know how best to respond.

They should be attentive, as well, much like they would behave in class. They don’t have to maintain eye contact the entire time, but should show through body language that they are paying their full attention. They should turn towards the other person, avoid playing with anything in their hands (especially their cell phone), and be observant. According to Professor Mehrabian, the leading expert and researcher in nonverbal communication, what someone says only conveys 7% of what they mean; the other 93% is expressed through their facial expressions and tone of voice. In the end, listening involves more than a sense of hearing.

Be More Active
They should not be an active speaker, but they should not be a passive listener, either. The way to be an active listener is beyond nodding and saying, “Mm-hm,” occasionally. Rather, it’s making the other person feel comfortable and heard. They can do this by asking questions that move the conversation forward or incite more details. They can repeat a few things the other person said to show they’re picking up on the important parts. These are great for when they’re listening to a lesson at school, as well.

They can also ask for elaboration on someone’s feelings during a story. This shows that they care about the other person, what they experienced, and how they felt during certain moments. This will be greatly appreciated.

React Appropriately
Being a kind listener is being a good listener. Of course, there may be moments when your child needs to provide constructive criticism or tough love, but there is a time and a place. For the most part, they should try to be positive, helpful, and understanding. They want to make the other party feel comfortable speaking to them, but if they often react harshly or critically, other people will eventually stop turning to them for conversation.  

They should be encouraging or comforting, whichever the other party needs. This is an excellent time to practice their compassion and listen with an open heart. Rather than being judgmental, they should try to see things from the other perspective. This is especially important during arguments.


Encourage your child to keep these tips in mind whenever they are with other people. They will find that they can learn so much about others and themselves by becoming a good listener. For further practice, your child can listen to the radio or a podcast, giving their full attention rather than playing it in the background as they multitask.  

Being a good listener will help them in all areas of their lives, from building strong friendships and connections to absorbing new knowledge and wisdom. Not to mention, people truly appreciate and respect good listeners, so add this must-have skill to their lifelong learning journey today.  

For other skills that JEI believes every kid, from elementary school to middle school students, absolutely needs to become an effective lifelong learner, check out our Must-Have Skill for Children series!