Why some kids don’t listen

By Bob Cunningham, EdM

It can be really frustrating when kids don’t seem to listen when you ask them a question or give them an instruction. You might wonder if there’s a problem or if they’re ignoring you on purpose. 

A lot depends on age. When kids are little, they often don’t seem to be listening. They may be wrapped up in a game they’re playing. Or they may hear you but not look at you, so you don’t realize they are listening. 

As kids get older, they typically learn a simple social rule — when someone is talking, you stop and look at the person, so the person knows you’re listening. 

Sometimes, though, it becomes obvious that a child doesn’t listen very well. What could be causing that? It’s possible the child has a hearing problem, and that’s the first thing to check out. But there are other reasons kids have a hard time listening.

Two common cases are trouble with language or trouble with following directions. Focus challenges can also play a role. 

No matter what’s causing the difficulty, it’s important to know that kids don’t mean to be disrespectful. They just need help building the skills they need for listening.  

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    About the author

    About the author

    Bob Cunningham, EdM serves as executive director of learning development at Understood.