Helping Children Listen Better in School

How Nannies and Au Pairs Help Kids Thrive in School

Be the Best Nanny Newsletter has received several questions from au pairs and nannies about helping their charges with homework and behavior issues at school.

To help answer in-home child care provider questions, Maria Lopez, a former second grade teacher and nanny working in Miami, FL shares her suggestions to help in-home caregivers tutor and teach their charges.

The first question is from Debbie Thompson, an au pair from Germany working in the United States. The au pair contacted Be the Best Nanny Newsletter for advice about helping her charge that talks too much in class.

She continues, “It’s frustrating to hear the boy I care for talks too much in class yet I don’t know how to help him from home. Do you have any advice on how to teach my charge to become a better listener and talk less in class?”

Ms. Lopez’s suggests, “First, you must explain that listening in class shows respect for the teacher and other students. Then, I suggest you model proper listening skills. Then, teach the student through play.”

To model good behavior Ms. Lopez recommends, “Make sure you yourself do not interrupt. Hearing what a child says improves their listening skills by encouraging them to not interrupt,” she explains.

She continues, “Just like adults, children can see when you are not listening. You need to be attentive and honest in your listening by not tricking them into thinking that you are listening.”

She suggests, “Be patient when listening. You cannot expect a child to be patient and listen to you when you cannot be patient yourself. Understand that children take longer then adults to say what they want.”

Ms. Lopez also suggests modeling proper behavior at mealtime. She says, “Make a rule that only one person may talk at a time when sitting down to eat.”

“If the child interrupts, gently remind him to wait until the other speaker is finished. When it is his turn to speak give him your full attention,” says Ms. Lopez.

“For example, make sure you make eye contact with him while he speaks, make sincere comments about what the child is discussing, no matter how trivial the topic may seem to you, so he feels heard and understood,” says Ms. Lopez. “

Ms. Lopez also recommends playing school with the child and while playing school be sure to model proper student behavior. “Make sure the child raises his hand before asking questions of you, the teacher, while playing school,” says the nanny.

Other activities the former teacher recommends to encourage listening skills are reading to the child and have them tell you their understanding of what was read.

She suggests encouraging kids to listen non-verbally. Often children can get distracted and do not pay attention, so have them maintain reasonable eye-contact with the person who is talking and where appropriate have them develop other non-verbal skills such as facing you and not fidgeting.

She also recommends, “Throughout the day, when you say something to the child, ask him to repeat what you said.”

Finally, the nanny recommends using positive reinforcement when children use good listening skills, rather than punishing them for interrupting.

Do any of your charges have trouble listening in school?


  1. This is a huge issue for the youngest boy I care for. The teacher won't talk to me about issues with the boy though. She says she can only speak to the parents about problems and issues with the boy. The parents work all day and it's inconvenient for the teacher to only speak to the parents when I asked her for advice on how we can help the boy behave teaching him at home she only will speak about it with mom and dad??

  2. I care for a boy with ADHD. He's a behavior problem in class too. I am embarrassed to admit I also interupt. My parents inerrputed in conversations growing up so I never learned that it is rude to interrupt.I'll work at it now that I know it's best for the child.

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