5 Reasons Why Kids Aren't Listening to Your Lessons

Do you ever have trouble with getting kids to listen to your lessons? 

If the answer is "yes," then you are not alone.  We've all had times where it seemed we couldn't get the kids to engage with our lesson. 

I have found that when I am having trouble with the kids listening, that it is often on me.

I am not doing one or more of the following five things. 

They are not listening to the lesson because I am not honoring their attention span.  Today's kids have very, very, very, very, very short attention spans.  They constantly have messages coming their way through smart phones, TV ads, radio ads, laptops, tablets, etc.  In fact, they have so many messages coming their way that they will often just give the information a quick glance and if it doesn't grab their attention, they are off to see or hear the next thing coming their way.

So what can we do?  How can we get kids to listen to our lesson in the world of thousands of messages?

Here's a simple secret that can help you capture (and keep) their attention.

Every 4-5 minutes, reset their internal clock.  When you do this, you will be honoring their attention span and you will be able to keep their attention. Instead of looking at your lesson as a 60 minute stretch, look at it as 12 five-minute sections.  Every 5 minutes, switch and do something else. 

Here's a practical example.  Teach for five minutes and then switch and have them do some discussion questions for five minutes.  Then go back to your teaching for five minutes.  Then stop and do an activity for five minutes.  Then go back to teaching again.  

Sesame Street is one of the most engaging children's programs ever created.  Their 52nd season premiered on HBO Max on November 11, 2021.  Watch an episode and you will see this teaching philosophy in action. The show is divided into short segments that change every few minutes. 

With this in mind, I created a curriculum that honors kids' attention spans. Implement this philosophy and you will see the issue of kids not listening go away (including the 2nd grade boys - which is a miracle). You can see curriculum samples at this link

They are not listening to the lesson because you are not telling stories.  Take notice of this the next time you are teaching. When you start telling a story, you will notice that the kids engage with you.  Once the story is done, you can see them physically disengage.  They will start looking around, talking, fidgeting, etc. 

Did you know that Jesus, the greatest teacher of all times, used stories when He taught?  In fact, the Bible says He always told stories.  Stories that captured the attention of those who had come to hear Him. Check out this verse. 

Jesus always used stories and illustrations like these when speaking to the crowds. In fact, he never spoke to them without using such parables. Matthew 13:34

Follow His teaching method and you will see kids begin listening to your lessons.

They are not listening to your lesson because you are not intentionally giving them opportunities to talk.

Kids learn best through dialogue instead of monologue.  They are not listening to your lesson because you are saying...sssssshhhhhhhhhh...instead of asking them questions and getting them to talk about the subject you are sharing about.  

Here's another tip when it comes to asking kids questions. Yes and no questions won't cut it.  If you really want to see them engage in dialogue, then ask open-ended questions.   

Don't be a talking head.  You'll have a hard time getting them to listen.

They are not listening to your lesson because you're not making it relevant to their life.  God's Word never changes. But how we present it must change so we can help children engage with it.  Here's an example.

Kids love video games.  They spend hours trying to "get to the next level."  What if you used this to help them understand this verse?

But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be glory both now and forever! Amen.  2 Peter 3:18

Connect this to trying to get to the next level in a video game. You don't want to stay on the same level. You want to get to a new level.  It's the same with growing in your faith.  We should strive to get to the next level in our relationship with Jesus through prayer, reading God's Word, asking for His help, etc.  Then encourage them to remember this each time they are playing a video game. 

You start talking about video games...something very relevant to their life...and you will have their undivided attention.

They are not listening to your lesson because you're not building a relationship with them.  We've all heard this saying - 

"People don't care how much you know, until they know how much you care."

When children know you care about them, they will listen to what you have to say. Build a relationship with them.  Spend time before class talking with them and getting to know them.  Call them by name. Look them in the eyes and and let them know you are so glad they came.  

I intentionally put icebreakers into the Connect12 curriculum so teachers and small group leaders can get to know the kids in their class or group.

Work on improving in these 5 areas and you will see kids engage and grow in their faith.