Rabu, 10 Desember 2008

Your Preschooler to Listen Up.....

As kids move from toddlers to ?little people? their sense of freedom and yearning for independence increases. Many children this age attend pre-school or regularly participate in playgroups.

Their first social interactions are important and learning to listen is imperative for many reasons. First and foremost is their safety. Learning to listen to you (or any adult) tell them not to run across the street or jump into the pool until you are with them will avoid a tragic accident. Second, being able to listen to their peers is an important part of social acceptance. No kid wants to play with someone who consistently is not listening to them or anyone else. Finally, when they enter kindergarten, if your child knows to respect and listen to authority figures, they will have a much more pleasant school experience and and easier time following directions and enjoying themselves.

When my girls were pre-school age, their ability to listen seemed to disappear. I would tell them to do one thing and they would do the complete opposite. I would be in the middle of a sentence and they would walk away from me. I quickly had to regroup and develop some strategies to get their attention and keep them focused. Here are some tips that worked for me (and still do!)

It is tempting to ?tune out? your blabbering pre-schooler. After all, how many times can you listen to them sing their ABC?s or count to fifty before it really grates on your nerves? If you set the example that everything they say is important, they are more likely to listen to you. If you ignore them or give them lip service, they will know and think they don?t need to listen to you when you are speaking to them. Pre-schoolers are extremely observant and perceptive. They will know when you are just ?pretending? to listen to their nursery rhyme or silly story. Let them know you are interested in what they are saying and do it convincingly!

This technique assures you that they were listening to what you just told them. For example, if you asked them to put the soup cans away in the pantry and they say OK and then wander off to do something else, they probably heard you, but weren?t really listening (or just didn?t want to do it!). Ask them to repeat it back. This reinforces it in their little brain and they will probably do what you asked. If they still say OK and walk away, ask them to come back to you and repeat it again. You might have to do this exercise more than once for it to sink in that when mom tells them to do something, she is serious!

Some kids can?t process the sentence, ?Go to your room, get all of your dirty socks, put them in your laundry basket and bring them downstairs to the laundry room.? There is simply too much information being thrown their way. Break down your request into sections and wait until they complete step one before going on to step two. Their brains are still developing and most 4-5 year olds need time to digest one set of directions before being expected to do a four-step process correctly.

Insist that your child look you in the eye when you are talking to them and vice versa. They are more apt to listen if they have to focus on one thing - you. If what you are telling them to do is extremely important, be sure there are no distractions. A loud television, many other people walking in and out of the room, etc. can distract a little one very easily. If they refuse to look at you, stop talking until they do. Silence will get their attention. Finish your sentence only when they are looking at you. Get in their line of vision if they have a habit of looking away and get down to their level, literally. A three foot little person will have a hard time looking in the eyes of a five foot mom!

Compliment your child for listening to you, especially when you know they are tired, bored or really don?t care about what you are telling them. If they showed they were actively listening, tell them enthusiastically, ?Good Job!? Kids love praise and by praising them you are reinforcing two things ? one, they followed your directions accurately and two, you are the boss and make the rules and they are the child and follow the rules.

The key to the above five strategies is consistency. It takes a lot of effort to be patient and to repeat yourself over and over again. It?s worth it to develop good listening skills early on in your child?s life. If your child is stubborn and oppositional, it is even more important to not cave in and give up. These are the children who will get into trouble. So many times a bad situation could have been avoided if they had just listened and followed your rules.

Sometimes interjecting humor is an effective method for teaching this important skill of listening. When one my kids is not paying attention when they should, I give them a taste of their own medicine. When they ask me to do something for them, I pretend like I don?t hear them, I leave the room or I do the exact opposite of what they want. They, of course, immediately call me on it. I take this opportunity to remind them what it is like for me when they don?t listen. We all have a good laugh and it reinforces all of the time I have spent over the last several years teaching them an imperative skill.

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