Monday, December 20, 2010

Good Little Listeners: Three Questions to Ask Yourself

Every parent wants their child to be a good listener. The hard part for parents is that preschoolers are just learning to listen- they need to be told things over and over and reminded to listen. Here are Avant Garde Parenting's 3 questions for parents when practicing listening with your child. 
1. What are you saying and how are you saying it?
One thing I’ve learned as a researcher is that, when you need children to do something quickly, you tell them instead of asking them. If I tell a child, “I’d like you to point to the blue duck on this page,” he’s likely to do it. If I ask a child, “Can you point to the blue duck on this page?” at least 1 in 4 will look me square in the eyes and say, calmly, “No.” But there’s an art to it, of course. Never be too directive, or you come across at best, as mean and, at worst, as the nanny that Jane and Michael Banks didn’t want in Mary Poppins (...scold and dominate us...).

What I mean is, there’s a huge difference between

“I’d like you to please put your shoes in your closet if you’re finished playing outside.”


“Put your shoes in your closet. How many times do I need to say it?”

I always think of it this way: Would you say it to an adult friend? Then why would you say it to your child?

Now, I know what you’re thinking. I’ve said it to her 874 times and she still won’t do it. Keep in mind that preschoolers aren’t adults. They need to be reminded of things many times before they can be successful at them.

2. When are you saying it?
In my last listening post, I wrote about evaluating when it is that you’re asking your child to listen to you. If it’s while your child is in the middle of a project, then you are interrupting your child. In those instances, respect your child by helping her find a good stopping place and then asking for her attention.

3. Why are you saying it?
What’s the meaning behind what you’re asking your child to do? Has trying to get your child to listen become little more than you simply wanting your child to comply? I challenge you to re-evaluate what’s really behind your words, then work a solution by which both you and your child can benefit.

For example: Your 5 year old leaves her crayons all over the floor and seemingly does not hear you the 47 times you politely tell him to put them away. At this point, are you just frustrated because he’s not listening to you? Maybe. But go back to the real message. What you probably initially wanted him to learn was to take care of his toys and put them away when he’s finished with them. Assess the reasons he’s possibly not doing that:

  1. Crayons are tough to shove back into the little cardboard containers they come in
  2. He hasn’t developed planning skills yet
  3. He has so many other fun toys to play with

Now, here are creative solutions to those problems:

  1. Use a pencil box, shoebox, or Tupperware to keep the crayons in
  2. Help hone his planning skills by putting the crayons away together every time for awhile until he can do it on his own
  3. Make putting them away fun- sort by color family, sort by name, have a race, sing a song, put them away with your toes

Bottom Line: Listening is tough when you’re an adult; can you imagine how tough it is as a preschooler? Be a listening ally with your child- work as a team and things will go much smoother.


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