Like most toddlers, my 3 year old has to be told to do this or not do that over and over again. Rather than hoping she learns over time through the inevitable trouble she gets in for not listening, I was wondering if there are techniques for developing and practicing good listening skills outside the context of disciplinary threats.
To have your child hear you you need to have their attention. In order to have their attention you need to be in control of as many of their senses as possible, sight being the most powerful.
When we want to be certain that our children are paying attention and listening, we have them stop what they are doing and look at our faces (look into my eyes) as we speak.
That gives them time to detach from the activity they are currently in and guarantees that there is no excuse for not hearing what is being said to them.
Also having them repeat things back at help to ingrain what you are saying.
Remember, when they do the same thing over and over, despite being told not to. They aren't failing to listen, they are likely to be testing that your rules are always consistent.
Non-complaint behavior may or may not be related to one's ability to listen. Sometimes, a child listens and clearly understands the "rules" or expectations, yet chooses to not conform. The term "not minding" is a better description than "not listening" for these children.
However, listening skills are foundational for many (probably most) skills. Yet, children are expected to just naturally learn to listen. As parents/teachers we often say, "listen" or "pay attention" and expect our children to "just do it". We sometimes forget that listening is more than having sound pass through our ears and on to the brain.
A few years ago, I was introduced to a program called "Whole body Listening". I adapted many of the ideas to use with children who are easily distracted or ones with limited attention spans. I find the strategies are simple and provide a multifaceted approach to focusing and maintaining attention.
The concepts are developed around listen with the whole body. We introduce each body part and describe/demonstrate the optimum behavior.
- Eyes: looking at the speaker's face and attending to objects as directed
- Torso: sitting comfortably supported, not slouching
- Hands/arms: in lap, not covering face or "fiddling" with toys/distracting items
- Feet/legs: still, resting without distracting movement
I address any "non-listening" by reviewing the "offending" body part and describing, demonstrating the appropriate response.
Perhaps, focusing on listening skills in a positive atmosphere will generalize to "remembering" behavior rules too!
One thing that works very well for us is to let the child experience the direct consequences of her actions, or lack of actions, respectively.
For instance, if you want to go to the playground, give the order to put on shoes. If nothing happens, then you're not going. There are many situations where you aren't on a strict schedule and you can afford to spend the time to emphasize these consequences.