I have a 3 year-old boy who often does not want to stop playing, which I imagine is not incredibly uncommon.

Sometimes he will not want to quit playing when his Spanish immersion teacher needs him to move on to another activity, which makes him more difficult for her to manage. Instead he will insist on continuing to play and will stubbornly struggle to continue playing. At home he will sometimes display a similar behavior, though its not like we are giving in to his desire to play more. We either talk to him about changing activities, distract him, or if all else fails, physically carry him to the next activity or meal or whatever.

He was a little slow in talking clearly in English and so we take him to a speech therapist where he appears to be making good and steady progress. He seems to understand most things that are said to him, and is talking clearly more and more. But this could be part of the reason he doesn't respond to verbal commands as well. Also sometimes he can be difficult to get him to go to sleep at night, which means that sometimes he is tired in the morning. That could also be part of his behavior, so we are trying to get him to start going to bed earlier.

Other than that he seems to be in good shape physically, mentally, and emotionally, and generally seems pretty happy and plays fairly well with others. He just seems a little overly willful and likes to insist on continuing whatever play he's engaged in. He also has a nanny for part of the week, but they seem to get along fine. Though she doesn't make many demands on his behavior for the most part.

The problem is a little obtuse because its not just us the parents that's having the issue, though we have seen some similar behavior to a lesser degree, its the teacher that he needs to follow instructions from. So we have to try to improve his behavior not only in relation to ourselves but also for other care givers.

I was wondering if there were any tips or strategies for getting a 3 year old to listen to his teacher's commands to stop playing when its time to move on to another task.

  • Did he just start preschool ? How long has he been with the teacher ? Did you discuss with the teacher how she's talking to him ? I mean, when asking to move to next activity, is the teacher addressing him, trying to get his attention and giving a personal command (or) is she just commanding the whole class to move on without any special attention to anyone ? This is important because some kids need to be directly spoken to.
    – svj
    Nov 3, 2017 at 2:57
  • He's been with the teacher for a few months (3 at least), I'm not sure how she's talking to him. Whether as a group or individually I'm not sure, I'll try to remember to ask her. Nov 3, 2017 at 3:02

1 Answer 1


I think it all depends on your personal philosophy.

Every child is different and without knowing more about the Spanish immersion teacher (is it a school, your home, one-on-one etc) its hard to make a recommendation.

However, if you're using words like "command", "direct", etc you're ignoring the fact the child has his own will. What may be of interest to you or the teacher may not necessarily apply to the child and "commanding" him to do things he doesn't want to do is only going to exacerbate the situation.

Instead allow him to choose between two options. Say something like "You can continue to play for another 5 minutes at which point we are either going to read our Spanish homework or you can sit quietly while I go over some new words."

By allowing him to choose how to proceed you're building his self confidence, setting limits and expectations and providing reassurance to him that you trust his decision.

Here's a few resources I've found useful raising my children

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