My children constantly seem to suffer from selective hearing.
I have questioned why, investigated causes, considered having their hearing checked and agonised over the dilemma. Months of researching my children and their behaviours have revealed the majority of cases of selective hearing occur when I am the speaker. All they need to see is 'mum' or even hear a recording of my voice and they switch off. Grr! (Okay, so I haven't really 'researched' but I'm 99% sure my observations are accurate).
In chatting with other mums, it seems this is a common problem, and extremely frustrating!
Here's some strategies I'm finding helpful:
1. Ask your child to stop what they are doing and make eye contact. It sounds simple but does it really surprise us how easily they are distracted? Eye contact helps a child to focus on you and zone out everything else. Get down on their level, maintain eye contact and explain yourself clearly and briefly.
2. Say your child's name and wait for them to stop, look at you and listen. Then proceed with instruction or information. Unfortunately, I know from personal experience that raising my voice is not conducive to my child listening better. Neither is saying something again and again and again and again. And again... without implementing other strategies to help focus my child to hear what I'm telling them. By remaining calm and gaining their attention before continuing, I feel I'm giving my child the best chance at success in listening and following an instruction.
3. If giving instructions, keep it simple. No more than 3 instructions at once. I often find it helps to explain the steps and then shorten into one word reminders, for example, 'Teeth, toilet, bed.' Getting them to repeat it back might help them in remembering it.
4. Require a response. Something like 'Yes, Mum' shows your child has acknowledged that you've spoken to them.
5. If you are uncertain they listened or understood, question them for understanding. 'What are you going to do?' or 'Where will you put that away?'
6. Keep close supervision on your child while they are following the instruction to redirect them if (when!) they get distracted. 'You can play with that soon. What do you need to finish first?'
7. If your child is ignoring you over completing routine activities (like getting ready for school), often a picture chart can help. I like the idea of having pictures of each activity that needs to be done (making bed, getting dressed, brushing hair, brushing teeth, packing bag) along with space beside it for your child to tick it off once they have completed it.
8. Play listening games. A game like 'I went shopping and bought...' helps kids learn to listen and remember details. First player says the sentence along with one item. Next player repeats the sentence, item number one and adds their own item. Third player repeats the sentence, item one, item two and then adds their own item. This continues and keeps going around the players until there are several items to remember in the correct order. You can even play it with only two players by just taking turns. Another 'game' is to give your child three instructions (eg. 'Put on a hat, hold a teddy and jump on the spot') and they need to do it as fast as they can without having you repeat the instructions.
9. Hang in there! These things take time to become a habit and may be a continual issue for some children. Every little bit of training helps (or so I'm told, I'm still working on that)!
10. Model active listening! It's disturbing how often I think I'm listening to my children when I'm actually not; how many times I say 'Yes' and then have to clarify what I've just agreed to, how many times I answer without looking up from whatever it is I'm doing, or how many times they need to say 'Mum. Mum. Mum! MUM!' before it registers that they are wanting my attention. If we want our kids to listen to us we need to listen to them. Let's put away the phone, turn off the tv, close the computer, put aside the book or magazine, and show our kids we are actively listening and interested in what they are telling us.
I have high hopes for my children to start listening to me more. But, I also realise kids are kids (and adults are adults, for that matter)! We all struggle at times to actively listen. So the first thing I'll be working on is to actively listen to them - and show that I am.
Well, I'm off now to remind my daughter (again) to put some shoes on for school pick up.
What have you found helpful in teaching your child to listen and follow instructions?