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Developing listening skills

A wise old owl sat on an oak
The more he saw the less he spoke
The less he spoke the more he heard
Why aren't we like that wise old bird?

At Perform I've seen many children over the years with poor listening skills. It's not that they are disobedient per se, they just don't seem to be able to listen and follow instructions.

Many parents complain that unless they get angry and raise their voice, their child simply ignores them. It's frustrating to say the least and can lead to a negative cycle of communication which certainly doesn't lead to a happy home life.

What's this all about?

If your child is ignoring you, it might be in order to get your attention. If they do as you ask first time, do you offer any acknowledgement or praise? Or does it take them misbehaving to get your full attention? I call this a negative cycle of communication: effectively you're rewarding bad behaviour with your attention and ignoring good behaviour. Therefore when your child wants your attention, they know that they need to act up to get it.

How should you handle it?

Ultimately, you need to reverse the negative cycle. Dr Pat Spungin, child psychologist says "Think about reinforcing good behaviour, rather than getting angry when your child doesn't do as you wish. When we try to change the behaviour of someone we can either try to stamp out bad behaviour or build up good behaviour. The way to do that is by acknowledging and praising the good things your child does."

Try not to give too many instructions at once - seven year olds aren't the greatest multi-taskers. Instead break things down into manageable chunks eg: "Pop your shoes in the rack, that's great. Ok, now hang your coat on the hook. Well done, the hall looks nice and tidy now, doesn't it?"

Don't forget to give praise when instructions are followed - remember you want to reward the good behaviour not the bad!

On the other hand, I've met some children who are so away in their own little worlds, they genuinely don't hear you. If this sounds like your little one, the trick is to make sure that you have their attention before you instruct them to do something. Say their name and make sure you have eye contact, then make your request. You'll probably see an improvement straight away!

Play & pretend

At Perform we play The Number Game - it's great for improving your child's listening skills. Why not have a go at home?

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