For Educators, one of the hardest tasks is getting children to listen. It may be easier for some but for others (especially Educators who are casual) it can be difficult to get the children to pay attention and to listen to your instructions.
Don't take this personally or that the children may not "like you". Children like to push limits and sometimes they are so involved in what they are doing they can "hear you" and they are not exactly listening to what you are saying, which can be extremely frustrating.
Even though children should learn to respect everyone and they shouldn't have control or power over you or you are going to end up resenting working in this industry.
Here is a step by step guide on how to get a child to listen to your request:
- Kneel down to the child's level, make eye contact and talk to the child. This can also be done when you are talking to a couple or more children in small groups. Make eye contact with each child as you're making your request. You can also make a positive connection by touching the child on the arm or putting your hand on the child's shoulder.
Five minutes is up, it's time to pack away your activity"
- Once you make your request, wait a few minutes to see if the child follow's through. Use positive affirmation when the child follows your request.
"Thanks for packing away so quickly, you may choose a book to read while you wait for your friends".
- If they haven't, followed through, give the child a reason to go with your request.
"It's time to pack away your activity because we are going to have lunch next and we need to set the tables". This shows that their is a reason for your request.
- If the child still doesn't follow through, you need to give a warning of a consequence - what will happen if they don't respond to your request.
"If you decide not to pack away your activity so we can set the tables for lunch, then you won't be able to play with the same activity tommorrow before lunch because your behaviour is making it difficult to get to lunch on time".
Fair warning is critical because if children know in advance what the consequences will be for ignoring a request, then they are making a choice about their behavior. Whether they are going to follow through with your request. or ignore you, they understand the consequences. There are no surprises.
When giving a consequesnce you have to follow it through - don't give a consequnece if it's just to "scare" the child into listening to you, otherwise next time you are going to be completely ignored since the child knows that you are not going to do what you say anyway. You need to show the child that you mean what you say.
It's so important to be consistent, doing this once or twice may not help! Keep doing it until children follow your request the first time itself.
Also, please remmber that you need to respect the children as well, when requesting the child to do something, watch your tone and your body language. Don't yell or nag. The clearer you are when communicating your expectations the more likely the children will listen to you.
- Get the child's attention - Tap them on the shoulder, get down to their level, make eye contact.
- Tell; don’t ask - If you want the child to pack away an activity say so - don’t phrase it as a question such as "would you please pack away your activity" - this makes it optional.
- Follow through. If you ask the child to do something, don’t let it slide. Children should follow our directiosn and requests, if not they immediately understand that they don't have to listen to what you say.
Reischer Erica, "How to Get Your Kids to Listen the First Time", Psychology Today
"A Teacher’s Tricks for Getting Kids to Listen", Everday Family