Annabel has been…well, let’s just saying being an excellent listener isn’t currently at the top of her skill set. After some less-than-stellar reports from her teachers and coaches, I’ve been struggling to find a good way to motivate her to improve her behavior. I know it’s hard to expect a four-year-old to be a good listener all the time, but I won’t stand for her not listening to her teachers and coaches.
I’ve found for Annie, having something to work towards gets a better response than taking something away. Not that we don’t take away toys and such as consequences for bad behavior, but as far as motivation goes, Annie seems to do better when she has something to look forward to. Yesterday she had dance class, which was coming on the heels of poor listening at gymnastics and soccer, so I knew I’d had to change my tactics. She’d recently been looking at photos on pinterest with me, and she’d flipped over a picture of a woman blowing confetti. “Mommy, I want to do that! I want to make a beautiful picture like that!!”
“Annie, if you are a good listener at dance today – meaning your teacher doesn’t have to remind you to pay attention and you don’t cause a distraction for anyone else – we can do that confetti picture you saw and you can blow the confetti.”
She loooved that idea. And for the most part, she was a good listener at dance. She gets distracted by her reflection, but so do a lot of the girls, so I gave her a pass. When I told her she’d earned “blowing confetti” she did a happy dance.
I have a ton of pink and red confetti hearts, so I let her grab a few handfuls at a time.
I stressed to her that the key to taking the picture she wanted was listening. She couldn’t blow on the confetti until I told her to. She was so excited and so anxious…but she was good, and waited.
And then when I said, “GO!” she nailed it.
She love love loooooves the pictures. She wants to bring one to Show and Tell (so cute), so I printed a few for her to bring to class and to keep in her room. I also plan on using them as motivators – hey Annie, remember how you got to do this fun thing, and all you had to do was listen to the grownups? Hopefully that will help make this non-listening phase (I’m determined to make it just a phase) pass quickly.
I love how hard she is concentrating on blowing the confetti! Great picture!
those pics are awesome! oh, and just so you know, this one isnt a phase HEHE!! well, I guess you could call it that, but it will likely last into early adulthood Its been a looooong phase around this house. Ugh! Take care!
This made me laugh! Phase, personality…something like that. We used to joke that our oldest would someday be the dictator of a small Bavarian country. The problem with an alpha kid is that they’re…A KID. Our thirteen year-old still needs reminding that she’s not in charge, but we’ve come a long way from the toddler years. She’s still not easy at home, but teachers, coaches, peers, everyone who meets her loves her. She’s a pretty cool kid. Annie will be just fine. And hopefully, you will be too!
LOL….she is so stinken cute. I, too, loved the concentration. I guess I forget the young ages. Of course there is stuff you never forget…but as our moms tell us, it does get fuzzy. And then I read Jewl’s comment above and LOL. She is correct. I have adult kids at home and I guess I could say same when it comes to the listening department.
I love that she was so excited about doing this.
And the pictures are perfect.
Cute! And I LOVE that the reward was non-food and non-materialistic. Not that that is always bad, but it’s nice to vary things! She’s involved in quite a bit for her age, I’ll bet she’s doing fantastic! But I certainly appreciate that you are installing these great attitudes/behaviors. Great job!
What a great idea! And the pictures came out so well.
Yeah, four-year-olds and listening…arg.
What sweet and magical photos! I have a theory, and it’s just that, something I pondered, but I wonder if Annie’s attention span might improve if you lessen the number of activity hours that require her to pay attention? Gymnastics, soccer, dance, and school are a lot of time out if her week where she’s required to exercise a lot of self-discipline. That’s tough for anyone. If she were, perhaps, enrolled in school and just one extra curricular, or at the most, two, the rest of her time could be spent free form playing where she can decide and explore what grabs her attention. Or she can have the freedom to bounce her attention around, be free with her mind without the confines of having to pay attention.
It can be challenging and exhausting for an adult to stay so focused all day, around 2-3 in the afternoon, my mind starts to wander. If I know I have a full day of events, my mind can start to wander earlier in the day. It’s a lot of stimulation to look forward to.
I hope none of what I’ve said comes across as “Mommy judging”–a foul and unproductive online practice that I abhor. I do think that we can all learn from one another if we pass insights or, in my case, baseless theories, with the knowledge that the Momma knows the child the best.
I absolutely agree with what you wrote. Young children need an abundance of free time to play and explore without the parameters of a structured setting. My kids love soccer, t-ball, swimming, gymnastics, dance, library story time, and music — but throw in school and running a few errands with me and it would not leave much time for play. And while on the outside it may look like they are loving it and thriving being involved in things they love, if they are having behavior concerns then I feel my children are not truly thriving.
I’m guessing Annie isn’t really doing all of the activities you listed at the same time, but if she is you may want to scale back.
No, it doesn’t come off like that! It sounds like a lot, the way it’s written. And I feel like she’s overscheduled, but mostly from an “ugh, I have to drive her somewhere again!” standpoint, haha. Soccer is part of school, and it’s only once a week. Dance is once a week for 45 minutes and she takes it with a friend. Gymnastics is once a week for an hour. They are all basically organized playing, from what I’ve observed!
So cute! Great motivator 2
Fantastic idea and great pictures!
Great job on the photos & great job Annie on working towards your goal! =)
I remember when I took my kids in for well child check ups when they were around Annie’s age, the Dr asked if I had concerns with their hearing. My response was “Hearing & listening are 2 different things, right? Because I know their hearing is fine. Listening? Sometimes questionable.” lol Still true to this day, and they’re 14 & 17.
I would second Savannah’s comments – again, with much respect – you are a wonderful mom & all kids are different. It crossed my mind, as well – that it could be lots of hours of paying attention and listening could be challenging for a 4-year old. I have a 9-year old – and I’ve noticed (even still – and probably for many years to come – ugh) that what works for us is balancing activities with time at home – free play, re-charging. Just a thought. You’re doing an awesome job! Love your stories, photos & honesty.
Great idea to try and keep her motivated. I just love her little face when she’s blowing the confetti! We took confetti pictures for New Year cards this year and they were so much fun!
steve shilstone says:
Heart dress, heart confetti = genius
When I was younger, I was a terrible listener. In fact, I was THAT kid that teachers hate. I talked out of turn, I goofed off, I was a pain in the arse. Then in junior high, I had a teacher that made me want to work and try and everything changed. I am a teacher now, and have such a fondness for the chatty kids. I always use positive reinforcement in the classroom. If I know a student has problems with behavior, listening etc. I find a reason to compliment him or her before class starts. I give them special jobs to do for me and 99% of the time, they rise to the occasion. Sometime, when you are at home and dance class is long forgotten, find a way to praise Annie on a dance skill and perhaps suggest that she does it so well because she listened so well at her dance class. Reinforcing good behavior long after the fact is really helpful to keeping that behavior consistent. Listening is a learned skill and it comes with time and patience. Don’t worry too much if she needs reminders and it takes her a little longer, she seems like a great kid and you guys are doing a great job!
I love this. I’m a former teacher, but unlike you, I was always a model student. Anyway, I think that people like you make the BEST teachers. You understand where all students are coming from, not just the ones who are easy.
Just FYI. I turn 32 next month and I’m still a terrible listener. Lol. I didn’t get to do all the fun things Annie does (man I am SO JEALOUS!) but I did do some camps and played softball. Did Girl Scouts. I notice I can’t multitask as well as I thought. (Ie read an email from one department and talk to my supervisor over the cubical at the same time). But I think you’re doing a great job. After all, Annie *is* only 4!
Great pictures! Then again, all of your pictures are fantastic.
Heather – as she matures, so will her listening skills. Toddlers/Kindy kids are all about motion, music, and movement. I took a class last year that was about organizing plenty of play time during a class so that the kids weren’t required to sit, sit, and sit because they should not be expected to.
I think she is going to do great.
My kids have all responded very well to sticker charts, which we have instituted for all sorts of goals, from keeping their room picked up without complaining to holding his/her temper at preschool. Eventually, the behavior became second nature, and the sticker chart was no longer necessary.
At any rate, Annie is only four, and her listening skills will come along. Let her hear your praising her for good listening (once in a while let her “overhear” you telling someone on the phone what a good listener she is, and how proud that makes you). Positive feedback works well for people of all ages.
I teach preschool, Heather, and today I went to inservice training for our Diocese (Catholic preschool). One of the classes was on self-regulation. This concept was one of the ideas taught – not blowing the confetti itself, but something like it… give something for all the children in the class to do at the same time, have them wait to do it together at the same time, and then do it. She used the example of little plastic poppers, but anything that you have to use works. It’s the idea of waiting until ready that you are reinforcing – that’s self-regulating, teaching your child “regulate” herself. She mentioned that it was a great way to teach self-control.