4 y.o. not listening from EP by A. Woz

momandjaedytoestouchAdapted from an October 2009 on-line forum discussion post from a frustrated mom on the EmpoweringParents.com website.

This mom was at her wits end because her boy was constantly going from one problem to another. If he wasn’t on top of the cupboard digging in the sugar bin, he was dilly dallying around when they had to get out of the door in the morning. Her little guy was touching everything at the stores they visited and was doing everything BUT getting ready for bed dragging the night time routine into long past bedtime and long past mom’s patience level.

Oh mom of a “busy” 4.y.o,

I have been there.

“Busy” is a nice way of saying, frustrating, unfocused, so time consuming, annoying!

Or some would say, “Sensory learners, Spirited, Curious, Fun.”

At age 4, kids are learning by exploring and they are learning how to do things to make you happy and how to do things that make them happy.

They have nothing else to do in a day except learn, while we are juggling parenting, cleaning, working, bills, and so much more. What should take five minutes (brushing teeth, getting PJs on, getting out the door) can take much longer since 4 year olds have no concept of time.

Lucky them! They don’t need to think about time- they have an entire lifetime to live and they dive in headfirst to the learning and the greatness of the world they live in…

It’s almost too bad that this natural curiosity, this giggly happy time, this zest for doing everything fun all the time has to be tamed at all….

But, even though they are fun and frustrating, cooperation is still important, limits are still important, sometimes the schedule has no flexibility and things have to get done.

For young kids the book, How to talk So Kids will Listen and Listen so Kids will Talk by Faber/Mazlish is Incredible! Not only is it in part cartoon form and part workbook form, but it has good practical ideas to try. Yes there is some theory, but most of the book is about teaching parents the skills to handle children with words.  One of its best lessons is the one word reminder. Try “Teeth!” instead of saying for the umpteenth time,  “Johnny, you have to get your teeth brushed, now, lets get-agoing.”

Repeat just one word. The word is a firm reminder, and focuses the kid instead of making them feel shame for not listening.

A pre-school teacher also used this idea for the situation where kids are running through stores touching- and sometimes breaking- various things.  The theory is that kids only hear the last part of what you say. So when you say, “Be careful you’ll break something, please stop running!” about all kids grasp is “running!”.

So they run. Mrs. T suggests tell them what you want them to do.

“No running,” becomes “Walk!” and “No touching!” becomes “Hands in your pockets.”  or “Look with your eyes. ”

At age four, kids don’t get the idea that other people are more important than they are. They are self-focused and the world is all about them, so the idea of respecting property is a little over their heads.  Kids probably think “Mr. Shopkeeper should WANT met to touch them because I love toys more than anyone!”

Nothing works all the time of course, but one of a kids’ jobs is to test the boundaries and learn from the limits. That is their entire purpose- to learn by doing, testing, touching, loving life.

I guess that makes a parent’s purpose to teach by asking, limiting, hugging and loving the teaching process. Remember discipline is teaching, not punishment.

Hang in there- lots of teaching is going on with 4 y.o.s and sometimes, we are the ones learning the most!

Good luck!

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