How to not lose your cool when your kids aren't listening
Who am I kidding?! I totally lose my cool when the kids don't listen! I don't want to. I hate doing it. I want to do better. It is tough to maintain calm when so many kids are all not listening at the same time.
Just in the last hour, I had the 5, 6, and 7-year-olds not listen well enough to a simple story to put the events in order--something they can generally do quite well. So, I shifted gears after taking a moment to myself and had them each write their own story. STILL, the 6-year-old didn't follow directions until I again reprimanded him. While I was dealing with all that, Sawyer, almost 11, was "reading" and claimed he'd finished the assigned chapters. Because he uses an audiobook along with reading the words, I knew exactly how long it should have taken him to listen to the chapters. It hadn't been that length of time. This on the heels of him trying to claim the device wouldn't work because it was too early for him to be allowed use of it due to parental controls. Mack, 10 tomorrow, had also struggled to listen adequately when asked to stop making annoying noises early.
Add all those things to a 5 am wake up and you have a shorter fuse. I haven't raised my voice, though. Miraculously. However, each kid has gotten a warning, tools to succeed, and renewed ability to do as they're asked. I had the littles write their own story with a beginning, middle, and end and they had to use transition words to practice the skill intended from my reading to them. Sawyer got to read his chapters again. Mack got a warning about making better behavior choices and an opportunity to run outside to adjust his abilities.
Sometimes, we have to shift our methods to meet the kids where they are. While Monday, the littler kids did wonderfully at telling me the story in order with great details, they were not able to do so today. It looks like not listening. It feels like not listening. It might be not listening. But, I cannot force them to listen when they are incapable of that assignment at the moment. So I shift gears and give them another task that engages their brains similarly. Sawyer was also more focused on Monday with his reading task, and struggle a bit today. I had to remind him multiple times to look at the words AND listen. It took longer, but he got there. After Mack finished his vocabulary work, I told him to run outside before trying to read so he would be able to focus. I offered Sawyer the same option before doing his vocabulary but he denied the option. I reminded him to listen to his body and take a break to run if he needed it so he could thrive.
While everyone seems to be on task now, Mack has been struggling with listening for a few weeks. I have had to monitor him while he folds laundry and does his dish responsibilities because he is struggling to finish the job. I can yell at him all I want but it changes nothing. I have to make sure he is completing the tasks set before him. I can only do so by monitoring him.
Due to all these difficulties with following directions, we might take a break from reading, riting, and rithmatic in the next week and have a day focused on following directions. The consequences for not doing so will be logical, swift, and meaningful but the activities will also be fun. We will learn to work together too.
A list of options I may entertain are:
Obstacle courses while blindfolded.
Art projects that result in fun pictures BECAUSE directions are followed correctly.
Building with shapes to create a picture.
Teamwork challenges wherein two or more kids must listen and cooperate to succeed.
All these things will accomplish reinforcing the idea that following directions is important but in a fun, uplifting way. We don't have to beat our kids or yell at them to encourage this skill. In fact, those things will only succeed in making them feel inadequate. Games that require listening carefully are more successful. And FUN! Kids learn better when they are having fun.
I would love to hear your ideas for fun ways to encourage listening skills and teamwork!