One of the biggest challenges of preschool is learning to settle down and pay attention. As preschool teacher and Circle of Moms member Rebecca J. explains, "The most important set of skills a child can have coming into any kind of social care group are social/emotional skills. These include listening, sharing, being friendly, a general understanding of fairness and justice, empathy, responsibility to others, and the overall ability to be a good friend. Things such as scissor skills, zipping coats, etc. will come with time, practice, and experience. It has been my experience that a socially successful preschooler is a very happy preschooler. "
But many Circle of Moms members say it's not always an easy task to get an energy-filled preschooler to be still and listen. Anne P. laments that "Listening is not my two-year-old's best skill." She goes on to explain that he's "a ball of energy...Some days he's absolutely great and other days he spends half the day in timeout for not listening."
Luckily, there are many things you can do at home to improve your child's ability to focus. To help you introduce and practice these fundamental social skills with your little ball of energy, Circle of Moms members offer these six tips.
1. Get Down to Your Child's Level and Make Eye Contact
Speaking to your child when you can look him right in the eye is the best way to get a toddler's attention, Circle of Moms members suggest. Get down on his level, advises Sarah H. "If you are not already doing so, get down to his level and make him look at you when you are talking to him," she says. "It helps to take away distractions. Otherwise just keep doing what you are doing and follow through with the discipline if he is not obeying or listening.
2. Be Firm, Be Clear, Be Consistent
Don't harp on it, just tell him simply and clearly that you expect him to listen when someone else is talking — at home or at school, suggest Circle of Moms members. "The best thing is consistency," says Jeneva W. "Make sure you, your husband and the daycare/preschool teachers are all on the same page with how you handle his behavior and what he gets time outs for. If there are any differences it will confuse him. Also make sure to point out the positive behavior as much as possible. This is just as important as consistency."
3. Follow Through Quickly
Make it clear to your 3-year-old that you mean what you say by following up immediately with a timeout if he continues to talk or shout over you or someone else he is supposed to be listening to, Circle of Moms members suggest. Being swift to correct a child will pay off quickly. Says Sarah H. "I do day care and find that at two years, they spend a lot of time in time-out, but by the time they hit three they are having only a few time-outs, and most of the time a warning does just fine."
4. Keep Reinforcing Your Message
Repetition matters, suggest Circle of Moms members. "I have a 2.5 year old and they like to ignore people but I ask him once, ask him again, then count to three," says Diane G. "Most of the time I don't get to three." Pip L. agrees: "One of the things I do to make sure I'm listened to is to make them repeat the instruction I give, sometimes I might even make them say it a few times so we're all on the same page."
5. Model Good Manners and Listening Skills
You can't just talk the talk, you have to walk the walk when it comes to modeling good manners and listening skills for preschoolers. "Modeling manners will go a long way," says Arlene S. "You would be surprised how many preschoolers are not taught them."
6. Remember, it Gets Better
Hang in there even if your child comes home with reports from the teacher that he is jumping all over the place when she is trying to get the class to sit on the mat and listen, advise Circle of Moms members who have been there. "I've got five boys, and the youngest two are two-year-old twins," says Pip L. "All I can say is, it gets better with age"
How do you teach your little one to listen?
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