I recently read an article where the author referred to a phenomenon known as “mommy deafness”. It seems that by the time children enter preschool, they’ve heard their mom’s voices so much that they’ve learned to tune it out. I think when I was young, this was called “selective hearing”, but the results are the same.
See if this sounds familiar: child is given directions to follow. Child ignores directions. Child is given directions again, louder this time. Child strengthens resolve to ignore directions…and on and on.
There’s no denying we need to give kids instructions and correction – whether at school or home – so how can we do that without mommy (or teacher) deafness? The key is in using something besides your voice to talk to them.
For a very young child, it works really well to demonstrate what it is you’d like them to do. This can be in the form of a presentation; presentations work well for academic work as well as something like hanging up a coat or washing a plate. Whispering works well too. One of my Montessori trainers said that the louder the children get, the quieter you should get. Whispers get their attention far more than shouting.
For an older child, using a workplan, chart, or other written tool works really well. The directions or instructions that are written become the guide, not the adult. It’s really hard to rebel against a piece of paper.
This was brought home to me recently as I worked with my son. Every day I was reminding him to do certain things during work time (make good work choices, put his work away neatly) to the point where he had completely tuned me out. The more I reminded, the less he listened.
I remembered that self-evaluation was a really great tool for kids. So, I made a chart that listed some of the areas where he needed improvement. I made a column for each day of this month. I showed him the chart so he knew what kinds of things were listed. Now every day after he’s done working, he and I sit down and go through the checklist.
Within one day, his behavior had improved considerably. Instead of trying to meet my expectations, he tries to meet the chart’s expectations. That might not sound like too significant of a difference, but it really is.
In case you’d like to try something similar, I am adding a “Student Self-Evaluation” to the Teacher Tools page. It’s in Word, so you can change it as needed. It’s a nice way for an elementary student to evaluate their behavior. I used it in the classroom on a weekly basis, but it can be done daily or monthly depending on where the child is at.