Monday, August 10, 2009

Listening Ears

Daily Specs:

Attainable Goal: Boy Love will be in big boy underpants from the moment he gets up from his nap until the moment he goes to bed tonight.
Grievance - School may be hard for Boy Love.
Celebration - I got three lovely hours to spend with my Baby Love alone. I just let my house sit in shambles while I played.

As I was picking Boy Love up from school today, I was fortunate enough to have his own teacher putting him in the car seat at carpool time. Going in to this year, I have had my concerns about school for him, mostly because he is significantly younger than the other kids in his class. He is at that cut-off age where he will either be 6 months younger or 6 months older than any other kid. We opted to put him in the class of older kids, hoping he would keep up with the Big Dawgs like he does in other social situations.

When his teacher was buckling him in, I looked back at her and asked the all-dreaded question, "How did he do in class?" She hesitated, followed by a forced chuckle and said, "He is younger than the other kids." I told her that I knew this, and the concern was mutual. She followed up with "He was okay if I could get his attention and keep him listening." I know what this means. I have taught enough young kids to know that by this statement, she was saying that he was being very difficult. She also informed me that all the other kids in the class were trying to help him listen and get his attention when the teacher was talking. I am now imagining a table full of perfectly groomed little children in flowered dresses and polo shirts sitting at their assigned seats, hands clasped and saying "Yes Ma'am" in chorus. All except the one kid, my kid, running in full circles around the room shouting "ALL ABOARD!" and choo-chooing at every imaginary train station. Then he jumps up on the table, weeny little arm muscles flexed in triumph screaming, "I'm a GIANT!!" And who knows. Maybe all of this happened today.

As we were about to pull out of the carpool line, she looked at Boy and over-enthusiastically cheered, "Let's remember to bring our listening ears tomorrow!" Ugh. How many times have I used THAT line. Not on my own but on the child under my supervision that I struggle with the most. The child that fights me tooth and nail at every turn. The child that would rather do anything but what I asked. The child that makes me go home and reconsider watching kids. Well, guess what? My child is that child now.

So I spend the whole trip home talking to Boy about listening ears. I have always had a problem with him listening to me or my husband, so I decide to get online and look up some good strategies for developing listening skills. These are the tips I have come across:

Make sure YOU are listening to your child when they are speaking - check

Read stories aloud together - check

Encourage your child to guess the end of a story or sentence - check

Ask open ended questions like "What did you do at school today?" - check

Touch them when you speak to them - check

Get down at their level while speaking to them - check

Listen to music - check

When watching a TV show, watch it together and encourage them to interact - check

Learn new songs - check

"Grandma's Rule", if you do X then we will get to go play at the park - check

Give simple instructions for basic requests - check

Use a calm, but serious vocal tone - check

The list continues on.

I do all of these things when interacting with Boy. However, my struggles with him listening do not only fall under the realm of "selective hearing". He also sometimes struggles to hear the things he would want to hear, like, "Do you want to go to the zoo?". Of course, like most toddlers, he can hear that somewhat better than "Lets go tidy your room!", but he will really only listen to me if a) I call his name 5 different times in 5 different ways, b) I physically move his head/chin/shoulders to face me directly, or c) I already have his attention for something else. So then I naturally ask myself, what else should I be doing? Of course I will continue to do what I have been doing, but what do I need to change to make any of these tactics effective? Do I need to take him to a hearing specialist? Is that just me wanting to believe that him not listening is not his fault or mine?

I need suggestions. Please...if anyone out there has/had a toddler undergoing similar issues, please enlighten me! I don't want him to be a burden on his teacher, his classmates, or me. Help!


  1. gee. great. wouldn't it be fun to have to medicate him for the rest of his days.

  2. I don't think your boy has ADD. I think he's got a severe case of BEING A TODDLER =D

    Man, when did society start expecting children under 5 to be the robots you've described? Frankly, I would be worried if he DIDN'T run around like a choochoo and claim to be a giant. That is the right of all small children.

    I think you're doing fine. Keep up the good work, and I'm sure he will develop the social graces at his own pace. Like the teacher said, he is younger than the rest, and 6 months is a long time when you're wee.

    Also, have you had his hearing checked? I hear of times when children sometimes don't pay attention because they actually aren't hearing clearly, and your mention of him sometimes missing the good stuff made me think of that.

  3. boy love, our eldest of boys, is still only 2...he is doing what i hope most 2 y/o are doing...this will be somewhat challenging for us all, mostly for us to be okay with it...he will develop just like he should and it will be great.