Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Children who don't listen

Situation:  I am a nanny for two boys ages 2 and 7 years old.  The two year old I am having no problems with so far but its the older boy I have been having problems with.  The problems I have with him I have also noticed that he is the same for his parents.  One he doesn't listen at all, I am constantly repeating myself over and over to get him to do what I ask. Another is he is constantly wiggling around the only time I have seen him sit still is when he is watching the tv.  Also he is constantly bothering his little brother to the point where his brother screams or ends up hitting him.  The mom and his step dad have set rules.
Answer:  You give a lot to respond to.  First, Listening is a learned skill and for a child who has developed "selective listening" it means retraining them.  The number one reason for selective listening at any age is that they are sure that they don't want to hear what is being directed their way.  Do a mini communication audit by making a simple chart.  Mark down how many interactions between the child and the parent or the child and yourself are positive and how many are negative.  an appropriate balance would be about 7 positive interactions for every 3 negative interactions.  Just because you are recording it you are more likely to make some more positive.  Also keep in mind that interactions that are neither positive or negative are usually interpreted by the child as being negative.  (What constitutes a negative interaction? - Any time that the child is being corrected, directed or managed.  What constitutes a positive interaction? - these are times where you reach out, ask questions, show support, smile, ask for help)
Parents and caregivers also need to know that it takes time to make changes and  you will be both impacting the way you normally interact as well as trying to overcome years of the child thinking they know what will happen.  These are the unwritten rules of communication.  It often happens that the child misbehaves intentionally because they would rather have the parenting style they are familiar with over the one that they don't know where it is going.
Another issue is if a child can function under two or more sets of rules.  The answer to that is yes, it helps if there are common expectations.  In families where children spend time in a care setting they very easily adapt.  I have had many parents that have visited my classroom who said, "How did you get her to behave so well?  We never see that child at home."  Children will live up to or down to the expectations.  They want attention more than any toy you could ever give them.
On the issue of fidgeting, wiggling, and picking on brother here are my thoughts.  Do you think he is doing it for attention? to show he has power/control over the brother? or because he is bored? or because he likes the contact?  Each of these would lead to a different answer and solution.  Another interesting this we see in today's children is that TV is programming children's brains on how much stimulation they feel they want and need.  They teach what is acceptable and not acceptable to an age of child who can not distinguish appropriateness themselves.  If the only time the child is calm is in front of the TV then the child is spending too much time in front of the TV.  he is not learning self restraint and self control.  Everything in his world is outside of himself and he needs help with getting away from the thing he likes the most and that parents often allow because it heps to calm them down.  In the end it is a steady spiral down and the long term impact is that the child will have increasingly greater difficulty.
Make a plan and work the plan.  It will take weeks and not days to see the change.

How to get over the misperception that if you are taking a parenting class you must be a bad parent.

I have the opportunity to teach parenting classes at church.  Often there is a perception that only those who are identified as bad parents would attend.  It is seen much like going to driving school.  You must be doing something wrong.  This analogy is the wrong one because in order to get a licence to drive in the first place you had to take a class and / or test to prove you could handle it.  Where is the test you take for how to be a parent.  There isn't even an owners manual. 

Parents mostly just make it up through thinking about how they were raised or reacting based on their mood at the time.  in the era where we have more knowledge than ever before about every imaginable topic we also resist stepping into the unknown or parenting with a little useful information.

Starting each session there is no introduction of oneself and a listing of parenting failings.  Ninety percent is helping to develop an attitude about parenting that will result in positive interactions and parent/child relationships growing so that the result are happy parents and well-behaved, self directed children.  Ten percent of the time is solving problems. 

Some parents would like the magic ticket to successful parenting.  They want the short-cut.  They want the easy fix or quick answer.  Just like they did not get into the situation overnight, they will not get out of it overnight.  Parenting takes time.  It means being invested in both your own and your child's future.  It means patience.  It means delaying gratification.  It is not easy.