6Yo Becoming a Worse Listener

Updated on May 26, 2012
L.C. asks from Boulder, CO
6 answers

I'm looking for tips on how to get teach my 6yo SD to listen better. She actually got the lowest grade of all her grades in listening from Kindy and the grade went down from Mid-year. I won't say that she's gotten worse or stayed the same at listening but as she gets older we do have more expectations for her. She does two different types of "not listening".

1). We say, "stop/don't do X" and she does X one more time...pretty much always. I've heard that this is pretty normal and that she's testing us, but is there anyway we can stop or lessen it? Some of the things that she does frequently - like playing with her feet at the table or chewing on toys, she doesn't get more than 1 chance. With the feet thing, we make her keep her hands above/on the table for the rest of dinner and with the toy thing, she loses it immediately.

If this happens with something like "stop yeling in Target" or "stop playing in the parking lot (like being goofy while holding an adult's hand in the parking lot)" we don't usually do anything more than say to her that she didnt' listen very well.

2). We say, "Please wear the same jammies you did yesterday." She says, "OK" but then wears a different pair anyway. I guess in this case she's maybe not testing us (since she doesn't flaunt her non-listening as with #1) but she is seeing how much she can get away with? OR hoping we don't notice?

Anyway, any suggestions for either #1 or #2 would be helpful.


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answers from Denver on

This reply only applies if she does not have any hearing impairment, because then she truly would not be listening well, due to any physical cause.

However, if her hearing ability is intact, then I suggest you change your vocabulary. Choose an action word, instead of the word "listen". She's listening, she listened perfectly, but she's not obeying. If you say to her "you didn't listen" that doesn't make any sense, since she listened, she heard, and she did whatever she wanted to anyway.

If you say "you heard what I said and then you made the choice to disobey (or ignore or make the wrong choice), so you will have consequences." Make the consequence fit the crime. Make it very action oriented. For example, "we told you not to chew on that toy. You listened to us, you heard us, and then you made the decision not to obey us, and you chewed on the toy. That toy will be taken away until you can obey". Or, "we told you not to yell in the store. You heard what we said and you would not control your behavior and your voice in the store. We were planning to go to a fun store this weekend but we will not be going now." And make sure you don't ask questions. Don't say "did you listen to me?" or "Why aren't you listening?" State the facts. "You heard what we said and you made the choice to disobey."

And have her repeat what you are saying, along with the consequence. She is testing you, I think, and the word "listen" is a weak word and she seems to know it. Have her repeat "I am not supposed to yell in Target, and if I do, I will lose a privilege". Make sure the consequence is logical. Never say "we're never going in Target again." Choose a painful consequence and then decide to stick with it no matter what.

Is she a good reader? Some kids are visually tuned-in, and respond well to written reminders. You might post a boldly written list of rules for the table where she can see it. Put reminders about where her hands should be and how she should behave at the table on it.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Austin on

Has her hearing been tested?

When you say something to her in a normal voice, but behind her back, does she understand you?

If yes, then it is time to start giving her prompts, every time you give her a direction.

Sally look at ma and listen to my words. Tonight, we need you to wear the pj's you wore last night. Do you understand?

Or have her repeat the direction to you.

This way you have a confirmation she heard and understood.

Not saying this is her problem, but, my husband
Has ADHD and there are times I can ask him something and on his way to the task, he gets sidetracked with something else.

This is just who he is. To help him I ask for him to repeat what I asked or I hand him a note..even then, from the front door to the car, he can forget to take out the trash.

And so you may want to consider an evaluation. This is just something we live with and are always working on.

If it is something he is interested in, he can get that done.he has it all mapped out in his head.. Does not mean he will complete it.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Birmingham on

Oh, yeah. Sounds like your basic 6-year-old. You've gotten a lot of great advice already. After lots of frustration and spinning our wheels over our own 6-year-old doing the exact same thing, here's what worked for us: If he does something with a toy after we ask him not to, he loses it for the rest of the day. The second time he loses it for a week, and the third time for good (fortunately that hasn't happened yet). And for blatant disrespect, arguing or whining, we fine him a dollar from his allowance. He HATES having to fork over the cash, so that really cut down on it. I put every dollar he loses into his savings account, but he doesn't know that. :-)

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answers from New York on

A listening problem implies a hearing problem or a disorder in processing language. Do you suspect she does not understand the directions?? that she wants to follow your directions but gets confused? or is this a refusal to obey (yes very normal and easier to fix than a hearing or processing problem) Some of your examples seem very mild and suggest a rather well behaved child, is this generally true? Playing with her feet could be something she does without thinking for instance. Acting goofy in a parking lot sounds like a typical child she's not an adult. I'm not saying she shouldn't obey her parents but she might rebel less if it is not a constant battle between parents and child. So choose your battles. If she has three or four parents she may feel overly disciplined and that she has no control in her life. Does she go back and forth to different houses? Again a lack of control over her own life. Find ways to give her (small) ways to control her own life, she can not choose whats for dinner but she can choose which pajamas. She cannot choose to run through the parking lot but she can choose what to talk about on the walk. She can't choose not to brush teeth but she can choose to brush teeth before or after story, or to brush teeth with a yellow or pink toothbrush. Give her LOTS of little choices and she may not feel the need to rebel as much. Also you will be teaching her an important life skill: decision making!
When disciplining do what teachers do in school to inspire cooperation, instead of saying STOP playing with your feet, DONT do that, NO no, stop that, etc put it into positive words. "Keep your feet quiet like a little bunny." "Make your voice hushed like a sweet song, save your outside voice for the park." "See if you can put on these pajamas (hand them to her) before I finish singing Twinkle Twinkle"
Teach her to ask nicely and politely if she wants to wear different pajamas, walk next to you without holding hands or whatever and then agree if the request is reasonable and ASKED for respectfully so she learns to ask respectfully. The goal is to raise a cooperative child, who can think for herself not a child who can only follow orders.

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answers from Atlanta on

Parents talk too much to children. When you say something to her say it once. Then silently, calmly, firmly and kindly take action if she doesn't do as you've said. Often whispering to a child gets their attention more.

This age is difficult, she's making changes and adjusting to these changes from inside. Her world has gotten bigger, it's not so much just what's inside of herself, yet at the same time emotions are starting to emerge, you'll see this even more when she's 7. There is inner conflict and it's coming out in defiance. Examine yourself and how you do things. Children imitate and model their mother, teacher etc. but especially mother the first 7 years of life.

She needs a balance between outward and inward.- Head, Heart, Hands Handwork can do wonders for children like this, because it draws them into themselves. Have her sew with a big needle some simple things from felt. Have her braid yarn or rope together or let her make knots. If you know how to knit or someone that does, teach her knit with wooden needles. Be sure she gets lots of outdoor activities, just free time to play and run. Play games with her. Teach to jump rope, hop scotch, red light, green light games, mother may I game. Things that involve both free play and play that takes paying attention and or listening. There is time for doing quiet things and time for doing lively things. Balance.

If you've done a lot of talk, talk, talk, and have had a lot of, do this, don't do thats this set her up to disobey, you're giving her a reason in a sense because this is the age she's beginning to come out of herself, so to speak. Try to keep to the positives, the things she may do. And use the words, "you may" with everything, like "you may clean your room now, you may put your hands on the table" etc. Use you "may not" for things you don't want her to do, but keep it at a minimum. So if she's doing something you don't want her to do, say what she can do by always saying "you may......" - you change into a positive by telling her what she may do or be. This ignites the use of the will and puts it into a positive direction. As does the free play, the games and the handwork.

You want to direct her will in a positive way and direction for this will set up for the rest of her life. This age is called by some educators the first puberty. Another thing that may help, is to clap your hands twice and then give a short and kind and calm directive when telling her something. This works great for my 6 year old. Another thing that helps is to have a small pleasant sounding bell. Tell her what the bell is used for and use it. It can be used for getting her attention or for something else in particular. I have two bells that sound differently. One is for setting the table and such for meal time. The other is the signal to clean up time and then it's time to sit down to lessons, or such. Children like these signals because they see it as a kind of security, they know what to expect and there isn't all that talking.

Whatever you choose to do, you will have to do the changing first. You cannot expect her to know, she is a growing child. A book you may want to get that is excellent for this age is, You're not the Boss of Me by Besty Brown Braun (I think), for ages 4-12. This book would help greatly, check it out. Another thing is at this age it is important to hold your ground but quietly, calmly, kindly. Not always an easy task.

I hope this helps you. Give it a try, if ya will but remember it takes time, patiences and your own initive.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Provo on

Yep she is definitely 6. Lol. I just try to stay positive and focus on rewarding for my 6 yr old obeying the first time. You are doing a good thing by acting quickly on some of these things. She is testing limits, and at this age they have a lot of tolerance for the adults losing their tempers, so getting mad yourself accomplishes little with them. Hang in there!

1 mom found this helpful
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