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Working with kids: How to get them to listen better

Updated on January 19, 2015

Let them choose the rules and consequences!

Have you ever noticed a child is a lot harder on his or herself? They know what they like and will personalise the consequences to their likings. If a kid likes going on the computer, they will try to take away their whole computer time. Your role is to guide them into knowing limits. Instead of doing a whole period taken away, come to a compromise that is much smaller, like 5 minutes. Don't take away too much time because you still want the kid to do what they love.

Making them choose the rules also helps you know if they understand the rules. Most of the time, they will act like if they know nothing. Ask them to decide rules with you, they will come up with multiple.

The key to harmony is a limited amount of rules because the more rules, the more discipline and the more the kids feel like they are walking on eggshells. You don't want to feel like a bad person. A good example would be to limit the rules to maybe 9 because most of the time, it will be the important rules they will name first. If they say "No nose picking" guide them into knowing that as much as cleanliness is important, there is stuff that is much more valuable.

Reward the good behaviour!

Make sure they know they are doing something good! It doesn't have to be big. It can simply be a "thank you for listening. It is very appreciated" and they will feel like they are doing something good in their lives. Sometimes, all they get told is negative things so when you say 1 positive thing, they will think a little better of themselves.

Kids are in the most vulnerable time right now so being positive once in a while will help them. Certainly for the more troubled kids. If a kids never listens but you catch them being good once, make sure they know you saw them be good. They will see that you aren't them just to yell at them and to give them consequences.Give them positive attention instead of the negative attention they often get.

If a kid loves to move but it is supposed to be a quiet activity, let them move a bit if you see that they have been listening well. Jumping jacks and running in place doesn't bother people and also, doesn't take up much space. It shows them that you do realize it is hard for them to sit still but because they are doing a good job, they can move around a bit. It isn't necessarily their fault. Some people are born more active than others and accepting how they are can help a lot in how everything goes down.

Work with them on choosing the activities!

Who said you had to choose everything? If you involve them into the choices, they will want to participate. Like with the consequences, they will choose what they like. If you have a group of 15 kids and it's a month of 22 days of school, let them pick each 1 day of activities and then you pick the rest.

1. It will be less thinking for you

2. You will lower your stress

3. Kids will want to participate more because it is what they chose

The more you engage the children in the decision making, the more you can get them looking forward to activities and the less you will have to fight with them about participating.

Do a monthly reward

Let the kids choose an activity together that they will do at the end of the month if most of them follow the rules the whole month. Don't threaten them during the month. If they don't receive the special activity and they ask about it on the proper day, let them know that they knew the rules and they weren't followed.

It gives them a chance to remind themselves and others of the rules and at the same time, you can let them be independent.

If they choose to go outside for a whole afternoon and they deserve it, make sure you give it to them. If you act on your word, they will act on theirs.

Give chances!

Life is like baseball, you need to strike out at least once to realize what you have done. Don't give them too many chances because they will see that you don't apply the rules and consequences and that their work was all for nothing.

A way to work is one chance and then consequence. Kids don't need many warnings to learn. Just a simple "Would you like to lose _____________? Next time you do that, I will have to take that time or item away because it is what you guys chose.". Chances are, they will see that they did something wrong and will try not to do it again. Every day the chances start new.

Self esteem

Self esteem is so important as a young child, teen and young adult! Changes are happening in and on your body and you lose who you were before.

Give them an empty outline of a profile. Tell them to write positive words about themselves. Most of them will have a very hard time to think of even just 1 word and that is for the best kids you can have in your group. If you see a kid writing negative stuff, cross it out and write positive stuff that you see in the kid. Maybe that is all they need. Maybe that one kid just needs to know that you see the positive stuff they do.

For example, some troublemakers will write purely negative things about themselves. It is up to you to show them that they do good things and that they are still a good person even if they don't always listen! Do you see them with their younger siblings? Chances are they are very helpful and will help out their parents when it comes to their younger siblings! The troublemakers are the ones that will stay in your heart the longest because even with all the trouble, it's the good things that marked your heart.

Understand and listen!

You don't always know the background of a child but if you see that they are having a bad day, who says you can't take 2 minutes to listen to them. Maybe that is all they need! Their day could be perfectly fine and everything could be fine at home but maybe they never get to talk about their day or what they want to do.

Kids have feelings and secrets also. They just need to be heard. You just cannot promise to keep a secret because you don't know if they will say they get abused. Let them know that you are ready to listen to them and that if they are in danger, they will have to tell someone. If the kid chooses not to tell you after, that is their choice but don't betray their trust!

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