If you are around kids on a daily basis, you know how important it is to have some basic rules for guiding children’s behaviors. The main reason that you probably do this is because you want to maintain your sanity, because if you have to ask them one more time to be quiet, you’re gonna lose it!
But an even more important reason for creating those rules to guide kids’ behaviors is that you are creating a starting point for how kids view the world and how it works.
In this series, we will take a look at some must-have rules to help kids to start to grasp how the world works and how they are supposed to contribute to it, and they come with the added benefit of salvaging your sanity!
The first rule that we will start with in this series is the ever-important rule for kids to listen.
#1 Listening Ears On
From your perspective, having listening ears on is one of the most important rules for a kid to have. If your child is able to listen to the directions you give him, then you don’t have to worry as much about his safety or behaviors as he separates from you and starts to explore the world.
From his perspective, having listening ears on doesn’t seem all that important. Actually, it seems like something that is holding him back from the true joys of exploration. But it is imperative that he learn now how important it is for him to have listening ears on, to follow the directions that safe adults give him, and to learn what happens in the real world when one doesn’t follow the rules that the person in power has established.
To teach children how to use their listening ears, take a look at How to Teach Kids to Listen for specific instructions on what to do to teach children what to do before an issue develops.
Once you’ve taught what it means to use listening ears, it’s time to follow up with children during a time when the rule should be in effect. When you’ve caught a child using listening ears, remember to praise her for remembering her listening ears by saying, “Johnny asked you to stop poking him and you stopped. You were using your listening ears. Way to go!”
When you’ve caught a child forgetting to use her listening ears, it’s time to remind her of your expectation to use listening ears. For example, you can say, “I heard Johnny ask you to stop poking him, but you kept doing it anyway. You forgot to put your listening ears on today (cupping your hands behind your ears). Next time, remember to use your listening ears or you may have to sit out from playing for a while” (or whatever consequence you’ve decided will accompany forgetting to use listening ears).
Teaching children to use their listening ears has two major benefits. The first is that when children know how to listen to directions from safe adults, they are more likely to demonstrate the behaviors that their safe adults have established for them on a regular basis. This results in much less stress for all of the adults in the child’s life, including parents, grandparents, child care providers, and later on, teachers.
The second is that by teaching children that it’s necessary to follow the directions given to them by the people who are an authority over them, you have started to teach how the world works in regards to rules and the power of authority.
This opens up the opportunity to talk about what rules and responsibilities citizens have in their community, city, state and country. This results in a child who has a more realistic idea of how the world works and who is more prepared for future scenarios in which he may be asked to follow a rule established by other people of authority (even if he doesn’t actually want to follow that rule).
Next week, we’ll take a look at another must have rule related to helping kids to manage aggressive behaviors towards others, another behavior that won’t be acceptable in adulthood.