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4 year old just not listening.

(9 Posts)
QTPie Mon 24-Feb-14 18:39:43


DS (just 4) is perfectly capable of listening, but chooses not to. And I am afraid that it is really getting me down.

He still won't wash his hands properly by himself: I literally have to stand over him, put the soap on, rub his hands together, put his hands actually under the stream of water (otherwise it will just be his finger tips and not his palms) and remind him to dry them on the towel (which he "shows" his hands to).

I am constantly saying "slow down" or "hurry up" (it is always one or the other).

Today I took him swimming, he got out of the pool a was running along the side on tip toes (I was telling him "don't run" - I always tell him "no running around a swimming pool"). He stopped at the edge of the pool (I was half out at the time), I told him to "wait" (I saw that he was planning to jump in again - right next to the steps and with someone swimming towards where he was standing). I repeated "wait!", but just managed to yell "stop!" as he was jumping in (straight at the woman swimming towards him). I pulled him out of the pool, explained why we do not jump in when it is not safe to do so and when someone says "wait", that he "has to wait". I was very firm and somewhat cross. I explained if he jumped in again, when I had told him not to (or to "wait"), then he would be straight out of the pool and that would be the end of swimming.

This afternoon he had a "parent and toddler" tennis class. He was supposed to join the class with no parents (just teachers) - because he is four - but got moved down a class because he doesn't listen, at all. He messes around. He actually does more listening with me there constantly telling him thing, but I am also a distraction (he is always kissing me and trying to hug me). He basically cannot look at the tennis teacher and listen.

DS is at preschool and does seem to do (and be capable of) good listening there.

Going down/upstairs (or anywhere), I have to constantly remind him to look where he is going: he is always looking at what other people are doing and, literally, if I am not CONSTANTLY reminding him to "look where you are going" he falls down/up the stairs or walks into things or people.

I literally hate the sound of my own voice - I really do. Yes, I am sure that DS hates it too. However, if I am not constantly on at him, things do not get done, at all.

Maybe I should drop the tennis until he is older (and able to have some vague inkling of concentration and listening. The Tennis Tots here is serious (national academy) and they do send kids to the side for a timeout if they don't listen. However, he is such a physical and active boy and I would so like to channel that athleticism into interesting activities (which Tennis would be if he can listen long enough to get past the basics). DS is very keen to wave a racket around at a ball, but wont listen to any of the instructions/activities to get him to the stage where he can do that. We enjoy swimming (if he isn't trying to kill himself or others) and he also does a gym class (without me and he has progressed to good listening there). He also skis - although he ended up with private lessons after messing around and completely ignoring the instructors in his group class.

Is there any way that I can help him to learn to listen, focus and pay attention and follow instructions?

I don't want to be a "pushy parent" (but maybe I am and I certainly feel that way because DS doesn't listen to anything), but I would love DS to embrace different activities. Unfortunately he just doesn't seem to want to listen to the basics (because they are boring and he would rather mess around).

Sorry, I guess that my post is a mixture of two things: organised activities (well tennis really) and just that that is an extension of his general "not listening" (I feel like a I repeat myself 1000 times a day - even on the basics like washing hands and walking up/down steps). You can give up tennis, but you can't give up tennis, but you can't really give up washing hands or walking up and down steps...


TamerB Mon 24-Feb-14 19:16:22

He is a very small child- you are expecting a lot from him!
He is doing what most children do- selective listening.
Since you are always telling him what to do it is just in one ear and out the other.
I would drop the tennis and just take him down the park for a knock about. Wait until he is older and only do lessons if be really expresses an interest. I would take the same policy with other activities, except swimming which is an essential life skill.
I don't think that many children are likely to wash their hands properly without supervision unless they want to play with the soap.
Unless he is going to hurt someone I should stop the warnings. If he doesn't look where he is going he will fall over and learn for himself.
Relax- he needs some benign neglect and time to get bored, far more than organised activities.

QTPie Mon 24-Feb-14 19:36:19


Yes, I know you are right. However sadly I see so many children who do listen around. I know that DS's independence and interest in the world are gifts themselves, but it is darn frustrating some times.

I will drop the tennis. They do it at school (next year, I think) - so maybe he can have a go then.

The gym I will continue with - he is enjoying it and listening. I think that since it is working - and not stressing me - that the discipline will do him good.

The "benign neglect" thing is difficult with things like steps/stairs and roads. He is a bit of a "spaniel" among children and I insist on hand holding around roads (we live in a city). He has a very frustrating habit of tripping over whatever and pulling me over with him. Yes, the simple solution is not to hold his hand, but he would probably be off into the road or doing aeroplanes along the curb.

We are at a difficult time at the moment - he is pushing every boundary that he can find.

We do have a heck of a lot of "unorganised" activities (spend a lot of time at the park, go to soft play, time to play at home, time at friends house) too. We go on days out etc.

I guess that I may be over-compensating for a very boring childhood (with very little in the way of activities, living in a village with no other children my age and parents that worked full time and didn't have time for days out). He is such an active, "full of life" child - I want him to embrace things and have opportunities to make friends.

Parliamo Mon 24-Feb-14 19:55:28

My 4.6 y dd is just like this! She seems to manage fine at school though, and she loves it. I think it helps she wants to please. She is much better if I'm not there. I have to remind myself all the time that she can't be 'good' all the time.

I also think you are expecting a lot from him. I would definitely stop the tennis. Next year at school he will be in lessons every day, I would let him have as much unstructured play as possible for now. There is plenty of time for activities etc. I think it's easy to get carried away trying to give our children the perfect childhood without considering too much what would be their perfect childhood, if that makes sense.

Where do you have the most fun?

MolotovCocktail Mon 24-Feb-14 20:03:21

From what I can tell, your expectations of him are high. You appear to be treating him like a minature adult.

It's wonderful that you can treat him to the activities that he partakes in, but how much time are you spending with him just hanging out? Cuddling? Collecting sticks and leaves? Watching films at home? A trip to the cinema?

My dd1 is just 5yo and in her enthusiasm to please, or sheer excitement, she still doesn't listen sometimes. I have to remind myself that she is a child, and to chill out with what I expect from her.

QTPie Mon 24-Feb-14 20:11:11

Thanks Parliamo: it is incredibly helpful to know that your DD is similar. I look around some times and feel that DS is the only one like it sad. That is one of the great things about Mumsnet - knowing you are "not alone".

Molotov. We went to the cinema yesterday (Lego film) and watch "Cloudy with Meatballs" (download on the TV whilst cuddling) this afternoon. before Tennis. Saturday we went to a "farm park" where e just dug in the sand, played at the soft play, bounced in the bouncy castle and playe don the climbing frame etc. Last Thursday and Friday we just hung out, went to the supermarket at the park etc.

I think that he does get a good "balance", but he is too "young"/"immature" for tennis. I think that the tennis here is also difficult because it is run very "professionally" (at a tennis academy) and they probably don't have either the teaching skills or the patience that many other toddler or young child activities tend to.

chocolatebourbon Mon 24-Feb-14 20:21:18

Had to laugh at this, he sounds so much like my lovely DS (age 4.2). He was cycling along today and I was running alongside commentating: "look where you are going, stay on your side of the road" etc etc...A minute later he said to me "can you tell me a story while I'm cycling along?". am too busy trying to stop you from steering straight into the ditch because you have decided to watch a dog on the other side of the road. I think we just have to accept them as they are! I send DS to organised classes but as he spends a large amount of time there in his own little world, their benefit is mainly that they give me a break rather than teaching him anything new. DH and I end up teaching him the same skills ourselves.
I have found that I really need to fight the urge to fill up his day with "stuff". Like you, that is how I would like my life to be - but I think my DS is different, and he is also fairly exhausted by the demands of preschool. Yesterday afternoon I told him and his little sister that they had to "nap or play on your own for a bit" - they ended up playing on their own for about two hours, which was lovely and probably what they should be doing on a Sunday afternoon.

QTPie Mon 24-Feb-14 21:10:58

Thanks chocolatebourbon (why do I suddenly feel hungry...?)

DS isn't cycling yet - balance bike and scooter restricted to park... Thought of him on a scooter anywhere near a road would stop my heart... ;)

Really good to know that I am not alone. I am generally a quiet woman and really not a big speaker: one way or another, at the moment, I find myself constantly talking (either a "running commentary" - like you - or answering the same question for the 100th time). It is exhausting for a quiet person.

I think that organised activities are good (for me) IF I can sit at the side. They just feel incredibly stressful if I have to be constantly telling DS what to do. I waited to start tennis until AFTER he was old enough to not need me in the class: little did I know that he would be put back into the parent and toddler class... In general I think that he listens better to a teacher (without me there), but they didn't give him a chance to settle (and wanted me to sit and watch him initially - so he played up to the situation).

The tennis classes are held in a very difficult location, though: massive echoey tennis centre with lots of other classes going on in the surrounding courts. It is a very distracting environment for an easily distracted boy...

DS doesn't get exhausted by preschool (he does 3 full days a week - 8.50 until 3.15): his first words out of his mouth at pick up are "I want to go to the park/soft play". This is one of the reasons why I do try and keep him busy: he is so active and doesn't really tire. He wants to be on the go all the time. Park is great in reasonably nice weather, but need other active things for him to do when the weather is, er, well, "typical british" ;)

chocolatebourbon Mon 24-Feb-14 22:08:20

When I say exhausted by preschool, I mean mentally exhausted from having to follow demands all day. So park/softplay is the perfect antidote, as he can just let off steam and do his own thing, but more people telling him what to do would not be great. My DS is at preschool 830-1130 and 1330-1630 every weekday except Wednesday. I would never put him in an organised activity Wednesday morning or Saturday morning - I am just trying to shake preschool out of him at those times and give him free time. (Should add that when I said cycling I meant balance-biking...and the road we were on was very quiet!!). I couldn't stand the classes where you are meant to coach your child along either - all those little girls being so well-behaved, whilst DS just ran around doing his own thing! (Luckily for me DD is one of those well-behaved little girls, so second time round I have enjoyed them a lot more and realised that they are more suitable for some children than others).

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