How can I get a three year old boy to listen to me as a teacher? He does his own thing and even runs off, and am out of ideas to help him besides informing his parents of his behavior.

Expert Answers
Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I thought the previous post was very accurate.  I agree with the idea of "short and sweet" as critical in informing little ones about what has to be done.  I agree that you have to keep your directions extremely succinct and almost "one at a time."  In building off of the kinesthetic active notion of learning, I would also suggest that the constant movement in your activities might be good.  For example, integrating songs that have direct body movements to it might be good if you can find a way to work them into your lesson.  Also, trying to work a way of some type of physical activity into lessons might also help.  I know this is tough, but with the smaller ones, I think this form of expression is critical (I do this sometimes with my seventh and eighth graders because they need some of this, also.)

drmonica eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Three years old boys have very short attention spans. Talking to the parents will not do anything toward increasing his attention. He will also probably not remember anything they say to him about it anyway.

My recommendation is to call his name enthusiastically when you want to tell him something or call his attention back to the group. Keep your sentences very short and specific. If you are talking at length to a group of three years olds, you are setting yourself up for frustration.

Try saying a sentence or two, then having the group (or the child, if you're talking to him directly) respond by doing something. This approach appeals to kinesthetic learning styles and holds the toddlers' attention better than just talking. 

kiwi eNotes educator| Certified Educator

You may need to consider how much listening you expect from the child and establish clear methods of communication to show he is listening. It is probably best to establish that listening is a positive quality through a game or practical activity. If  'throw the red ball into the green bucket' elicits the desired response, it is clear that the child is listening. 'Simon says' as a listening game works well when you are working with several children.

I would suggest a partnership with parents - tell them your strategies and encourage similar 'game play' at home. If the boy's behaviour is significantly different than his peers, it may be worth suggesting a medical to check for hearing issues.

M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Speak eye to eye (you will have to kneel or sit), low voice to calm yourself (and your nerves), the louder he gets the lower your voice, speak for a short time, offer two consequences in the form of: Would you like to stop or would you like to sit on time out?  Offer incentives for all things done right, break activities into shorter spans of time, provide many visuals, use music, do not adopt the "AUTHOTEACHER" distant approach, instead, make yourself very available for this child.

alexb2 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

You need to have realistic expectations. Three year olds, especially boys, are not going to listen to you most of the time. The key is to engage them at his level and to say things that catch his attention. Use your  powers of observation to see what interests him and incorporate that into lessons. Kids like to be challenged, but not spoken down to.

Let him burn off energy when appropriate, at his age you can't expect total concentration for more than a few minutes.

besure77 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Three year olds in general are very interesting. They generally have short attention spans and cannot concentrate on any given thing for too long. My advice to you is to hang in there. You will definitely want to use a positive tone with him and even offer him some kind of incentive for listening to you. For example, you can have him be your helper for five minutes, let him play with a toy of his choice for five minutes, or read him a book of his choice.

fernholz eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As a past preschool teacher I have dealt with the 3 year old child who doesn't want to listen. I tried different techniques including getting down to his level and listening. 3 year old children are new to school and sometimes have different needs. Contacting parents may give you insight into the problem. Maybe they have tried different strategies that work.

Good luck! I know it can be a test of patience, but don't give up!

udonbutterfly | Student

Energetic children can be super fun in the beginning but there are times when it really begins to get in the way of learning and I fully understand. Here Are some things I've learned and picked up tutoring younger children.

  • Snacks! Kids love snacks and if they are compact snacks (but not super messy ones) like cheese and character sticks or granola bars they will slowly start calm down and enjoy the snack quietly. While listening to explain the question.
  • Know how they think! ask questions! let him get know you and you him.
  • Change up the environment! Sometimes staying and a classroom really gets stuffy so maybe have a class outside one or at the library.
ekadev | Student

Three year olds are attention seeking. They are habituated in playing with the toys of his choice. I work in a school that runs classes from play groups to higher secondary level. In my school, the first thing the teacher does is that he enters the class with a number of toys, then the kids pick up a toy that he likes and slowly he will be shorten the distance with those who lets him play with the toys. Some sweets also can work in the beginning, but it shouldn't be made into a habit, toys are okay because they last longer and the same toys can later be used by other kids when one of them gets tired of it. Once the distance keeps shortening slowly and gradually the kids will start listening to you.

You can also use with the familiar rhymes on a video tape or may be a cassette player or CD player. Once the kids listen to the music and rhymes slowly they will start humming and singing it and slowly they will make closer contacts with the teachers and other kids... I hope this can work.

kimmc0812 | Student

Three year old have an extremely short attention span and are naturally very active.  You must keep this in mind when doing anything with them.  Expecting them to sit for longer than 3-5 minutes at a single task will only set you and the child up for total frustration.  Keep all tasks short and simple.  Inverbal communication, try to use puppets or other "toy" items.  CHildren at this age will respond to fantasy and will communicate with an inanimate object better than with a live person.  Also try to maintain body contact with the child - for example holding the child on your lap or touching the child's hands while you speak.  Needless to say, it is imperative that you get on the child's eye level (meaning you must sit on the floor or kneel when trying to communicate).

ljs317 | Student

Many children enter school with a lot of emotional baggage following them.  It is always good to find out their family history before you start any disciplinary plan.

Parenting today is so much different as compared to when we were growing up.  We as teachers are finding that parents do everything for their children, including saying "Yes" to everything they want.  Consequently, when they come to school, they are not accustomed to hearing "no" - and that's when the anger, poor behavior, and defiance begins.

If you can meet with parents, and discuss what is happening in your classroom, it is always helpful.  If they can follow through with a similar discipline program at home, some behaviors might decrease.

jpschneid | Student

I work as a pre-school teacher I have found the same problems boys don't like to listen or sit still. You give them an inch they "will" take the mile. As a male in the room and treating them more masculine with a lower tone in the voice they will listen. I have found at early ages you have to keep repeating what you expect from the male students and boys will avoid menial tasks such as putting toys away, picking thing up off the floor I am unsure if this has to do with male role models even TV shows depict the male on the couch while mother cleans and does house work.

tussyconcarne | Student
In reply to #1: What type of teacher are you? What grade do you teach? Usually by the time teachers get home they don't have enough energy to discipline their children. I would suggest that you follow through your discipline routine if its a behavior problem.
lunaboss | Student

When it comes to toddlers and early childhood, the important thing to recognize is what motivates and stimulates the child. Addressing the situation with the parent does nothing to create a connection between you and the child. Something I have done in the past is to establish a plan for the child when he or she has reached a point where they are no longer able to participate. Give the child a set of acceptable activities (no more than 3-4) for the child to do quietly at his/her seat, such as puzzle work or drawing. You can also create tactile activities that may stimulate the child and encourage him to remain at his seat. Give the child about 15 minutes of alone time and then attempt to refocus him to the whole group.

mk5211 | Student

As a former Kindergarten teacher, I believe that ar 3 it is very hard to get children to sit and listen or follow more then 1 direction at a time.  I agree with the previous post about music.  Music can be used for all types of learning. Dr. Jean and Steve and Greg have great music for this age.  I use it for clean up, regular classroom rules, reading, math, and even to teach science. The kids do not know they are learning but we are having fun. 

cpt0606 | Student
How can I get a three year old boy to listen to me as a teacher? 

He does his own thing and even runs off, and am out of ideas to help him besides informing his parents of his behavior.

Try catching him being well behaved then reward him for that with a sticker, or something that will make him be proud of himself. Little boys have a lot of energy and are sometimes hard to control, but don't give up, he will come around.

krishna-agrawala | Student

A very good principle of communication in all situations is to first attempt to understand, then try to be understood. This principle is equally valid when we use the word 'listen' instead of 'understand'. While dealing with a three year old boy, and that too your student, you don't try to make him understand through words. Children of that age need to learn things by doing and experiencing. So I suggest that instead of trying to make him understand, just try to motivate him to do what he needs to do. And even in this, try to give him maximum freedom to decide what, when and how to do things, rather than impose your ideas and methods. As long as they are safe, it is all right for them to make mistakes during the process of learning and development.