Listen the First Time

Some parents are considering giving a gift to a teacher at this time of year. Looking for a little token of appreciation might be easier than you think. Look no further than your own parenting style. One of the best gifts you can give a teacher is a child who is willing to listen the first time.


Maybe you’ve followed someone around at Walmart who is constantly reminding their children of all the things they are supposed to be doing. It is exhausting! “Look both ways before crossing!” “Put that back!” “Stay with the shopping cart!”


Reminders prevent a child from learning to think for themselves. Why should they keep up with anything if their parents are going to keep up with it for them?


The two times during the day when reminders flourish can be handled with some training about routines. Parents are usually full of reminders when kids are getting ready to go somewhere and when they are getting ready for bed. Have you ever noticed that the more you say the slower your child moves?


Saying a lot fewer words makes the words you say more valuable. “The car leaves at 7:00 in the morning so do whatever you need to do to be ready at that time.” They really don’t need to be reminded to get up, get dressed, brush their teeth, get their backpack and go to the car. Following them around reminding them will slow their progress to a crawl.


The best training for getting ready on time may come the first time they decide to move in slow motion instead of being ready when it is time for the car to leave. That pesky car! It is leaving at 7:00 and no amount of talking in the world can make a car stop to wait on a late child. Parents are different. Parents can be trained to remind children, fix their breakfast and lunch and remind you every five minutes that it is time to leave. If the car were to leave on time with a child grabbing a bag of pre-selected clothing to put on in the back seat on the way to school, the reminders might become less important!


The same is true at bedtime. “Bedroom time is at 9:00pm.” Setting the time gives a great deal of freedom to get ready, focus their attention and have a little down time before going to sleep. There’s no need for reminders about brushing teeth or all the other tasks that need to be done. Make a list if you are concerned that they need itl


Our words must be dependable for a child to learn to listen the first time. When we delay or hedge on something we have said we will do or allow, children learn to watch us rather than listen to us.


Teachers know which children have been taught to listen the first time. They look at the teacher instead of involving themselves in some distracting activity. They consider the words of the teacher and they move to act when asked to do something. They need no reminders. Their grades are higher. Their parents are calmer.

Dr. Matt Crain writes weekly for the Sunday newspaper from his Connecting Fathers and Families ministry.