Thank you for writing to education.com with your concern regarding your son’s readiness for kindergarten. You are right to be concerned about your son’s ability to listen and cooperate. Social skills are essential to academic and social success. Fortunately, five months should be plenty of time to help your son learn the skill of listening and many other social skills that will help him to enjoy his formal education experience more fully.
One way to teach any social skill is to break the behavior down into short manageable steps.
For instance the specific skill steps for listening could include:
1. stop what you are doing
2. turn and look at the person
3. say okay or nod your head when the person is done talking.
After you have decided on the steps for the skill, set up practice times. Make certain that you are feeling relaxed, your son is calm and you have few if any distractions.
Begin a practice session by telling your son that you are going to help him learn how to listen. Explain the steps and tell him that the two of you are going to practice. Review the name of the skill and the specific steps you want him to follow. Say something like “I would like you to practice the skill of listening. There are three steps to the skill of listening. When I begin speaking, step one is for you to please stop what you are doing, step two is to look at me. Step three is to nod your head or say okay when I am done talking.”
Practice just a couple of times and after every practice tell him what he did well and what he could do to improve for the next time. For instance, you could say something like “when I spoke to you just now, you stopped playing with your Lego toys – great job. Next time, be sure to look up right away.”
While practicing with your son, try to make it fun and be sure to act very enthused about what the two of you are doing. Really celebrate any practice sequence that goes according to the steps you have taught. You can also reward his behavior by smiling, nodding your head, winking or giving your son a big hug.
Follow the above format for any of the skills you want your son to learn. Other skills that will help him to do well in school include following directions, staying on task, accepting criticism and accepting consequences.
In addition to making sure you are feeling calm and relaxed, remember to practice for only short periods of time, make the practice applicable to situations that would actually occur for your son and to offer small rewards to cement the new skill he has learned, like a sticker, special snack or choosing the game or puzzle he wants to play next.
In no time your son will have mastered the steps of listening in a fun, upbeat format which will allow him to feel confident and sure of himself in all settings.
Speech and language services are offered to children even before starting kindergarten. I would encourage you to contact the school district to ask for further information on resources available to you and your son. It is quite possible that they can evaulate him now and be able to structure some services that will help him even before the first day of school.
Kindergarten is an important first step in the education process for any child. Work closely with your school district to determine how you can make the process run as smoothly as possible for all involved.