We always ask Gabe before we go someplace, or before he goes into a class, if he has his listening ears on. Quite often he does not. In fact he often tells us that his listening ears ran out of batteries, and that's why he wasn't listening. It's most apparent when he's in a class, such as the swimming class he was in today.
I realize that most 4-year-olds have moments where they don't listen or ignore what an adult is saying. I also realize that it is often more difficult for boys. However, if you were to get a group of boys together and instruct them to do something, most likely it will be Gabe that is not participating, or not doing what he's supposed to be doing.
I'm not sure how to correct this behavior, although it's been an issue since he started talking. At first I thought it might have been an issue with how he was parented, since I had a test case of one. Then I had Nick, who is an entirely different kind of difficult, but listens quite well, he just may choose to ignore you. It seems like Gabe isn't even hearing us, despite having perfect hearing.
The threat of consequences or the promise of rewards doesn't even seem to phase him. Although, he can be bribed pretty well with a cookie when we're out and about. Most times he just misbehaves and then gets upset when he loses something or doesn't get a reward, which usually results in a major meltdown. It's so frustrating.
Swim class today was a perfect example. There was one other boy and two little girls in the class. As is usual of children this age they all had a little trouble listening. Gabe, however, just wanted to do his own thing, sometimes even when he was out in the deep water with his instructor. He would wander off from the group because he wanted to put his head in the water, or continue to splash even after being asked not to, or chase after the buoy that they use to practice skills with.
It was the buoy that managed to scare Gabe straight today. In the shallow part of the pool, there's a ledge that the instructor has the kids stand on so the water is only waist high. Across from the ledge is a wall that a life guard walks on, so they're pretty safe. However, Gabe kept wandering down to where the ledge drops off. At one point the buoy had drifted that way and Gabe wanted to get it. It was about two feet from the wall the ledge was attached to, and he grabbed it. However, he was now in the middle of the water with nothing but the buoy and went under water a couple times in his struggle to get back to the ledge.
If he hadn't been able to get out of the water and back to the ledge, I know the life guard who was right there would have rescued him, but it was enough that he listened for the last 10 minutes of class. He was scared into listening and behaving. I tried to tell him that listening is often for his own safety, but he can't seem to comprehend that sometimes. I hate to think that he needs to get scared or hurt to learn why he needs to listen to grownups.
What about you? Do your children have difficulty listening? How do you handle it?