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Q: My eight-year-old son has an attitude problem. He thinks he knows more then the people that are trying to teach him things -- his baseball and basketball coaches, myself and his mom. He's a smart kid, but he doesn't listen to instructions. Any advice?
A: Usually coaches are very effective in teaching children that they need to listen in order to learn or to participate. Most coaches use the lesson of "logical consequences": If you can't listen to directions and do what you are asked, you must sit on the bench and don't get to play. If your son's coaches are not doing this, suggest that they do; this motivates most children to listen to what they are being told.
Try focusing on the positive with your son when he doesn't listen at home. Check your public library or a bookstore for a book on positive discipline. Then sit down with him when you are both calm and determine some rewards and consequences that he can earn for listening and following directions. Set up a chart or calendar on which you will make check marks when your son listens and does what you ask the first time you ask it. Three checks might earn extra computer time; ten checks might earn having a friend over to play. You can increase the number of checks required to earn a reward as your son's behavior improves.
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Barbara Potts has worked as an elementary school counselor for many years. She has a BA in psychology from Wake Forest University, and an M.Ed. in Guidance and Counseling from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.