Children Don’t Need to be Overstimulated to Get Their Attention!

Talking with Children Respectfully - An Everyday Story

Talking with Children Respectfully - An Everyday StoryWe took a bus trip today. A very special bus trip. We were going on a Bus Wash.

The kids all piled on the bus; getting their tickets with giddy excitement and taking their seats. The two bus drivers introduced themselves and handed out a worksheet to each child.

It was a game of Spotto. The kids had to keep an eye out for different things – a bus stop, motorbike, person walking a dog; that sort of thing – and mark it off their sheet. Jack was very excited and started looking around straight away….

Respecting Children and their Thoughts - An Everyday StoryBut then the noise started.

“The bus driver is a little deaf”, our guide said. “So you’ll need to speak loudly.”

“Red light. Everyone yell STOP!” “Louder!” “Louder!”

“Green light. Everyone yell GO!” “Louder!” “Louder!”

And the kids screamed. Louder!

And just like that, a potentially wonderful experience, full of interesting and new things to see was lost. Each time the kids would settle back into looking around as the bus travelled to the car wash, the driver would have the kids yelling again.

“Turn Left!” “Louder!” Turn Right!” “Louder!” And the kids yelled, and the babies screamed.

We went we through the bus depot and saw where the buses were repaired…. honk honk went the horn…” Say hi to the mechanics everyone! Louder!” “HIIIIIIIIIII!”

We drove through where the buses were refuelled and went through the bus wash… “Everyone yell GO!” “Louder!”

We drove past where all the buses were kept overnight….honk honk went the horn…”Everyone yell WAKE UP BUSES!” “LOUDER!” “LOUDER!”

This potentially amazing experience was sadly drowned out by all the yelling.

How often does this happen though? Children are encouraged to scream prompts over and over again… “Everyone say, Hi Bus driver!” “I can’t hear you??!”

Why do we think children need to be over-stimulated in order to get their attention?

Is having them screaming at the top of their voice the only way we know they are paying attention? In my experience, if given half a chance, children are far more interested in things than adults – often having a much longer attention span; investigating things long after we adults have lost interest.

Why can’t we leave children alone with their thoughts? Can’t they be trusted to have quiet meaningful thoughts? Aren’t they capable of engaging in conversation? Why do they always have to scream in unison?

We are teaching them to be loud and obnoxious… and then when they are, we reprimand them for it. It’s confusing for the children. Don’t we want our children to be thoughtful, engaged, focussed, considerate and passionate? Children don’t have to be yelling to show they are engaged!

Today we went on a bus trip. We drove around our town and down to the bus depot. We saw buses being repaired; hoisted high up in the air. We drove through tall petrol bowsers and sat as the bus went through a carwash.

When asked at dinner tonight about the bus wash, Jack’s reply? “It was loud.”

Opportunity lost.

I wish I had said something to the driver. Next time I will.

18 Replies to “Children Don’t Need to be Overstimulated to Get Their Attention!”

  1. Oh my gosh, YES!! Could not agree more! Why people, why??????

  2. My son attended standard preschool for a year before he started Montessori preschool. When we asked about this standard preschool he said “it was loud”…

  3. I couldn’t agree with you more on this! I took my two year old daughter to a marionette show that was also full of magical potential as they had beautiful puppets, great music and lots of funny skits, but the performer insisted on getting all the kids to yell and scream to show their excitement. Sure enough it ended up terrifying my daughter, who basically only recalls the screaming over all the other wonderful sights and sounds.
    On a different note, thank you thank you thank you for your amazing blog. It gives me so much peace and lovely ideas! I often think about you and your lovely children as if I’ve known you forever, and most of the time I wonder HOW do you manage such a lovely peaceful life? 😉

  4. Christine Dewhurst says:

    I am so with you, this is exactly the same as my rant to (early childhood) colleagues after I took my grandson to a McDonalds party. Thanks for articulating so well for the rest of us. christine

  5. Kate,

    What a wonderful post. Upon reading the heading I thought, what a wonderful idea, I should look around for that opportunity in Melbourne for my little boy, but as I read on I felt sad. Sad for the amazing opportunity that was lost. I’m not sure why some people who work with children feel the need to get them to yell to show interest/excitement, but I also think the times where I have felt children under my care were listening the best was when I was whispering or talking one on one. Perhaps the company needs to be enlightened on learning styles. I hope you contacted them with some ‘constructive feedback’ so that possibly others in the future could enjoy the experience more, but either way thanks for raising the awareness in the community.


  6. I went on this excursion with my daughter when she was at preschool….our experience was exactly the same. Soooo loud!! It was awful and we couldn’t wait for it it be over. Such a shame.

    1. I’m wondering … if this is a common field trip for kids… could someone say something to this company about the noise? Maybe they could have a “quiet time” and then later a “noisy time” instead of constant noise? 🙁 shame indeed.

      1. It is a very common preschool excursion and we had the exact same experience. I think I will actually write to the company.

  7. Absolutely! Imagine if we did this to adults.

  8. Oh boy – I would’ve been SO unhappy with this trip – for my child AND myself – I have noise sensitivity and simply cannot think if it’s too loud and crazy! 🙁 I agree with you – let the kids alone, let them think!

  9. Oh my, this would be my sons nightmare. I agree, I think sometimes people are uncomfortable in silence, be it with a child or an adult, and they search for ways to entertain when the world alone is entertainment enough. Hopefully you can recreate the trip without the distractions next time!

  10. I’m sorry your experience was ruined. Such a shame.
    I totally agree with your statement: “children are far more interested in things than adults – often having a much longer attention span; investigating things long after we adults have lost interest.” So true. I see this every day in my boys. And then especially when we visit new places and things, like the science center, etc.

  11. I did the same excursion last year with my Daughter in preschool and I found the same. Thinking maybe it is time to actually start writing to action, because it is obviously a normal part of the program.

  12. What a great concept for a bus trip. My boys would love to see behind the scenes! Shame the guide was a little too enthusiastic.

  13. “We are teaching them to be loud and obnoxious… and then when they are, we reprimand them for it.” Totally, another way we confuse kids with the way we treat them in society.

  14. Yes! Exactly. This is why we rarely go to children’s concerts, puppet shows, etc. They could be so good. Instead, they’re usually just loud and hyper. You described it perfectly.

  15. Can anyone tell me the name of the blue and orange water toy pictured?

  16. An Everyday Story Posts on Pinterest | Reggio, …

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