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Dealing with chatty children as students - what are some of your techniques?

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  • Dealing with chatty children as students - what are some of your techniques?

    I've been teaching for a few decades now, but lately I seem to be acquiring lesson kids who are overly chatty and as a result, not as focused as they should be. I don't mind kids asking legitimate questions, but I am surprised at the recent influx of kids age 10-12 asking questions you'd expect from a 6 year old. Then again, the 6 and 7 year olds I teach don't even ask these silly questions.

    For example, I have one 12 year old girl who badgers me with questions every week. Questions along the lines of, "What is Sparkle's favorite color?" Me: "I don't know, why don't you ask her?"
    Her: "Because she can't talk!"
    Me: "So how am I supposed to know?"
    Her: "Wellllll..... if she could talk, what would be her favorite color?"

    She also asks a lot of silly questions completely unrelated to horses. "What if we could ride guinea pigs". "Ok, what about it?" "Well, what would it be like?" (rolleyes)

    This is the same girl who can tack up a horse correctly one week and get it totally wrong (on purpose) the next. Why do I say "on purpose"? Well, for example, she will make a big display of tossing the saddle pad on the horse's back backwards. She will look at me to see if I'm watching (I am, she just doesn't know it). If I'm not, she steps back dramatically, holding her finger to her lips and loudly going, "HMMMMMM....." to get my attention. If I say nothing, she will put the saddle on backwards as well. Another loud "HMMMMM". Then she wonders aloud why the girth won't reach. My response is always, "It fit earlier today, try again." If I correct her at some point by saying, "Is there something wrong with this picture?", I get, "Oh YEAHHHHHHH! I don't know what I was thinking!!!!!!" And she fixes it without me telling her what needs to be fixed.

    I have on more than one occasion asked her if she'd like to spend her lesson figuring out how to correctly tack her horse up, or would she actually like to ride? She will suddenly focus and get the horse ready properly.

    I have spoken to her mom, who is very nice and who makes her apologize at the next lesson every time she acts out. And she is usually good for that lesson. The following week, it's back to her annoying self. And she always ends her lessons with the same questions: "On a scale of 1 to 10, how did I do?" More often than not she only gets a 5 or a 6 because she spent too much time goofing off, and I tell her this. This is followed by, "Welll, ok, how did I do on a scale of 1 to 20?" (10 or 12) Followed by 1 to 50, at which point I tell her each time she asks, she loses 5 points.

    She wants to jump, but after a year she still can't do jumping position because everything she does, she takes it to the extreme. Either over exaggerating her motions (i.e. going from a proper 2-point to reaching for the horses ears and laying on the horse's neck and sticking her butt in the air like a cat in heat) or deliberately flopping around like a ragdoll. (i.e. when posting her arms flap and she looks like a bobble-head.) I stop her when she does this and ask her if she would like to learn to jump. She of course says, "YESS!!!!!!". Well, I cannot let you jump until you show me you can control your movements 100% of the time on the horse. "oh....."

    She rides correctly for about 5 minutes after that.

    I have tried stopping her when she's being silly at the trot and just having her walk 'til she's bored and asks, "When can we trot?" "When you can focus on what you need to do." "I will!!" "Ok, I want you to do 2 laps of CORRECT 2 point at the walk to prove it. She lasts 1/2 a lap before she's looking at her toes, looking at the horse's tail, leaning on her hands and toes pointed down, looking at the horses in the pasture, everything except what she should be focusing on.

    She will do things I don't ask for, like suddenly do a circle. Why did you circle? "Oh I thought you said to!?" "Really? When?" "I dunno...."

    Ugh. Very frustrating.

    I also have a 10 year old boy. He spends the entire time he's grooming and tacking up saying, "Wow, this is hard." Every. 15. seconds.

    If the horse does anything (usually out of boredom)

    "OH! Why did Sparkle do that?" "Do what?"
    "Move her feet?" "She's just rebalancing herself."
    "Oh. That was scary!"

    "OH! What was that??" "Sparkle sneezed."
    "Why did she do that?" "Why do you sneeze?"
    "Oh, that was scary!"

    'Why did Sparkle turn?" "Because you pulled her rein and told her to."
    "I did not." "I saw you."
    "I didn't think I did?" "Well, you need to focus on what you're doing and not look at the other horses."
    "That was scary"

    He also asks the same types of questions that the 12 year old girl does.
    "Why is Sparkle's halter pink?" "Because her owner likes pink"
    "Why does she like pink?" "You can ask her when you see her."
    "I don't like pink. Can we use a different halter?" "Would you want to use someone else's hair brush?"
    "No....ick!!" 'Well, Sparkle doesn't want to use someone else's halter."

    So, what are your techniques for dealing with kids who don't focus?

  • #2
    duct tape
    Ulysses- the most perfect all-terrain vehicle ever. Hencho en Mexico

    Mr. Walter Bumblepants - Foster Dog Extraordinaire

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    • #3
      Originally posted by UlysMom View Post
      duct tape
      This thread can now close, answer is complete!
      www.headsupspecialriders.com

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      • #4
        these are all attention-getting devices. that said, i have no idea how to handle it.
        ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
        Today I will be happier than a bird with a french fry.

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        • #5
          Years ago when I was teaching a lot of beginners I had one that was like that.
          She was 8 I think. Long time ago.
          She did not really want to ride, she rode for a summer and finally gave it up.
          When she would ask crazy questions I would say that is not related to your riding, and she would stop. finally after a few months she had just been getting a bit better at posting she informed me that riding was boring.
          She told her mom, and her mom called me a week later to tell me she no longer wanted to ride. LOL

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          • #6
            Might treat the first one the way you'd treat a horse. At twelve and having been in lessons with you, she presumably knows what's expected. If she takes a long time to tack up because she's playing attention games, then she doesn't get to ride as long. If she takes an entire lesson to tack up, then she doesn't get to ride at all and she gets no reinforcement from you.

            If she plays around while on horseback, then she only gets to walk. Heck, maybe take her reins away and put her on the longe until she can focus on directing her horse properly.

            But basically, the same as working with a horse, set the boundaries and keep 'em firm.

            For the boy, I might just ask him, "why don't you tell me?"
            The Trials and Jubilations of a Twenty-Something Re-rider
            Happy owner of Kieran the mostly-white-very-large-not-pony.

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            • #7
              I had a kid I babysat like that. If a lion and a bear got in a fight would the lion win the bear? (Win meant beat, I guess). Ad infinitum.

              I finally quit.

              Now. Try lunge lessons. Take stirrups away, take reins away, make the little attention grubbers work. You may lose them as clients but would you rather lose them or your mind?
              Courageous Weenie Eventer Wannabe
              Incredible Invisible

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              • #8
                12 yo sounds like she might have ADHD tendencies (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) -- do you think that's a possibility or something you could check out with the parents tactfully? Regardless, maybe you could discuss with the mom/parent strategies to keep her better focused proactively, rather than reacting after the fact == esp. since the mom has been receptive enough to your feedback in the past to have the child apologize (she sounds approachable and caring about her daughter's behavior). Maybe you could lay out a plan for each lesson on the front end, really specifically, as in much more specific than you normally would, so the child knows what is coming up ("We've got 5 minutes (or whatever) to tack up. Then we'll start with 3 laps of walk, then extended walk across the diagonal, then we'll trot for two laps each direction, then we'll ... etc.") Not as a memory quiz, and you'll always remind her what's coming up, but as in giving her a sense of what she is working toward at absolutely every single moment. Maybe also try changing the rein a lot, serpentines off the rail, etc. etc. (could all be done at a walk if nec) so that she isn't just circling the perimeter. Different school figures and patterns all the time might keep her more engaged.

                Basically just plan ahead and try to keep her engaged at every moment so the silly questions don't have a chance to arise. Ignore and be as noncommital as you can when she says or does silly things (as you have been doing), and praise the heck out of more age-appropriate behavior -- and keep her busy and thinking all the time.
                If thou hast a sorrow, tell it not to the arrow, tell it to thy saddlebow, and ride on, singing. -- King Alfred the Great

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                • #9
                  Sounds like me as a kid (I was ADD). Right or wrong, I asked silly questions to keep my mind going or my mind off being nervous while riding. It helped when my teachers would respond to my questions with questions related to the horse right now, questions that made me use my brain, then bumped me back into whatever the task at hand was. As in, "Wait, I have a question for you. Why is Sparkle looking outside the ring right now?" "Where should she be looking and how will you make that happen?" or even "What kind of bit is in her mouth?" "Why?" or even "Quick, name eight parts of the saddle you're sitting on." Don't let her veer off the answer. Then say "okay, now back to focusing on your position." After the class, you might even give her the name of a horsemanship book or two to read and tell her you'll ask her questions about it at her upcoming lessons. If she's going to ask questions, at least they can be directed and end up being learning experiences and not silly fluff. Good luck. It's hard for you as a teacher, but I'm glad that my teachers stuck with me during those goofy times.

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                  • #10
                    Maybe I'm rude? But I pretty much ignore, or barely acknowledge ("No idea"/ "Mmmm"/"Who knows") blatantly silly questions. Not 'stupid questions' (embarrassingly simple, but genuine), but the random attention-seeking kind you describe. The key is, immediately redirect the conversation: "No idea. Now, remember to ...".

                    I also straight-up (very occasionally) tell kids "Don't be silly" or "Right, that's enough" in a direct tone of voice, but try to follow that up with something engaging and positive to get them on a more productive track.

                    Of course, I have no idea about your teaching, and this is a random idea rather than a critique, but perhaps check that the lessons are busy and challenging enough? One of my students has ADHD, and there is a fine line between 'not enough' and 'too much', but if I can stay in the sweet spot it really helps her focus. It is hard work keeping beginner lessons interesting, but I've been seeking out and inventing all sorts of games and activities (obstacles courses, different layouts of trotting poles) so that they are doing something 'new' each time when really they are just practising basic skills. I also use conditional activities then provide feedback on how they are doing - "When you can [get the correct diagonal every time/etc], then we can advance to doing xyz" to start with, then "Trot on at C - remember that we can't [x] until you can get your diagonals, so remember to think about that as soon as you are trotting". Or whatever.

                    To me, the boy just sounds like he lacks confidence. I play little games and have as much fun/laughter as I can with those kids so that they get wrapped up in what they are doing and forget to be worried about everything.

                    It is pretty frustrating though. Good luck.

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                    • #11
                      I agree that the girl sounds like she is ADHD. I am and my son is also. I suspect you will have to redirect her attention somehow, there is a lot of info online and in books. even if she is not ADHD, these hints will help.

                      I will say, as an adult, taking lessons from a trainer I respected and admired I would hyperfocus. He could see it happen.

                      I wonder if a chart that detailed tasks she needs to do to ride would help? Like tack up quickly and correctly in x amount of minutes, warm up quietly and gently, etc
                      do quick things in the lesson, trot skipping two posts, drop 1 strrup and trot stop at my say, stop!
                      these are the sort of things to keep her attention on you.
                      go around obsticales, practice turns,


                      THEN at the end of the lesson fill in with checks all the things she did. find something she wants to work towards, horsey-wise, jumping? break that goal down too,
                      trotting poles can be fun, and riding between jump standards without the poles can also work.
                      and help her earn her goal!
                      can't jump if you don't pay attention!

                      good luck!
                      Rita

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                      • #12
                        My trainer had a kid that sounded like this recently -- just a constant stream of questions and finally he told her she had a limit of 3 questions per lesson. And stuck to it, so she really had to decide whether it was an important question to ask or not. Seemed to work for him. Kid still drove me nuts out in the barn area, but that's what my ipod is for. Trainers can't do that!

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by analise View Post
                          Might treat the first one the way you'd treat a horse. At twelve and having been in lessons with you, she presumably knows what's expected. If she takes a long time to tack up because she's playing attention games, then she doesn't get to ride as long. If she takes an entire lesson to tack up, then she doesn't get to ride at all and she gets no reinforcement from you.

                          If she plays around while on horseback, then she only gets to walk. Heck, maybe take her reins away and put her on the longe until she can focus on directing her horse properly.

                          But basically, the same as working with a horse, set the boundaries and keep 'em firm.

                          For the boy, I might just ask him, "why don't you tell me?"
                          That is exactly what I did with one that dawdled grooming every lesson,
                          I told her she was eating up her riding time, Her mom got her there a half hour early everytime after that. and the student became an efficient groomer.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Maybe I'm rude? But I pretty much ignore, or barely acknowledge ("No idea"/ "Mmmm"/"Who knows") blatantly silly questions. Not 'stupid questions' (embarrassingly simple, but genuine), but the random attention-seeking kind you describe. The key is, immediately redirect the conversation: "No idea. Now, remember to ...".
                            Yep. Immediately redirect.

                            I give answers too sometimes if I feel feisty - Sparkle's favorite color is blue. Why? Because she likes it, ok, so let's see a posting trot now...

                            Those kids don't sound unusual to me at all. Not sure it's ADHD, so much as just...kids...

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                            • #15
                              ugh... "fun to be dumb."

                              I would not be able to tolerate that. I think I'd just straight up say to her- "Listen, I am your riding teacher and I'm not twelve- you can act goofy with your girlfriends, but don't waste my time playing these silly games, I expect you to act like a young lady who really cares about the specialized lesson that your mother drove you all the way here to recieve. You have 167 other hours in the week you can good off, but this hour is costing your parents $XX and I am not a babysitter hired to coddle you- I am your RIDING teacher.

                              Thinking back on my lessons at 12 and how seriously I took them I'm simply horrified at this girl's behavior.

                              Comment

                              • Original Poster

                                #16
                                Thank you for all of your replies. I am glad I'm not alone in thinking her behaviour is attention-seeking. Especially during tack-up time. She has occasionally commented at the end of a lesson that, "We're done??" "Yes, you spent 30 minutes of your lesson time tacking up." If I have to supervise a student during tack up time, it is part of their lesson. Since she cannot *consistently* get it right, or should I say chooses not to get it right, her tack up time is part of the lesson. Sometimes she is dropped off early (5-10 min) and I will tell her to go ahead and catch her horse while I finish up the lesson before hers.

                                The halters are labeled with the horse's names and each horse has a different color... and we are only talking 5 halters, not 20. She will bring each and every halter out one at a time.
                                "Is this Sparkle's halter?"
                                "Is it pink?"
                                "No...."
                                "Then it's not Sparkles halter. Hers is pink."
                                Then she comes out with the teal halter. "Is this it?" Lather, rinse, repeat.
                                Needless to say, she doesn't usually have her horse even caught by the time I'm done with the lesson.

                                When she is riding and asks a question (usually right after I've given her an instruction), I do redirect often, saying, "Aren't you supposed to be doing (this)?" whatever my last instructon to her was.

                                I also do lots of courses and pattern work. I always walk her through the pattern at the walk first, and then when I ask her to do it at the trot, I give her step-by-step instructions as she goes and she STILL gets it wrong. Leaving things out even though I've just given the command to do something. Or adding things on her own saying either "We did it last time" "Uh, no we didn't" or "You told me to!" "Uh, no I didn't". It took her FIVE times to get through a very simple course: Pick up your trot at C, come down through the trotting poles in jumping position along the rail at B. Go through the end of the ring by A then zig zag through the 4 cones between the corner and E. At
                                E, cross the ring towards B and turn left at B. Continue to C and circle at C (There are poles on the ground that form a circle to help students figure out exactly what a circle is on horseback). Come back down through the cones and come back up the trotting poles towards C.

                                She will "forget" to go into jumping position over the poles, then cut the corner and miss the first cone, go around the next and skip the last 2. She crosses the ring and turns right instead of left, so she has to reverse. She gets to the circle and does 1/2 the circle inside the poles and 1/2 outside (I've had this exercise up for months; and everyone knows to go around the outside of the poles), completely skips all the cones coming back down the ring and then does an exaggerated jumping position over the last poles. After completing the trotting poles I tell her to look towards H and trot to H to change direction then walk.She goes and trots another circle at C.

                                I have also had her do the drop one stirrup for 1/2 a lap then pick it up again. She hates that exercise because I make her keep posting while she's missing a stirrup. When I have her do one-handed exercises, she slacks. She flaps her arm like a bird. No-stirrup work on the longe is torture for the ponies, but I do it anyways.

                                Did I mention she's the only student I've ever had fall off at the halt because she wasn't paying attention? Yes, doing an around-the-world, she thought she was slick and didn't focus on her balance and fell right off on her butt. I saw it coming, too. My comment once she was ok was, "Wow, you're the first kid I've ever had fall off at the HALT. Now, do you want to do it properly this time??"

                                I've taught a lot of kids and they've all been dedicated and tried really hard. This girl just doesn't. The boy at least tries; he just talks too much. She drives me nuts.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  You know what?

                                  I don't think you're the right instructor for this child.

                                  I understand you want to have a serious program, and that's a good thing.

                                  However, this kid doesn't fit in. She'd fit in at any number of barns geared toward children. The behavior may not be attention seeking. It may be. Not really your place to diagnose.

                                  For that age, that is not a simple course.

                                  And honestly? It's the mark of a poor teacher to blame the student. You're not redirecting, you're asking her to remember, which sounds like it might be a problem for her.

                                  Redirection is without judgement. It's annoyance free. It's a simple "ok, now lets try that again, but with the two point here". It's, let's repeat that until we get this right.

                                  Maybe she's color blind, dysgraphic, ADHD, who knows.

                                  Sorry, but you just don't like this kid, and she deserves an instructor who likes her.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    so maybe it's just not a good fit. You don't have to diagnose and cater to demands of a client who, for whatever reason, is not going along with the program. A good instructor sets limits. If this kid exceeds yours, you should terminate. That's better for you and for her. Talk with kid and parent and say: I know you are capable of X. Yet in the past few weeks, I've seen Y. If there are reasons why you are no longer capable of X, I need to know so we can adjust your program or work together to identify more appropriate lesson arrangements should you wish to continue riding.

                                    Or, you know, something to that effect.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by stonzthrow View Post

                                      The halters are labeled with the horse's names and each horse has a different color... and we are only talking 5 halters, not 20. She will bring each and every halter out one at a time.
                                      "Is this Sparkle's halter?"
                                      "Is it pink?"
                                      "No...."
                                      "Then it's not Sparkles halter. Hers is pink."
                                      Then she comes out with the teal halter. "Is this it?" Lather, rinse, repeat.

                                      She will "forget" to go into jumping position over the poles, then cut the corner and miss the first cone, go around the next and skip the last 2. She crosses the ring and turns right instead of left, so she has to reverse. She gets to the circle and does 1/2 the circle inside the poles and 1/2 outside (I've had this exercise up for months; and everyone knows to go around the outside of the poles), completely skips all the cones coming back down the ring and then does an exaggerated jumping position over the last poles. After completing the trotting poles I tell her to look towards H and trot to H to change direction then walk.She goes and trots another circle at C.
                                      This does not sound like attention seeking to me. Possibly some sort of processing disorder, possibly following auditory instructions, or something else is going on.

                                      I agree with OneGrayPony that if it bothers you that much you shouldn't be teaching her.

                                      Either suggest another barn/instructor or accept this is who the girl is and tailor the lessons to her needs. It is ok to say that it just isn't a good match for your program.

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        I don't teach riding, but i've taught violin for 10 years and I have had a couple of chatty kiddos. For one, it was nerves, for the other, it was a device to get out of work (i.e. avoid trying hard playing the violin.) Sounds like your 12-year-old backwards saddle girl is in the latter camp, and your little boy might be a nervous one. I have no patience for kids who try to distract me or get attention by talking silly talk. I'm a mean teacher and will answer in the most concise way possible and then make them play scales. For the nervous ones, it helps to explain and reassure a lot.

                                        My riding instructor makes her kids get off the horse and run laps around the arena when their minds wander. They get a warning or two and then if they repeat the behavior, it's time to run. It's an amazingly effective strategy. After the first time or two, they know she means business! And she's beloved by all her young students. Kids are like horses--they test the boundaries. They're happiest when they know where the boundaries are. And like working with horses, if you make the right thing (i.e. riding correctly, tacking correctly) the easiest thing, they're likely to respond positively.

                                        Good luck!

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