Do your kids ever ignore you or not listen to you? Do you find yourself repeating the same thing over and over? Kids don’t listen. Or at least that’s how it feels.
But what if I told you that kids do listen. In fact, they are sponges absorbing way more than we sometimes want. They hear us (at least most of the time). The struggle is that they choose to ignore what we are asking of them. We can’t force someone to listen.
Therefore, the problem isn’t specifically that kids don’t listen. The problem is kids don’t do as they are told, or obey us. And I don’t blame them.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t like being bossed around. I definitely don’t like being told what to do or when I should do it. Nor do I like being interrupted when I’m in the middle of a good show, or reading a post or just doing my own thing. And I don’t particularly like to stop everything immediately for someone else. Do you?
Re-framing your perspective
When we change our perspective from “my kid won’t listen” to “my kid is choosing not to do what I ask” we can approach the situation in a more productive manner (or be less frustrated by it.)
Instead of repeating yourself over and over to the point of frustration and anger, try these steps instead:
1. Kindly get their attention
- If they are focused on play or another task, join them. Enter their world for a moment and be present with them. Acknowledge what they are engaged in. Connect with them.
- If they are in another room, go to them. (Yes, this can be frustrating but if you’ve already called for them and they did not respond, go to them instead.)
- Get down on their level.
- Gently place a hand on their shoulder or knee.
2. Focus on what you’re saying
Make what you want your child to hear meaningful. Avoid starting a conversation with no or stop. Doing so will automatically shut-down your conversation. It will not be productive and your child will instantly become defensive. Save “no” and “stop” for emergency, safety situations only. Instead:
|Try to:||Instead of:|
|offer choices. “I see you want to walk by yourself and we are in a parking lot. Do you want to hold my hand or do you need me to carry you?”||“Stop and hold my hand!”|
|set a limit. “You’re angry and I won’t let you hit your sister“||“Knock it off. stop fighting with your sister.”|
|offer a transition time. “It looks like we have five more minutes to play together“||“It’s time for bed, now!”|
|negotiate. “How many minutes do you think you should get to play on your tablet?”||“You get 30 minutes, that’s it!”|
|be specific. “I need to you pick up the clothes on your floor and put them in this basket”||“Clean your room.”|
3. Focus on how you say it
Do you sound like a dictator? Are you shouting demands or asking for cooperation?
- Talk kindly and calmly
- Be polite
- Model what you want to see or how you want to be treated
4. Only say it ONE time!
If you feel your child is struggling to follow through or hear you, repeat the steps above, but don’t repeat yourself. Find a different, simpler way to say it.
We can’t (and won’t) always do this perfectly, and that’s okay! The goal is to practice expressing ourselves in different ways. What can you do this week to make a change in how your kids “listen” to you?
Practice makes progress
Remember, you’re not striving for perfection. But in order to make change, you must practice. If you find yourself wanting to foster more cooperation in your home but are struggling with implementing these different skills, you’re not alone. Learn more about how parent coaching can help with that next step.