My children won’t listen! – Here are 8 ways to get them to hear you
A parenting complaint I hear time and again in my line of work is that “my kids just won’t listen!”
So what should you do when you have tried explaining, reasoning, reminding, distracting, ignoring, and even punishing, shaming or bribing them? None of this works? Is your child just a rotten egg or one that is born to defy your instructions? Is there really no hope for him/her?
Do not fret. Through my many years of interacting and coaching children, I have developed a list of To-Dos that hopefully will help mitigate your problems at hand with your children. It all begins with you as a parent. Let your guard down and do not act as the adult when you read on. Treat your child as you would your best friend – furthermore, he/she is your little flesh and blood. I hope this would start getting you thinking about why your child isn’t listening and how you can restore peace & harmony in your own home.
1. Listen to Them
If you want your child to listen to you then you first need to start listening to them. By this I mean really listening, both to their verbal and non-verbal language. Are they not themselves today? Are they unhappy, frustrated, and irritated with something?
Don’t put them in situations that they can’t handle just because you feel they ‘should’ - if they struggle in big groups then avoid those, if they don’t like strangers talking to them then respond for them. We wouldn’t force a friend to a concert if they hated loud noise or crowds, so why do it to our children?
Many parents have the habit of answering to a child’s questions with their own perspective of things. Sometimes, this is not healthy as they are seeking for an opinion on whether something is right or suitable for them, and I say this again, it is from the perspective of the child and not from you as a parent – listen and consider this from the point of view of your child and see if it is suitable for him/her. Do not place your own judgments upon something be first, considering this from the child’s point of view.
2. Be Reliable
Do you always mean what you say to your child? Do you promise or make a deal with your child and stick to it? ‘I will take you to Universal Studios if you study hard for your exams’, ‘I will buy you a new bicycle if you score well for your Maths paper’, ‘You can go out with your classmates next weekend’ – sounds familiar? These might seem like innocent promises that we really mean at that time but end up breaking because we might be too busy with our work or for the simple reason that our minds are in someplace else and we have conveniently ‘forgotten about it’.
However, to a child, breaking these promises slowly and surely sucks out the trust they have for you as a parent and eventually they will just totally stop listening to you.
3. Be Honest
“Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters”
― Albert Einstein
Are you someone who is always honest and truthful around your children? Do you intentionally tell them ‘white lies’ to appease them like, ‘We will come back next Saturday to buy you the Playstation’, ‘I do not have money with me now’, ‘Don’t tell your MeiMei I bought you the PSP’,’Tell the person I am not at home’?
These ‘white lies’ build up and slowly but surely, your children would work out that their mummy or daddy are people who tell lies and have no integrity. Why then should they listen to someone who does not always tell the truth? Would you?
4. Be Accurate
Motivated by our fear that our kids will get hurt, we tell them all sorts of things and present them as fact just to get them to comply. ‘You will fall if you go up any higher’, ‘If you eat too many sweets, your teeth will fall out’, ‘McDonald’s is poisonous and it will give you tummy aches’, ‘If you do not study, you will become a road sweeper in future’, ‘Video games fry your brain’, ‘Smoking will kill you’.
When these ‘facts’ turn out to not be true, but just a matter of opinion, mummy and daddy will become a less sought after source of advice. This can be pretty dangerous when they then turn to peers for advice in their teenage years. By all means, share your views on certain things with your kids but, if you want them to continue listening to you, be wary of scaremongering and giving advice as ‘fact’ – state your case as your opinion and help them explore other people’s viewpoints and their own.
5. Be Playful
Playing with our kids, especially side-by-side activity is a great way to get kids talking. And, as we have already discussed, the best way to get our children to listen to us is to listen to them. Don’t expect them to join you in your world doing things you like, but join them in theirs. What do they love? Why? Get engrossed in their latest game, book, sport, that they love, in their space, and share it with them and watch the communication just flow.
6. Reduce the ‘No’s’ and Find the ‘Yes’s’
If someone said no to your requests numerous times a day how would you feel about that person? Would you feel like complying when they asked something of you? No, neither would I. If your child requests something that isn’t agreeable to you (for non-arbitrary reasons) then rather than providing an outright no — try and ‘find the yes’ and offer acceptable alternatives to both of you.
This shows you are really listening to them, and are trying to help them.
For example, if your child wants a toy and you can’t afford it, rather than say an outright no you could say, ‘Sure, let’s put it on the wish list and work out ways we can buy it’. Do you have anything you can sell or trade? What about a second-hand one? Let’s work out ways we can save up for it’.
Another example of this is if your child wanted to color on the walls, then an alternative to reprimand is to explain that this would damage the house and *you* like it nice, explore why they want to color on the walls, then suggest an acceptable alternative. We may find out that they would be just as just as happy to do chalk drawings in the yard, draw on the garage wall, on the fence, or in the kitchen on a large piece of butcher’s paper.
Showing them you are always on their side, trying to find ways to help them, will strengthen their trust in you and set you up as partners rather than adversaries.
7. ‘No’ is an acceptable answer
So many parents say to me ‘yeah, but sometimes I really do have to say no and when I do I need him to just listen’. This may be a ‘No!’ or ‘Stop!’ to serious issues such as hitting a sibling, swearing or screaming in public, or doing something seriously dangerous. Often these can be avoided by being fully present and mindful of the situations we put our child into, but not always.
When it does happen it is far more likely for our child to respond to a firm ‘no’ or ‘stop’ if they are few and far between, and we ourselves accept it when they say ‘no’ to us. Conventional parenting tells us it is rude and disrespectful for a child to say ‘no’ to a request from a parent, or any adult for that matter. However, isn’t it more disrespectful of adults to not accept a ‘no’ just because they are a child? The more we accept ‘no’ as an acceptable answer, the more likely our child is to respond to a ‘no’ from us, and to say ‘yes’ intrinsically rather than out of fear, duty or compliance.
8. Be informative.
If you follow all the above steps with your child, you will eventually find that providing them with information, feedback, and advice — rather than demands or orders — will result in them listening to you. However, don’t always expect them to comply with your request — just as you do with them, they may say no but suggest acceptable alternatives to you both.
These techniques will not produce a compliant child, and nor should you want them to, but it will help to produce a reasoning, thoughtful, free-thinking child that has a strong connection with his/her parents, which is something we should all be striving for.
Hope this information is useful for our stressful parents out there.
Do pass it on if you think this might be useful to other parents.
Chief Trainer @ Lexis Education Asia
My children won’t listen! – Here are 8 ways to get them to..
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