“My child just doesn’t listen!!” Complain parents who consult with me.
“Of course children DON’T listen!!” I say
They don’t listen – simply because they SHOULDN’T listen.
If they listened to us - we would fill their lives with
“mustn’t” “don’t” “shouldn’t” and “can’t”.
We would undermine their courage and confidence and ensure that they never attempted anything that seemed impossible.
But nature wants children to achieve the impossible. Children are born believing that they are unstoppable. They are equipped to block our instructions and disregard our prophecies of doom.
Because they are armed with the ability to ignore us – children are able to march on and change the world.
Children are programmed to rebel.
When children don’t listen – they are not trying to insult us and purposely make our lives difficult. It is not personal.
Our job as parents is – not to wipe out the rebellion – but to tame the rebellion so that it is productive and not disruptive.
And we can make this happen. We can make our children listen to us – if we understand why they don’t listen.
Here is why children don’t listen
We don’t show our children how to listen – We ignore our children when they speak to us
Listening is learned behaviour. Children learn how to listen by watching their parents.
The clichéd “Don’t worry that your children are not listening to you – worry that they are watching you” Holds true here as well
We must be good role models and listen to our children when they talk.
If you ignore your child when he says something – he will ignore you when you instruct
We don’t give them enough attention – We pay attention only when they don’t listen
A helpless child can only resort to passive aggression to protest against what he doesn’t want or doesn’t like. And the easiest way to do that is to stop listening
Show your child that he is valued and important by respecting his opinion and wishes at certain times. Rest assured that he will respect your opinion and wishes at other times
We instruct children without ensuring that we have their attention – We don’t respect their work.
We adults are busy – as parents we have so much to do.
But are children free? No. They are busy too.
What they are busy with may seem unimportant and inconsequential to us adults – but it is important to them.
They are constantly working towards growing up and are engrossed and preoccupied.
Before we speak – we must connect with them by getting down to their level and looking into their eyes. Only then can we hope to be listened to
We use the wrong tone – We either drone on or shout
Children decide whether to listen or not from the way parents speak, and their tone.
When parents constantly drone on with instructions – the monotone prompts children to tune them out. It works best to not lecture, preach, or instruct them forever.
Children have short attention spans. Short crisp sentences that state exactly what they are expected to do – work best.
Shouting doesn’t help either. Anger is a threat to the child and he immediately shuts his brain down and begins to think of ways to escape instead of listening.
We use the wrong words
When we begin with an accusatory word like “You…….” a threatening word like “If…….” or a challenging word like “Why…….” Children feel threatened and go on the defensive.
The anger and fear generated by these words cause children to go into non-cooperation.
Think – before you speak
We are repetitive and predictable
When children don’t listen to us – we repeat our instructions over and over until they are executed.
Children are quick to realise that they will have multiple opportunities to do what they are asked. They know that their parents will ask them several times before they explode with anger
As smart as they are - they begin to wait for the explosion. It becomes their cue to listen.
They begin to listen for the angry voice. They ignore everything before that.
And this becomes a habit.
Don’t become a nag. Say it once. And then allow children to experience the consequences of doing or not doing something.
When talking to children remember that they were born to be in charge. Just like you.
Remember that they don’t like being told what to do. Just like you.