Why aren’t my kids listening? It’s a question that I get all the time. A parent asks a child to do something, come (for dinner, a bath, or homework) and the child continues playing. S/he doesn’t even acknowledge the request, as if the request was water sliding off a duck’s back.
Why is this happening?
There are many explanations for this and it’s important to try to identify which applies to your situation.
You Are the Parent
Some parents have a hard time wrapping themselves around the idea that their children must listen to them. To a certain extent, they believe that we are all equal, and really, why should a child listen to them? The child is an independent spirit and has needs and desires just like them.
Let’s get this straight. If (and it’s a big if) parents are committed to raising their children to be high functioning human beings who are disciplined and will eventually be contributing members of society, then it is imperative that they take their role as parents seriously.
If parents are truly committed to their child’s welfare, then they need to make sure that their kids are listening to them. Parents are the role models for authority in the world. There is not a single person who can function healthily in the world if they are not able to bow to authority, on some level.
No, this does not mean that their children will become automatons, or that their creativity will be squelched. It just simply means that children will be able to listen and follow rules when necessary, and can be sensitive to the needs of others outside of their own world constellation.
Until a parent is able to come to this understanding, s/he will have a very hard time getting her/his kids to listen.
Really Mean What You Say
Okay, so now you’ve accepted that you are the parent, the next step is to really mean what you say. When a child knows that you mean what you say and there is no wiggle room, s/he will listen and fulfill your request. That means if you don’t want your child to come right now, don’t ask him to come. So many parents hesitate and don’t follow through to make sure that their children listen and fulfill their requests.
If you ask your child to do something and he or she is not complying, don’t allow that to happen! Let’s say your child is playing with a toy and you ask him/her to do something and he/she is not listening. Go over to where he or she is playing; gently remove the toy and take his/her hand. Now you can guide him to do whatever you have asked (come to the dinner table, start getting ready for a bath) etc.
If the child has a pattern of not listening, this may take strong resolve on your part. At this point, he or she probably doesn’t believe that you really mean what you say or that you will follow through.
You have to show him/her otherwise.
It’s Going to Take Effort
This will take effort on your part. You will have to stop whatever you are doing, go to your child and make sure that s/he follows your request. No screaming, cajoling, or threats, just a strong stance letting your child know, that s/he may not ignore your request.
If an older child has already been conditioned to ignore your requests and has stopped listening, it will be more difficult to break the pattern. However this can be accomplished with perseverance.
This is more difficult with teenagers and you may need to initiate a private conversation. You may need to tell him or her that you have been at fault for allowing him/her to ignore your requests for so long, but for the adolescent’s own good you need to start making sure that they comply.
If your child is very oppositional, you may need to get the help of a professional.
Make Sure That Your Requests are Reasonable and Respectful
Just as you would want others to respect your needs, make sure that your requests are reasonable and said in a respectful way. If your child is doing homework or involved in a favorite activity, try to limit your requests or at least give a warning before you disturb them.
Let your child know beforehand when you might need him to do a certain chore, or to be ready to do something. For example, if you will need your child’s help during the time that he usually does homework, you might to say something like this:
“Honey, I know that you usually do homework after dinner. Is there a way that you could do homework right when you come home, or possibly a little later because I will need you to do this… tonight at this…time”
In this way there are no surprises and you have enlisted his/her cooperation.
Make Listening Easier with a Heads-Up
When a younger child is involved in a favorite activity, try to give a heads-up before you ask him to fulfill your request.
You can say,
“We will be having dinner in about five minutes, so start to wrap up whatever you are doing”
The child will understand what is expected of him and has been given a time frame to complete the activity. When you come back in five minutes, make sure that s/he complies.
While the above suggestions may take some time to implement, the effort involved is worth the results.
Your child will be happy and secure in the boundaries that you have set for him.
Children want to feel that the world around them has secure limits and that they know their place.
Your leadership will help him or her to do better in school and acclimate to life’s demands. When your child enters adolescence s/he will more likely trust the boundaries that you set for him now and beyond.
Stay the journey and you will be glad you did.