What to do when your kids don’t listen

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Have you ever asked your child to do something, by being calm and rational, but all you get is radio silence. Then you give them the benefit of the doubt and I think that they've not heard you. So, you ask again in the same fashion but now there's a little firmness to your voice and again nothing. You'll do this a few times....then it happens the steam starts coming out through your ears and your angry. In that moment of defeat, you're left screaming the same demands you had just requested so calmly only minutes ago, and everyone is left disheartened.

I understand this, I've spoken with many parents over the years, and I found that children 'not listening' is the most common frustration amongst parents.

As a parent the first thing you need to do is to figure out, WHY are they not listening. If you address this issue at its roots, it can prevent bigger issues such as tantrums, defiance, and backtalk.

Children of all ages, toddlers through to teens, have a hard-wired need for power. So, when they do not have opportunities to exert their power in positive ways, such as choosing what clothes to wear, deciding what to eat, picking what game to play etc, they will exert their power in negative ways. By choosing NOT to listen, children can assert their power. This behaviour is simply a way children express their need for more control and decision-making in their lives.

When I talk to parents, they tend to group a myriad of issues under the term of 'not listening'. Establish first if their tired, hungry, or not feeling well? Or is there some deeper control issue causing them to disconnect, such as, chores; homework; bedtime or sibling frustrations.
Do not lump every communication shutdown under the "not listening" umbrella. Dig in and discover what is really going on, then you can make an action plan to specifically address that problem.

So where do you start, we'll firstly be sure you've ruled out any potential medical condition that could be affecting your child's hearing or comprehension. If this is not the case, then try out, a few or at least one of the below strategies.

1. Get on their level - When you want to get your child's attention, you will need to have eye contact, which means that you may need step away from what you are doing and kneel down to their level. Reason - you are not talking down to them or shouting orders from another room. Result - your able to verify if they can see and hear you and you are strengthening the communication as well.

2. Do away with Don't - Negative commands such as "don't" and "no" require kids to double process. They ask themselves two questions: What do they NOT want me to do? What do they want me to do instead? Reason That is confusing and contradictory. For example, if you say, "Don't touch your brother," a child has to stop the current behaviour AND determine the appropriate alternative behaviour-If I can't touch him, does that mean I can't hug him? Can we play tag? Can I give him a high five? Can I help him put on his jacket or tie his shoes if dad asks? Result - Instead, tell them what to do. Instead of "Don't touch your brother" say "Your brother doesn't want to be touched right now, so please keep your hands folded while we're in the bus". Or "Don't leave your toys all over the floor," try "Please put your toys in the toy bin."

3. Say Yes more often - When you get 10,000 requests per day from your child, your knee jerk reaction is "No", "Nope". Reason - But when "No" is your go to answer, it is no wonder your child stops listening to your requests. Look for reasons to say "Yes" more often. Instead of "No we can't go to the park," try "The park sounds awesome! Should we go Friday after school or Saturday morning?" Instead of "No, you can't have ice cream" try "Ice cream is delicious! Would you like to have it for dessert on Saturday or Sunday evening?" Result - Your "yes" answers will begin to surprise and delight your child and have them paying more attention when you ask for something.

*4. Shorten your speech - *Parents, tend to turn a five-second answer into a five-minutes of rambling. Reason - There is a saying in the sales industry, "never sell with blah-blah what you can sell with blah." It makes sense in parenting too. Result - When trying to get your kid's attention, be as concise as possible and they will not even have time to tune you out.

5. Say thank you in advance - Help your kids make an appropriate choice by taking this leap of faith. Reason - Your pre-emptive "Thank you for hanging up your towel after your shower," will encourage your kids toward good behaviour much more than, "I better not see your towel on the floor again!" Result - Children, will usually live up to our expectations if we manage them in a positive way. Letting them know, in advance, that you trust them to do the right thing will cultivate open communication lines and increase the likelihood the task will get completed.

These are some of the things I've spoken to my clients about and it seems to work in 95% of the time. Also these parents worked on managing their awareness, concentration and willpower, which is key to any change of habit and controlling anger.