What To Do When Kids Don’t listen

Photography:Kimberley Rich Photography

By Fiona Ng

Do you ever have those days where no matter what you do or say your children just DON’T listen?

Maybe they never listen and this is a daily occurrence? 

You approach them in your nicest parent voice and ask them to do something. 

They ignore you. 

So you calmly ask again. 

They ignore you. 

So now through gritted teeth you start to lose it a little bit. You start to feel disrespected and now it’s game over for everyone.  

Perhaps at this point you’re shouting and then they suddenly listen. So you think shouting is the only way to communicate to them, when really this isn’t communicating effectively at all and it’s not the way deep down that we want to raise our children. 

Imagine a household where there’s no shouting, there’s more co-operation than power struggles and there’s really effective communication. 

Trust me – it’s possible! 

I want to share a few ways which can help you: 

1. Use positive commands 

When you want your child to change their behaviour, always say what you want in the positive.  

When talking to children refrain from statements that start negatively such as, “Don’t do that“, “Stop it” or “No!“. When a child with a young developing brain hears such statements they don’t often hear the full sentence. For example, you may say, “Don’t touch that fragile ornament,” and they may only hear, “Touch the fragile ornament”. Below I’ve listed some ways of communicating what you DO want your children to do. Over time this becomes a habit and you will really be conscious when you do default to using “don’t, stop, no” statements. 

“DON’T run near the road” becomes “Move away from the side of the road please”  

“STOP running” becomes “Can you walk slowly back to the car” 

“STOP touching everything, you’re going to break the ornaments!” becomes “Please can you watch where you are putting your hands as there are fragile ornaments” 

“DON’T be so loud!” becomes ” Please talk quietly/Use your whisper voice near your baby sister as she is sleeping” 

Start becoming aware of your dialogues with your children.

Now you have read this, I promise you’re going to notice when you do default to your old pattern of communicating. Also, when you look at these statements written down, you can sense how they would make someone FEEL and ask yourself how they would make you feel? 

If someone said to me, “Don’t be so loud!“, I would feel a lot more uptight and embarrassed than if someone said to me, “Please talk quietly as the baby is sleeping“.

If you wouldn’t like to be spoken to a certain way, your child won’t either. 

2. Give choices

Parents giving children choices helps them develop a sense of autonomy. It really empowers children and those who are ‘strong willed’ and independent definitely appreciate being given choices, as opposed to being told what to do. Not only that, but it helps children feel in control and be able to form their own decisions. Making good choices is a skill that children will use for the rest of their lives.

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