They Don't Listen to Me!
By Elizabeth Pantley
Author of Perfect Parenting and Kid Cooperation
Question: My kid doesn't listen to me! I have to repeat myself over and over. Even then he doesn't do what I've asked. When I remind him, he looks at me with that befuddled look that says, "Huh? You were talking to ME?" How do I get him to listen to me?
Think about it: Sounds like your child has what is commonly known as "Selective Hearing." (In other words, you can shout at him to take out the trash, and it's as if he has cotton in his ears, but if you whisper that you'll take him out for ice cream, his hearing becomes incredibly sharp!) The good news is that this malady is easily cured when you use the following solutions.
Eyeball-to-Eyeball: When you make a request, be certain you have your child's attention by touching his arm or hand, and making eye contact. Make a clear, simple statement. As an example, do not call from three rooms away, "Time to go!" A better choice is to go to your child, look him eyeball to eyeball and make a very specific request, "Fester, please put on your shoes and coat and get in the car."
Please repeat it: If your child doesn't respond to your request, ask that he repeat back to you what you said, "Fester, what is it I want you to do?" Once the child has repeated your request, you know that he's heard you, (and he knows that you know that he heard you) and he's more likely to follow through.
Are you training them? Make sure you are not encouraging the behavior by nagging or making requests that you don't follow through on. If you typically repeat yourself three or four or twelve times before you take action, your child will learn that he can ignore you the first few times, because all he'll suffer is having to listen to the drone of your voice.
Don't lecture: Keep your requests brief and to the point. As an example, say you want your child to get ready for bed. Don't launch into a ten-minute lecture on the value of sleep, the importance of getting up on time, the fact that Tuesday is a school night, and why you are sick-and-tired-of-going-through-this-every-night, etc. Limit yourself to a few important words, such as, "9:00. Bedtime."
Act: Use action instead of words. Instead of complaining about the pile of dirty socks in the family room, simply pick them up and hand them to your child. Kids are remarkably perceptive when handed a wad of dirty laundry. Instead of calling your child to you over and over and over, go to him, take him by the hand, look him in the eye, and say, "When I call you I expect you to come."
Important Note: Have a doctor check your child's hearing to be sure there is not a physical problem preventing your child from hearing to you.
(Excerpted with permission by NTC/Contemporary Publishing Group Inc. from Perfect Parenting, The Dictionary of 1,000 Parenting Tips by Elizabeth Pantley, copyright 1999)
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