“My Kids Aren’t Listening!” Changing Your Approach Can Change Everything

It is so frustrating to talk and talk and the toys are still on the floor, the shoes are still in the living room and the bedroom could probably be declared a disaster area.  There are times when every parent wonders if we are speaking at a pitch only dogs can hear.  When repeating ourselves seems useless, we try more often and louder.  At some point, we have to admit that we have become background noise.  It’s true.  No one is listening anymore.  The only thing left to do is to consider our approach.  What can you do differently?
  • Try conversing instead of barking.  At a time when your child is most receptive – for some it is in the morning and for others just before bed – have a calm discussion.   Sit at eye level with your child and smile.  Explain that you need to figure out together when tasks can be completed.
  • Be empathetic.  We need to let our children know that we understand that cleaning up so we can find the floor isn’t the most fun activity in the world.  Share that you didn’t enjoy the task at hand when you were their age.  Let them know that you understand their point of view.  By demonstrating empathy, we teach them to be empathetic to others.
  • Explain the necessity of the task and the reason that your child is being asked to complete it.  Acknowledge that while it isn’t fun, it’s necessary and give a few reasons.  It is, for example, important to put toys away because they can get broken or someone can get hurt.  Give your children a larger world view by explaining that if we all left everything everywhere, it would be such a mess.  Let your child know that we all have to do our share for the family. We take for granted that our children understand that but, often and especially when they are in the preschool and elementary school years, they see the world from only their point of view.
  • Tell your child that you are not doing it for them and then don’t do it.   My mother and uncle still tell a story about my grandmother going on strike. They were so surprised at this event that it became one of their most vivid long term memories.  Now, they laugh about it.  They recall the day by saying, “Remember when Mom went nuts and went on strike?” So many years later, they even remember that she made a picket sign.  The notion that their mother wouldn’t just do everything left an impression.  Her way of expressing it has stayed with them.   I bet they don’t remember every time she asked, nagged or got angry but they remember the strike.
  • Decide together when the task can be completed.  Make your child part of a plan.  You may find that the plan needs to include the when and how of the situation as well as a positive motivation.  You don’t necessarily need to run to the store to buy something as a motivation.  You can offer to do something special together once the task is done.  You can offer more time watching TV or playing games.  Decide all of the particulars as a game plan rather than an annoying chore.
  • Above all else, mind your tone of voice.  We don’t like when our children nag, whine, beg or yell.  They don’t respond well to negative tones of voice either.  A frustrated adult should be able to take a breath and speak quietly & calmly.  Sometimes, the best thing you can say is nothing.  Other times, the best way to say something is quietly and sincerely.

Have you found a strategy for getting your children to listen to your requests?  Please share your strategy with other blog readers by posting your comment below!

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  1. Having raised five children I can surely relate. I did scream but that did no good....I tried making it a game (whoever picks up first would get .....) but then I found a solution. All toys on floor not picked up would "disappear"....and they did (sent them over to grandmas house) but as their toy load got lower and lower, they finally put them away. Now I have the grandchildren doing it.....lol

    1. I do the same thing! Everything not picked up by the end of the day "disappears" by morning. Works like a charm!

  2. What a great idea, Agnes! Cindy, your helpful article needs to be read by all parents.

    1. Thank you! I hope you will share a link to it on social media.

  3. Tone of voice is everything! My kids know the lower my voice, the angrier I am.

    I discovered your blog through Parenting and Stuff Google group.

    1. Thanks for letting me know how you found my blog!


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