“You are not listening to me!”
“You are not paying attention to what I am saying!”
“How will you learn to do anything if you don’t listen to what I say?!”
Are these some of the things you say in frustration to your child every day? Have you tried everything from reprimanding your child to explaining patiently why it’s important for him to listen and, yet, failed to get anywhere?
Do not worry. We understand your despair. Let’s start by saying, you are not alone. Many parents face this problem regarding their child. Children, by nature, are curious and have short attention spans, so they tend to get easily distracted. So, first of all, you need to understand why your child doesn’t listen to you.
Some of the common reasons why your child gets distracted are:
- The task assigned is too difficult for him to be able to focus properly.
- There are too many distractions in the form of gadgets or toys around.
- Your child may be hungry or lack important nutrients in her diet that prevents her from focussing.
- He may be exhausted or needs more sleep.
- Your child may be seeking your attention.
- You may not be communicating clearly to your child.
So, if you’re facing situations wherein your child doesn’t listen to you, here are some ways to make sure she does:
- Get his attention first: If you want your child to listen to you, you have to make sure he has your full attention first. So, you can’t be shouting orders from another room. Go to him, bend or kneel down at his level, make sure he looks at you and then tell him what you want to. When you have his entire attention, and he yours, the communication will be more effective.
- Connect with her: If you connect with your child before you start telling her something, she’ll be more responsive to what you have to say. Observe what she’s doing and comment on it, before you start issuing instructions. Start with, “Can I say something?” and then tell her what you have to. This will establish two things – first, that you are involved in what she’s doing and second, that you respect her space and her time.
- Don’t repeat: Don’t keep saying one thing over and over again. Tell your child once and wait to see what he does. If he doesn’t respond in the desired way, go back to step one.
- Empathise with her: Your child may be doing something that is important to her. Just like you wouldn’t like to drop everything you are doing to follow someone else’s instructions, she also has priorities. So, try to see things from her point of view and respect her priorities. If you can, wait for five minutes till she finishes what she’s doing and then tell her what you need to.
- Get him to cooperate: If you see it from your child’s perspective, his days are all about taking orders. Whether at school or at home, he is told what to do, where to go, what to eat and when to do something. To get him to listen to you, try and give him a choice. This will make him feel that his thoughts and time matter too. So, ask him whether he would like to go to bed immediately or in ten minutes and then respect his decision.
- Keep calm: Yes, it can be infuriating and annoying to not have your child’s attention when you want to; but, losing patience will not help her or you. If you scream or scold her for not listening to you, it might just backfire and make her more stubborn.
- Explain your reasons behind instructions: If you explain why you are asking your child to do something, there is a better chance that he will do what you ask him to do.
- Learn to pay attention: If you want your child to listen, you yourself have to listen to her and look at her when she’s saying something to you. You must lead by example.
- Give fair warning: If your child continues to ignore you, give him a warning about the consequences. However, do not make empty threats or do not say something that you can’t or shouldn’t do. So, taking away toys or making him stand in a corner will work more than telling him you’ll ‘throw him out of the house’ (which you can’t do) or ‘hit him’ (which you shouldn’t do).
- Appreciate good behaviour: If your child listens to you the first time and does what you say, acknowledge and appreciate her behaviour, and encourage her to behave in a similar manner in future. However, don’t reward her with something every time she listens to you. That’ll convey the wrong message that she needs to listen to you to get a reward.
Getting your child to listen and pay attention to everything you say can be, at times, exasperating. However, he will learn to listen to you, if you are patient with him, are precise in your communication with him, and follow these tips every day.
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