Thursday, May 19, 2011

Kids Who Don't Listen - Do You Have One?

I've noticed a disturbing pattern developing in our home lately and it seems to be escalating.   It's also one I need to break... quickly.  In one breath I'll tell one of my kids to either (1) do something or (2) not do something... and they just completely ignore me.  It's like I never uttered a word.  Does this sound familiar...

Myles/Charley (insert your child's name), dinner is ready - go wash your hands and come down to eat.  Nothing.... Did you hear me?  Dinner is ready, let's go!  Nothing... Myles/Charley, stop colouring now and come down for dinner!  Nothing... If you don't come down right now, then there's no TV and no dessert tonight!

Or how about...

Don't touch the papers on the kitchen table.  I turn around for a second and when I turn back, papers are scattered all ove the table.  I said don't touch, which part of "don't touch" did you not understand???  Only to have the same thing repeated with something else 5 minutes later.
You get the picture.  I have to say, repeating myself 100 times over is driving me crazy.  Of course my fustration is mounting and so when this now happens, I've begun snapping.  I don't want to be be snapping AND it doesn't appear that the snapping is helping anyway.  I've also tried the good old "If you're not going to listen, you're going for a time out" and "If you're not going to listen, I'm going to take away XYZ".  Nada.  I need a new tactic!  Or two or three.

So first off, I wanted to check how common this problem actually is.  Check out this tidbit I found:  "Most children don't listen much of the time. In fact, Sandra Rief, a noted educational specialist, reports research that suggests children only retain about 25% of what they hear as compared to 50% of what they see and hear. In parenting, as well as teaching, there is too much reliance on talking as the primary means of getting children to learn new behaviors or follow the rules."

I also found this very interesting piece on Ezine Articles about what we might be doing wrong:

1.  We talk too much. Loving parents want to do the best for their children so they feel if they tell them all the stories of how they struggled and how they know all the answers, the child will give up and do what we ask. This method of communication is lecture, advise, order and threaten.
2.  We talk too loud. We feel that if we raise our voice they will respond. Actually, it is the opposite. When you speak softly, they have to pay attention to what you are saying.
3.  Every conversation is a criticism. The parent feels the way to motivate is through blame, shame, name-calling, sarcasm or jokes in order to put the child down.
4.  We don't listen when they speak. Good communication in a family, workplace or world is built on mutual respect. That means we allow others to express their beliefs and feeling honestly, without fear of rejection.
5.  They have trained us to nag. Why should they pick up their jacket the first time you tell them if they know by experience that you will yell 6 times and then do it yourself?
OK, I see the point.  Perhaps I'm making a few of those mistakes.  When I review this list, I know that I hate being yelled at, interrupted and being nagged, so why wouldn't they?  I know I can definitely keep trying to talk more in the positive.  It's just that it comes more naturally to state what you don't like about the behaviour rather than turning it around and finding a positive way of saying it.  But if it works and it benefits my kids, it's well worth the effort. 

Here's another solution suggested by iVillage:

I suggest parents teach their kids to listen using the A, B, C and D's.
A. Ask in a no-kidding-around tone of voice
B. Be clear and specific
C. Communicate your request in six words or less
D. Don't make not listening an option

For instance, if you ask the kids to get ready for bed and they tune you out, say, "Bedtime. Please, turn the television off." Don't walk away and hope the kids will do as they're told. Stay with them until it's done. Turn off the television yourself if needed, and just thank the kids for listening. Don't yell, don't threaten the kids, just do it. Be creative. Getting ready for bed can be turned into a game, or you can give the kids motivation to cooperate by saying, "Go get ready for bed and choose the book you want me to read."
I will definitely be giving all of these tips a try.  Albert Einstein did say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result.  So I obviously have to make a change.  At the end of the day, all I really want is a peaceful home, and a peaceful home includes children who listen.  I'll let you know how it goes...


  1. These theories are all great, I only take on exception to them, it is easier to comment on and theorize before or after the fact, then when you are actually enduring the endless back and forth uncooperative kids provide us with.Top that with a long day at work and your own life issues and we are faced with limited amount of patience.

    I have tried many of the methods listed above and still feel completely at a loss with these buggers 90% of the time. I wish someone had a magic answer to make our kids listen to what we ask of them, after all it generally isn't something difficult or taxing that we are asking of them in the first place. But I don't think there is unfortunately.

    And my final comment would be the influence they have all day of seeing and hearing the other kids in their class or daycare class not listening either, seeing their peers get away with doing as they please. Giving them the wrong positive reinforcement that this behavior is acceptable.

    I am convinced this is the most frustrating part of parenting, feeling like a police officer on duty 24/7.....

  2. Thank you so much for your comment - I couldn't agree more! When you're in the moment, it's very difficult to control the frustration. Top that with the frequency with which it occurs... recipe for disaster! It requires the utmost patience to remain calm.

  3. Hey, are you living in my house???

    My 4yo have taken a serious turn for the worse on this in the last couple weeks (months?) Between that and demanding we do things (and crying when she doesn't get her way) I feel I am on my last nerve.

    I just mentioned to my husband this morning that it is clearly not working (I think we are doing all 5 above... ok not #5 as much...but we live in #1-#4) and we need to try something different, because we shape her behavior.

  4. I wish I had the answer... but I guess if I did, I wouldn't have written this blog post LOL! I must say, there are times when my 4 year old misses her nap and is beyond cranky. When she loses it she goes in her room and I let her cry. Usually a good 5 or so minutes and she forgets what it's all about. Then she just wants hugs. If you figure it out before I do (assuming I will), let me know!

  5. Hi~

    Found your blog by typing "working mommy burnout" in the search engine. Great to know I'm not the only one.

    I've gotten through the younger years of raging tantrums, and just as I took that sigh of relief that I finally figured it out, the teenager kicked in! Sorry to say, it's like reliving the 2-8 years right now.

    I've found myself asking is it the hormones that I know and have acknowledged having a physiological affect on her, or does she truly not care about anything but fashion, the latest gossip/drama, and social events to attend? Why does it take such extreme measures to get through to her? I get that there are moments we have to love our children enough to let them not like us, but really? The moments become hours, days, months, the terrible 2's, the teen years.....

    I know we all never said, "When I grow up I want to be a cranky, stressed out, ineffective feeling mom!"

    I truly don't think there are any easy answers. If there were we wouldn't be searching the WWW for them, and finding out that it's the same all over and not enough Nanny Jo's locally to confide in.

    The closest thought I came up with was...wishes are similar to prayers. They envoke your higher power for guidance and if it doesn't come to be it's easier to manage. Whereas, expectations are more self orginated, so wehn they are not met, hurt more.

    Will come back to see if anyone has more suggestions or I come up with one.
    Until then, keep on hanging on! :)