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Why Doesn't My Child Listen???

Man yelling through bullhorn presumably because his kids don't listen

My kids won’t listen! Raise your hand if you can relate to this. We know that there are probably a lot of parents that feel this way, and the reason that we know that is because it's one of the most common complaints that we hear!

You guys, life is hard! We are busier than any previous generation in history, and on top of that, we are still trying to raise happy, well-balanced, and well-behaved children. In a majority of households in the United States (61%), both parents work.

This means that between managing two careers, most parents are waking up early, getting their children ready for school in the morning, and doing everything they can to get out the door in time to make it to school AND to work.

Then, after working all day, parents have to pick up their children from school, get them home to do homework, or drop them off at their various extracurricular activities. Only to be followed by making dinner, baths, and finally to bed.

Y’all, we're exhausted just writing about it (although, this is also our day-to-day schedule, so we completely commiserate in the pain).

It’s possible that, in the chaos of everyday life, our children not listening to us could not only drive us crazy, but also make us late and angry. Perhaps there is yelling (and the inevitable guilt that comes along with it) … and maybe there are feeling of overwhelming frustration focused on how the future will ever be any different than it is today.

Teaching parents how to get their children to listen to them is one of the most powerful things that we can do. And before we go into the different ways that you can achieve this nirvana level of blissful happiness, let's actually answer the main question.

"Why doesn't my child listen to me?"

The short, easy, and most accurate answer is this: because they don't have to listen.

Mom with help sign because her children don't listen

What that more simply means is that there are typically no meaningful consequences for not listening; we probably repeat ourselves over and over again, or eventually give up and move on because we’re busy and have other pressing needs. So, what's the end result? Our children learn that they don’t have to listen to us!

And here's the truth: it's not that our children don't hear us; it's that they have learned that it's okay to ignore us. We all want children who will listen and do what we ask of them the first time we ask, right?

But there is a way that we can teach our children to listen. Here’s an example of what happened in my house this morning:

I was in our bedroom getting ready to leave for work and my daughter was in the room with me. She was still wearing her pajamas as I was putting my shoes on… and we still needed to get her dressed to take her to daycare.

She saw that the sliding door to the backyard was open and she went outside to find a toy that she enjoys playing with. I called her name and made sure that I had her attention, and then I told her "I need you to come inside."

She said, "no" and kept playing. I know that she heard me, because she looked at me when I spoke to her, and she even responded, "no," which she does reliably when she she is asked to switch to a non-preferred activity (Read: Using a Timer to Cue Transition).

I gave her one more chance by telling her, "See how mommy is getting dressed and putting shoes on? We need you to get dressed with shoes on so that we can leave." She looked right at me, I could see her weighing her options to make a decision. She then turned back around and kept playing with the toy.

At that point, I got up, walked outside, and physically removed her from the toy. While ushering her back into the house, I told her that, "I need you to be a good listener and come inside so that we can get dressed."

There have been times when doing this would have then set her into yelling and arching-her-back frenzy to avoid doing what was being asked of her, but today she quietly came inside with me and went into her room to get dressed.

I was prepared to respond the same way regardless of how she responded (even if she started yelling and throwing her body around, I still would have physically moved her inside). Because she reacted the way that she did, I made sure to make a big deal about it "I love how you're coming with mommy, big girl!"


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