Does my child even listen?
Sometimes, I ask myself if my son has a hearing problem. I swear, with the amount of time I spend repeating myself makes me want to bang my head against a wall. We say these things every day, “Don’t put your shoes there” “Take your backpack upstairs” “Don’t lay on the dogs” (doesn’t our house sound fun). Unfortunately, it is completely normal for children to “not listen”.
We need to remind ourselves that children do not have the same mental capacity that adults do.
Because of this, children are more likely to be focusing on other actions. More commonly, they forget what we have said in big or small gaps of time. This is an action issue and not a listening issue. Those are two completely different things. As a parent, it is our responsibility to help them through this stage of their life so that they can focus more clearly, remember things better, and (most importantly) listen better. When they begin to listen better then they will perform better.
So what helps children listen better?
- Make sure you have their focus
Firstly, yelling at them from downstairs or giving a list of things to do while they are working on other things is not going to get you anywhere. Get their full attention. This means turning off the TV, having them pause from playing with their toys, quit walking, and stop whatever you both are doing.
This means you need to stop what you are doing as well. Remember, children mirror us. If we don’t give them the same focus and attention that we are asking for, they will not give us the same attention in return.
- Get down at eye level
If you read any of blogs about parenting, you know I am a huge believer in getting down to eye level. You need to make sure you have eye contact as best as possible, and that means being equal. Don’t expect 100% perfection on this or you will just make yourself more frustrated. Getting at eye level makes sure that they do not feel intimidated or commanded.
Your request is more likely to be heard while your child is in a safe mental state. As parents, we don’t realize the subconscious effect that some actions, like standing over your child (it’s natural, we are bigger) can have on your child.
- Talk to them with a calm tone.
This sounds obvious. However many moms (including myself) become annoyed very easily. Interrupting questions, losing eye contact, etc. It all starts to get under my skin. But if I lose my calm voice and become angry or annoyed, they will instead begin listening to the angry voice. This means they aren’t going to remember anything you said while you were actually calm. Making half the conversation completely void.
- Keep it short
Do not go into a laundry list of to-do’s. Keep it short and sweet. “Dominic, I need you to please pick up your room so there is nothing on the floor.” End of request. Don’t list everything on the floor or give them more things to do after he picks up the floor.
As tedious as it is, you need to say the next items later when you have their full attention again. By keeping things simple, your child is more likely to remember what was said and what the main goal of the conversation was.
- Verify understanding
After your request or statement you need to ask them if they understood and repeat back what you said. This makes the request more solid in their mind and less likely to forget. If what was asked didn’t get done, you also have something to come back to for discipline. “Dominic, you told me that you understood what we talked about.” In return, this puts more responsibility on your child (which they are completely capable of) and holds them accountable for their actions.
- Ask if they need help
This can be asking if they need help explaining things more clearly or even if they need help with the actual task or item. We may think some items are super simple, but your child may not understand the thought process or how to begin. We have years of experience, children are learning.
- Hold them accountable
This means double checking whatever you asked. It may seem tiring (like us moms need another thing to do), but it is 100% necessary. The moment your child thinks you aren’t going to hold them accountable, they will slack off to see what they can get away with. It’s all part of their learning process.
- Give your child the same focus
Monkey see monkey do, right? Children learn more quickly by seeing what others do. If you are yelling up the stairs, then your child is going to start yelling down the stairs. If you are cooking or working on your computer while your child talks to you, they will think it’s ok to play and do other things while you talk to them. Work on your listening skills and show them the same attention you want to receive.
Will they actually do what I asked now?
Now that is an entirely separate blog post that I am currently working on! Remember, listening and choosing to follow through with what you said is an entirely different attribute. But it all begins with making sure they listen, and not just hear you (or worse ignore you). They will never do what you ask if they don’t listen.
I hope this helps you focus on improving your child’s listening skills! Do not be surprise if you get pushback. You are changing their routine of how you used to talk to them. Should this lead to a temper tantrum or fit, make sure you check out my post “5 Things to Remember During a Temper Tantrum”. This post will help you make sure the fit doesn’t escalate and get out of control. What are some other things you do to make sure your child is actually listening?