'How do I get my child to listen & do as they're told?'
This is one of the most common questions I get asked in my work. Children are wonderful at ‘not hearing’ what you said, ‘forgetting’ what you just asked them to do five minutes ago, and just plain ignoring their parents when it suits them to aren’t they?
If you stop and think about it you may realise that your child is being given many instructions every day. It probably starts early in the morning as you try to get everyone ready and out the door on time:
‘Eat your breakfast, clean your teeth'
'Stop playing now and put your coat on, leave your sister alone, get your bag, don’t dawdle, get in the car, put your belt on, stop being so noisy' etc.
If they are at school there are a lot of instructions there, and back home during the evening rush hour there is probably more of the same. Many parents I work with tell me they just want their children to listen and do as they are told
But with so many instructions being given every day is it any wonder that some of them seem to go in one ear and out the other?
Of course it’s hard to imagine a world where we don’t give our children instructions, we have to don’t we, but if you have a child who never seems to listen, here are a few ideas that might help:
Cut down the number of instructions given
Try reducing the amount of instructions you give your child to only those that are really necessary, it is so easy to get into the habit of telling our children what to do all the time, so try taking a step back, catch yourself before you say something and think ‘do I really need to give this instruction right now.’
Be in the same room, arm’s length.
No issuing orders from a different room.
To avoid having to give the same instructions more than once, and to increase the likelihood that your child will comply, try this.
Use your child’s name, be clear, tell your child what to stop doing and what to start doing, describe the behaviour you want: ‘Turn the TV off now, go and put your pyjamas on.’
Give a reason:
'It’s time for bed.’
Give time for your child to comply, wait five seconds, stay quiet.
Stay in the room.
If your child does not comply:
Give them a choice, keep it friendly
‘I can turn it off or you can, which would you prefer?'
Praise your child when they do comply.
Don't be tempted to dilute that praise by saying 'Why can't you always do that' or words to that effect. If you do, you will be turning praise into criticism!
Think ‘How does it feel for my child?’
Children get told to do things a lot, and it can be helpful to think about how you speak to them, especially when you are tired/stressed etc.
Would you rather someone said to you:
'Don’t park your car there’ in a stern voice?
Or ‘Would you park somewhere else please, I need that space for unloading.’ (notice the second person described the behaviour they wanted and gave a reason, perhaps they would also give you reasonable time to move your car)
I know this all looks easy on paper, and might not be so simple in the real world, but if you have a child who never seems to listen, give it a try over the next week or two.
Be consistent and don’t forget to praise wen your child does the right thing.
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