It was one of those days. The older boys got off the school bus and stormed into the house with extra energy spilling right out of their ears. It seemed like all they did in school was eat sugar all day.
The little one woke up early from her nap and was not happy. My fourth son wasn’t feeling well that morning, but he was just fine now. He was re-energized by his brothers’ hyperactive entrance into the house.
There were loud sounds of crying, screaming, laughing, singing, and just plain animal noises all around me. “Guys, I need you to calm down and start on your homework,” I said. It seemed like the loud noise was only getting louder. It was like I was talking to a wall.
“Please sit down and start doing your homework!” I said louder. No response, only more noise. I left the room. I was trying to calm myself before I said anything I later would regret. I was trying not to yell at my kids. “Why won’t they just listen?” I thought.
On that day, the kids were simply overexcited. In addition, I didn’t get their attention before I asked them to do their homework. But there are many other reasons kids don’t listen to us.
When kids don’t do what we say, it can get pretty frustrating. Voices may get louder, blood pressure may rise, and then no-one is in a good mood.
So why don’t kids listen? The bad news is that we as parents are usually the reason for this. The good news is, we can turn it around.
Let’s take a look at 9 different reasons kids don’t listen when we speak.
1. We don’t get their full attention
We yell from another room, “Go brush your teeth!” “Come to the table, we’re ready to eat!” “Pick up your toys!” And we expect them not only to hear what we just said, but to actually listen, and to do it. When our kids are distracted by something else and we don’t capture their attention before asking them to do something, our words are just noise to them.
2. We lecture
We make our requests too wordy. We say something along the lines of, “When we left to go to the park, I told you that when we’re back, you will need to pick up your toys, and you agreed. Why can’t you remember what you promised to do? Why do I always have to remind you to pick up your toys?” After the first half of the first sentence, our kids are tuning out our words.
3. We repeat our requests too many times
We’ve become a nag to our kids. The demotivating kind. Again, when kids hear the same thing over and over again, they’re tuning us out.
4. We’ve trained them not to listen until we yell
When kids hear the “mama means business” voice, they usually get up and they do what we ask, after hearing our request about 15 times. This is because they don’t take us seriously until we’ve yelled.
5. We’ve devalued our own words
When we say something to our kids, we need to respect our own words and do what we say. We say, “If you don’t put your shoes on in the next five minutes, we’re not going to the park.” And then, after a 10 minute waiting period, we put the shoes on our son’s feet and get in the car to drive to the park. We don’t do as we say and this is why our kids don’t value our words.
6. We misuse the “count to three” method
When we say, “I’m counting to three. One…” Five seconds later we say, “Two…” And then we wait. We wait 20 seconds… one minute… and every few seconds or so we say something like, “I’ve already said two!”, or, “Are you going to do it? I’m about to say three!” If we make the amount of time between “two” and “three” longer than between “one” and “two”, they’ll stretch out the time as long as they possibly can.
7. We order instead of asking
They feel like their opinions and feelings don’t matter. We want them to do what we say because we said so. Words like, “Get your pajamas on now,” “You better get your teeth brushed,” and the like, don’t motivate our kids. Kids are people too, and by ordering them around we are devaluing their opinions and feelings.
8. We say “no” too often
When kids are used to hearing “no” more often than “yes”, they feel like we don’t care about what they want from us. So in return, they stop caring about what we want from them.
9. We don’t spend enough one on one time with them
When we’re busy parents, it’s easy to say that we don’t have time for something like one on one time with our kids. If we have multiple kids, it’s even harder. But it’s so, so important. When we don’t spend one on one time with our kids, they become distant. They don’t want to please us. They don’t want to do what we ask.
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Now that we know why kids don’t listen, how do we actually turn this pattern around and get them to listen to us? Next, read How to Get Kids to Listen.