It is a given: Once you become a parent, you have the great responsibility of raising your child — something that can be quite trying or overwhelming for many, especially when it comes to the area of child discipline.
How many of you reading this article have heard yourselves say one or more of the following phrases to your kids (I know I have, countless times!):
“How many times do I need to tell you…?”
“Please naman, anak, listen to Mama…”
“Why don’t you ever listen to me?”
“Didn’t you hear what I said?...”
“Hay naku… hindi ka talaga marunong makinig!...”
Let’s face it: teaching our kids to listen to us can feel like a never-ending uphill battle most days (these are also usually the days when we question ourselves as parents).
We list down 10 possible reasons why your kids aren’t listening, plus tips from parenting expert, award-winning author, speaker and educational consultant Michele Borba, based on her book, The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries:
1. You don’t set a good (listening) example. As a parent, you are your child’s best example of what good listeners are like. Show him that you listen to other people, including him — no matter how young he may be.
If you seem distracted when your child tells you something (for example, your eyes are glued to the TV screen, or your phone or computer screen), then, chances are he will feel that you are not paying attention to what he is saying. If this is the case, you shouldn’t be surprised then that when it’s your turn to speak to him, he appears to heed you no attention. Remember, children imitate our actions more than our speech. After all, actions speak louder than words, right?
2. You start your sentences with “You,” “If” and “Why.” The words “You,” “If” and “Why” are called “listening stoppers.” When we use them to start off something we want to tell our children, they usually result in kids tuning us out. The reasons for this are:
• “You” statements can make a child feel as if you are attacking him or his character, especially when you use exaggerations (say things that are not necessarily true). For example:
“Timothy! You never listen to Mama!”
“You always forget to pack away your things!”
• “If” statements can be interpreted as threats, and we don’t want our kids to obey us because they feel scared or threatened, do we? After all, it would be best to train them to behave a certain way not out of fear, but out of understanding that doing so would prove beneficial to all. Examples of “If” statements are:
“If you don’t do what I tell you…”
“If you don’t listen to what Mama says…”
• When we use the word “Why” in our statements, it is as if we expect our kids to explain their behavior — something that they will most probably not be able to do, especially when they are still young. For example:
“Why aren’t you listening to me?”
“Why didn’t you do as I said?”
Dr. Borba suggests that parents do away with using these three listening stoppers when making requests so that children will be more receptive and comply with what they want.
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3. You talk without first getting their attention. Sometimes, your child may seem to be ignoring you or not listening to what you have to say because she is distracted. Whenever you want to speak to your child, make sure that you get her attention first. This is especially true for younger kids, who easily lose focus. Dr. Borba suggests the following ways for getting our kids’ attention:
• Squat down to your child’s level and establish eye-to-eye contact before you speak.
• Lift your child’s chin up gently so that she is looking at you. Then say your piece (remember, don’t use “You,” “If” and “Why” to start your sentences!)
• Use a verbal cue: “Please look at me and listen to what I am going to say.” Once she is looking at you eye to eye, you can start talking.
You can also use physical cues, like tapping her on her shoulder, turning her to face you, or gently putting her face in between your hands.
4. You resort to yelling. Although most exasperated parents (including me) would most likely resort to yelling when their kids don’t listen to them, Dr. Borba says that doing so will only make things worse. Thus, she advises parents to do the opposite: “talk softer, not louder.”
In fact, Dr. Borba says that whispering one’s requests may yield more positive results than raising one’s voice. When parents speak in soft, loving tones, kids are usually caught off guard and are more likely to stop and listen. She even suggests whispering one’s request or direction to your toddler’s favorite stuffed toy.
5. You talk too much. The 10-second rule dictates that you should be able to say what you want to say to your kid in less than 10 seconds; otherwise, you may be saying too much and just wasting your time, as your child’s attention span may not be that long yet.
Also, be clear with what it is you want your kid to do by using declarative statements. For example:
“Anak, finish your food.”
“Please pack away your toys before you go outside.”
“Remember to do your homework before you watch TV.”
Make sure you tailor your statements to your child’s age and comprehension skills.